Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 27–44 | Cite as

A Map Is Not a Territory—Making Research More Helpful for Sustainable Consumption Policy

  • Eva HeiskanenEmail author
  • Oksana Mont
  • Kate Power
Original Paper


The need to make consumption patterns more sustainable is widely acknowledged, yet effective policies for sustainable consumption are lacking. This article examines Nordic policy makers' views on why sustainable consumption research is difficult to apply in policy practice. We draw on the knowledge brokering literature to outline how the challenges of knowledge utilization in policy are connected to knowledge communication practices and to the types and scales of policy problems. Our empirical material is based on in-depth interviews with Nordic civil servants working with sustainable consumption issues. Our findings identify problems in sustainable consumption policy that are well documented in other fields, such as policy makers' lack of time and the inconclusiveness of research findings. However, we also identify more fundamental problems, which relate to administrative fragmentation and to the status of social science in policy making, as well as to the linear model of knowledge use in policy making in which administrators are forced to serve as knowledge brokers between researchers and policy makers. Our research suggests that better forms of knowledge dissemination are not sufficient to overcome these problems. New forms of knowledge co-production are needed, in which researchers, administrators, politicians, and other stakeholders work together to solve real-life problems and build up a shared knowledge community. We conclude by highlighting the implications for researchers aiming to promote change toward more sustainable consumption patterns.


Sustainable consumption Policy Research Knowledge brokering 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Consumer Research CentreHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.International Institute for Industrial Environmental EconomicsLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Copenhagen Resource InstituteCopenhagenDenmark

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