Young W, Barkemeyer R, Chintakayala P. The wilful blindness of the rich ethical consumer. Presented at the Corporate Responsibility Research Conferemce 2018; September 10, 2018. Leeds, UK.

The mainstreaming of more sustainable production and consumption patterns will be key to move closer towards global sustainable development. This also holds true for food production and consumption, where a vast variety of actors and initiatives focusing on organic, fair trade or sustainable product alternatives represent a growing niche within the industry. The dominant mechanism within this sector is that of a product differentiation strategy aimed at conscious consumers, i.e. consumers that are willing to pay a premium for more sustainable/responsible products in order to drive sustainable change. Looking at the environmental dimension of this market segment, the more or less implicit underlying assumption appears to be that further growth of the current set of approaches will actually help us to reach a critical mass of consumers in order to significantly reduce impacts on the natural environment. In this paper, we combine two perspectives on the current state of sustainable consumption in order to explore (a) factors that drive sustainable consumerism in a given market and (b) the characteristics of sustainable consumers in a UK setting, with particular emphasis on overall resource consumption of this consumer group relative to their peers. We are sourcing our data from secondary data sources. We address the first perspective above with reference to EU market using EU-level data on individuals’ consumption of sustainable products and relating that to the individual as well as country level indicators. We address the second perspective using UK data on sustainable product consumption at individual level and overall average resource consumption. Preliminary results not only show that conscious consumerism typically flourishes in more affluent markets characterised by higher consumption levels more generally, but also that conscious consumerism in its current form is inextricably linked to more affluent consumers who exhibit significantly actually higher – rather than lower – levels of consumption of environmental resources. In other words, the consumption patterns

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