Frick, V. et al. Digitalization of markets and lifestyles – New challenges for sustainable consumption. State of research and recommendations

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Vivian Frick, Maike Gossen, Christian Lautermann, Viola Muster, Sara Kettner, Christian Thorun & Tilman Santarius

Release date:
October 2019

German Federal Environmental Agency | Texts 124/2019

In this report from the project "Digitalization of markets and lifestyles – new challenges for sustainable consumption" an overview of research and practice examples on links and effects of digitalization on sustainable consumption is presented. Therein digitalized consumption included digital information search on products, services or retail facilities, digital access to sustainable consumption information, online-marketing, online-shopping, digital payment, as well as digitally supported second-hand selling, lending, sharing, swapping or repairing products. Based on this definition, various aspects of digital transformation can be identified, that influence the sustainability of consumption: The access and transparency of prices, product- and service quality is enhanced due to search engines and online reviews on comparison sites and online-shops, allowing the user to make more informed purchase decisions. The use of digital appliances changes the steps in consumption processes. There is now more intense communication between organizations and customers on responsive platforms, social media or comparison sites. And last but not least, the energy and resource use has increased for infrastructures of consumption-related digital appliances, but also for the increased logistic transport of products acquired through e-commerce. The report presents the state of research, selected best practice examples and on the basis of these insights, recommendations for policy and practice were developed in four areas of application: sustainable e-commerce; search engines, comparison sites and onlinemarketing; digital initiatives for sustainable consumption; and digital competences for consumers. The analysis brought to light several chances, but also risks and limitations for fostering sustainable consumption in context of and with the help of digitalization.

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