Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sustainability is the Future of Consumption

According to research entitled ‘Consumer Futures 2020’ the future of consumption is going to be radically different from what we see today. This research presents four scenarios exploring possible patterns of consumption in 2020, all of which indicate that consumerism will become more sustainable.

Based on these two parameters, Prosperous vs. Less prosperous – by 2020 will our economy be flourishing or subdued? And Do-it-yourself vs. Do-it-for-me – will consumers take the initiative to satisfy their needs or expect brands to do this for them? They created a two-by-two matrix, which in turn enabled them to create four scenarios:

My way – Mainstream consumers buy locally, strengthening their local economies. Vertical farming is widespread, producing more food per unit of land. Sustainable living is high-tech and easy; products such as the personal energy micro-manager help reduce energy consumption and build personal relationships via on-line competitions.

Sell it to me - Brands and businesses have taken a lot of the hard work out of being sustainable, driven by resource scarcity and a global deal on climate change. Retailers have taken unsustainable products off the shelves and smart products and services are commonplace – all designed to reduce their in-use impacts.

From Me to You – Communities are again strengthened by local food and energy production. Resources are valued much more highly than today because they are scarce and expensive, and there is little or no waste. Goods exchanges are mainstream, encouraging recycling and re-use of goods and resources, from fridges to grey water.

I’m in your hands – The product to service shift has become mainstream. Retailers and brands lease a lifetime’s supply of key goods, and now also provide heat, water and nutrition. Strict government legislation and economies of scale mean that these leasing models are highly sustainable. Consumers take a “waste not want not” attitude and expect government and business to take the lead on delivering sustainability.

According to this research sustainable consumption is unavoidably moving from a niche market to the mainstream.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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