Household consumption reduction during the crisis years : a gateway to sustainable consumption?
1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Marketing
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Oulu : H. Lilleberg,
The disruption in household consumption presented by the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked marketing scholars to speculate whether the crisis times have accelerated progression towards more sustainable consumption. In addition, very recently Europe has faced a severe energy crisis and rising inflation rates resulting in rapidly increased living costs. Consequently, the objective of this master’s thesis is to study how the recent crisis years have influenced household consumption reduction and identify which drivers have motivated households to reduce consumption during the crisis times.
The theoretical framework of this thesis explores the phenomenon of anticonsumption, which is a marketing research orientation interested in consumers’ ways and motivation to reduce consumption. Furthermore, household consumption and what is already known about the pandemic’s repercussions are reviewed to form a framework for the research. The empirical part of this thesis applies qualitative research method in form of focus group interviews which are recorded, transcribed, and finally coded for further analysis to provide the empirical findings.
The findings conclude that the crisis years have increased household consumption reduction, implying of more sustainable consumption. Seven different categories consisting of variety of methods to reduce consumption during the crisis years were identified from the data. Especially increased planning, reconsidering what is necessary consumption, and changes in buying process demonstrated of reduced consumption during the crisis times. While the pandemic had mainly targeted specific consumption categories, the cost-of-living crisis had affected households in a more holistic way considering daily activities. Saving money was found to be the most significant driver to reduce consumption, but the crisis years had also increased households’ motivation for sustainable consumption and crisis preparedness for the future. Consumption reduction drivers that were found to be characteristic to crisis times included sense of security, preparing for the future, and solidarity.
The research findings contribute to the anticonsumption research field in relation to the recent crisis years. The findings indicate that in pursuit of more effective sustainable marketing and demarketing strategies, instead of emphasizing the negative effects of overconsumption, highlighting the positive individual level outcomes that consumption reduction can generate, may prove to be more efficient. Consumers are aware of the harmfulness of overconsumption and demonstrate increased motivation to reduced materialism and investing more in product quality, which underlines the importance of quality in product design and used materials. The findings also provide support for the effectiveness of price-based environmental policies, when aiming at decreased consumption on a household level.
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