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Time to say "good buy" to the passive consumer? A conceptual review of the consumer in the bioeconomy

  • Successful transitions to a sustainable bioeconomy require novel technologies, processes, and practices as well as a general agreement about the overarching normative direction of innovation. Both requirements necessarily involve collective action by those individuals who purchase, use, and co-produce novelties: the consumers. Based on theoretical considerations borrowed from evolutionary innovation economics and consumer social responsibility, we explore to what extent consumers’ scope of action is addressed in the scientific bioeconomy literature. We do so by systematically reviewing bioeconomy-related publications according to (i) the extent to which consumers are regarded as passive vs. active, and (ii) different domains of consumer responsibility (depending on their power to influence economic processes). We find all aspects of active consumption considered to varying degrees but observe little interconnection between domains. In sum, our paper contributes to the bioeconomy literature by developing a novel coding scheme that allows us to pinpoint different aspects of consumer activity, which have been considered in a rather isolated and undifferentiated manner. Combined with our theoretical considerations, the results of our review reveal a central research gap which should be taken up in future empirical and conceptual bioeconomy research. The system-spanning nature of a sustainable bioeconomy demands an equally holistic exploration of the consumers’ prospective and shared responsibility for contributing to its coming of age, ranging from the procurement of information on bio-based products and services to their disposal.

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Author of HS ReutlingenWilke, Ulrich
Erschienen in:Journal of agricultural and environmental ethics
Place of publication:Dordrecht
Document Type:Journal article
Publication year:2021
Tag:consumer; consumer responsibility; innovation; shared responsibility; sustainable bioeconomy; transition
Page Number:35
First Page:1
Last Page:35
Article Number:20
DDC classes:630 Landwirtschaft, Veterinärmedizin
Open access?:Ja
Licence (German):License Logo  Creative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International