Enabling sustainable consumption through user-centred design: an approach

It is recognized that an increased level of consumption in industrialized countries is one of the main factors contributing to continual environmental degradation and does not contribute to our overall wellbeing (Seyfang, 2009; Green and Vergragt, 2002; Tukker et al., 2006). Mont and Plepys (2008) argue that the rising levels of consumption are a result of a growing population and increasing affluence. As such, the paper first addresses the importance of sustainable consumption and defines the focus of research. Then it talks about the influence of business on consumers and refers to the need for an in-depth focus on consumers as they account for a large proportion of environmental and social impacts (Defra, 2008; Sto et al., 2006). The paper also identifies user-centred design (UCD) as an approach that can support sustainable consumption as it is used to gain in-depth knowledge of the consumer and their context (Haines et al., 2010; Fulton, 2004). The paper describes the initial findings of research, which aims to create a framework to help ‘business to consumer’ i.e. fast consumer goods, electronic consumer goods, e-commerce and services, to understand how UCD can be part of their strategy to enable sustainable consumption. The paper presents the initial framework, which is built on findings from the literature review; semi-structured interviews with experts related to UCD, design, sustainability, and business consultants; a workshop with UCD experts, and a business case analysis (Unilever Sustainable Living Plan launch event).