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Higher seminar in Economics: Sustainable Consumption – Is it possible to Measure?

Stig Blomskog, lecturer in Economics at Södertörn University, will present a paper titled “Sustainable Consumption – Is it possible to Measure?” (co-author Magnus Hjelmblom, computer scientist at the University of Gävle). The presentation is in Swedish, but the power points are written in English, and in hybrid form. Please contact for a zoom link.


In the paper we perform a conceptual analysis of a household sustainable consumption index, whose construction is based on guidelines in a handbook issued by OECD. We conclude in our analysis that the designers of the index treat the concept ‘sustainable consumption’ as a descriptive concept, and we argue that this interpretation is a conceptual mistake.

Instead, we argue that sustainable consumption is a specific kind of value concept named intermediate concept, whose function is to link descriptive grounds with normative consequences, and thus that the construction of the index is a normative problem. That is, the construction of a sustainable consumption index should be regarded as a normative multi-attribute decision process.

A policy implication of our study is that when measuring sustainability, a decision analytic approach based on an adequate interpretation of the concept sustainability as an intermediate concept should be employed. In order to avoid low validity of sustainability indices as a result of making a conceptual mistake, it is possible to explicitly treat the construction of a sustainability index as a normative multi-attribute decision process that can be aided by decision support tools.

The relevance of our analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders is that it contributes to a deeper understanding of what kind of concept sustainability is and what it means to measure such concepts. Without a proper understanding of the nature of this concept, there is an obvious risk of low validity of its measurement.

The paper is in chapter three ”An analysis of a sustainability index” published in ”Sustainable Consumption and Production: Challenges and Development”, Editors: Professor Ranjula Bali Swain and professor Susanne Sweet. Vol. 1, June 2020, Palgrave Macmillan.

Tid och plats

18 januari 2023, 13:00-14:15

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