Our research focus is on sustainable consumption and health behaviour. These topics outline pressing issues of today, such as the advancing climate change or the worldwide continuous increase in obesity and its comorbidities. Both fields are closely linked in theory and practice. This is also taken up by the Sustainable Development Goals (especially SDG3 - good health and well-being, SDG10 - reduced inequalities, SDG12 - responsible consumption and production).
Both, sustainability and health behaviour will not lose their relevance in the near future, considering observable long-term social trends, such as the advancing globalization, digitalization or demographic change. Megatrends like these come along with changes in the world we live in and consequently changes in our consumption. Of course, technological progress can lead to greater sustainability and healthier lifestyles, but it is not sufficient, as has been clearly demonstrated over the last three decades. Consumers must also make their contribution. We thus strive to better understand consumers and to find ways to healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.
A clear profile in sustainable consumption and health behaviour research is our red thread in both research and teaching. For this, we follow four main areas:
Analysing and understanding consumers
We focus on understanding consumption patterns and their impact on sustainability and health. In addition to traditional approaches from consumer theory and economics, empirical analysis of lifestyles and consumer segmentation contribute to this understanding. Many of the traditional model-based approaches have so far been unable to adequately answer the pressing questions of our time, which means that empirical consumption and health care research is also facing major challenges. Three objectives are to be pursued in primarily empirical studies:
- First, to better understand the mechanisms for selected consumption patterns and lifestyles;
- Secondly, to promote the integration of interdisciplinary cooperation with the life sciences, thereby overcoming the conceptual and perspective limitations of one's own discipline; and
- Thirdly, to focus more on the various groups of vulnerable consumers - such as children and young people, the elderly, ethnic minorities or poor people.
Changing consumption behaviour
In order to encourage consumers to adopt healthier or more sustainable lifestyles, two main approaches are being pursued in today's consumer research: On the one hand, consumers should consume differently (efficiency and consistency) and on the other hand consume less (sufficiency). This often involves overcoming barriers to action, for example by closing information gaps or changing habits. Similarly, easier access to healthy and sustainable products and services or changed social norms can help to overcome such barriers. Despite intensive research and many years of practical experience, success is limited and rarely long-lasting. With the help of the latest findings from behavioural economics, consumer research and environmental psychology, as well as intensive cooperation with the life sciences, promising prevention and intervention strategies are developed, empirically tested and evaluated.
A further focus is the exploitation of the knowledge gained from the first two areas. For example, interventions are prepared and made available for implementation or recommendations for action are derived for consumer, sustainability and health policy. However, communication should not be one-sided, as dialogues with relevant actors from politics, industry or NGOs can help to identify relevant issues. In addition, a critical examination of policy instruments within consumer policy (e.g. nudging, taxes and subsidies, certification) is centrally anchored in the professorship, whereby evidence-based assessments are developed with regard to the applicability, efficiency and acceptance of the instruments.
Methodically close to the consumer
Our methodological approach is primarily based on a quantitative, deductive empirical approach, without excluding other methodological approaches in the social sciences. Consumption and supply research traditionally relies on surveys of all kinds as well as laboratory experiments. These more traditional methods have been expanded by establishing so-called real laboratories, which are based on cooperation between science and civil society in the experimental environment in the real environment. Here, too, our profile is clearly defined by the application of modern field and laboratory experiments, traditional survey methods and the use of new methods in consumer research such as Experience Sampling.