Preferences, needs and sustainability

Sigrid Stagl, Sabine U. O’Hara

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Increasing evidence suggests that sustainable development will require not only improvements on the production side, but also reductions in demand (Duchin and Lange, 1994). Yet resistance to the questioning of consumption patterns is substantial. This has, at least in part, to do with the way in which consumer behaviour is viewed in mainline economic theory, where consumption decisions are based on the self-interested pursuits of autonomous individual consumers. This paper discusses extensions of and alternatives to the standard model of consumer behaviour. The largely ‘subjective’ models of consumer behaviour are contrasted with ‘objective’ needs-based concepts that can, in turn, be linked with sustainability indicators. Using the example of a local food market model, it is shown how the relationship between consumer needs and sustainability indicators can be applied to point to more sustainable consumption patterns and models of consumer demand.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-21
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • consumer behaviour
  • consumer theory
  • food markets
  • needs

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