Published 2017-10-31

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KTH put in charge of sustainable consumption research programme

Mistra is investing SEK 45 million in a research programme on sustainable consumption. KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm will run the programme jointly with seven Swedish research partners and 24 other stakeholders.

We live in a world where consumption has assumed an ever more important role, both as an economic driver in society and to meet individual people’s needs. But there is a downside. The worldwide emergence of a middle class has created major environmental problems and, at the same time, exploitation of the Earth’s resources is increasingly intense.

Sustainable consumption is therefore high on the global agenda. When the United Nations listed its 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ was included as a precondition for our ability to switch to a more sustainable economy.

However, it is not enough for each and every one of us to buy a bit less. Changes in society, too, are required. Today, politicians often try to steer development with taxes and subsidies, statutes and information. How these work together, on the other hand, is less well known.

Mistra is therefore now starting a research programme on sustainable consumption with the aim of filling existing knowledge gaps. The programme will have a total budget of SEK 50 million over four years, of which SEK 45m will come from Mistra.

Many good applications

There has been great interest in the programme. By the time the funding call closed in March, seven applications had been received. The consortia formed to meet the call requirements included virtually all Sweden’s higher education institutions. Moreover, about 100 companies, government agencies and interest organisations have been engaged in the application process.

In the spring, the applications received were evaluated by an international panel headed by Dale Southerton, Professor of Sociology at the University of Manchester.

The panel’s recommendation, which later also became the Board’s decision, was to give the programme to a consortium led by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Another seven research groups and 24 other partners will be engaged in the programme. The group’s application is entitled ‘Sustainable Consumption: from Niche to Mainstream’.

‘This is a programme that aspires to social change in a broad sense. We have proficient researchers in sustainable consumption and the programme can muster the forces of skilled purchasers. Personally, I like its approach — going from niche behaviour to the mainstream. It’s close to the soul of Mistra,’ says Åke Iverfeldt, Mistra’s Chief Executive.

According to the evaluation panel, all the applications were of high quality. Nonetheless, the conclusion was that KTH’s application was the most well thought-out. It had a distinct focus on issues relating to consumption, the need for changes in society and sustainability issues. It was also judged to have clear ideas on how to organise the programme, and also ideas on how to strengthen Sweden’s competitiveness.