Leapfrogging to Sustainable Consumption? An Explorative Survey of Consumption Habits and Orientations in Southern Brazil

Abstract

In current political and scientific debates on sustainable consumption, the low- and middle-income classes of emerging countries are gaining attention. One common feature of such debates is the idea that these emerging consumer classes could be motivated to “leapfrog” directly to environmentally and socially aware consumption patterns and, thereby, avoid adopting the resource-intensive consumption styles of populations in industrialized countries. To be able to adapt sustainable product development or sustainable communication strategies to the needs of low- and medium-income classes, it is necessary to know more about the basic consumption orientations, current consumption habits, and future consumption aspirations of these societal groups. In order to contribute towards filling that knowledge gap, an exploratory survey was conducted, taking the example of emerging low- and middle-income classes in a Southern Brazilian city. The survey identified five different consumer types: the Home-Centered Traditionals, the Indifferent, the Up-to-date Privileged, the Wanna-be Materialists, and the Quality of Life-Oriented Postmaterialists. The paper outlines some ideas concerning how these types can be addressed with target-group-specific products and services as well as differentiated sustainability communication strategies. We conclude, however, that “leapfrogging” of Brazilian low- and middle-income classes towards sustainable consumption is not a very likely option. There are certain consumption orientations that sustainability strategies can link to, but these trends are not likely to compensate the general tendencies towards a resource-intensive lifestyle following the model of the industrialized countries.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The item “lack of time for information about ecological products” has a comparably low loading on this factor. But it was assessed as relevant to the factor as regards content. An additional EFA with only these four items revealed only one factor with all items loading above .58. A comparison of the Cronbach’s alpha values revealed that it is lower when this item is not included: .57 compared to .6. Thus, it was seen as justified to include this item in the factor.

  2. 2.

    Due to length concerns, the detailed results of the ANOVAs and the cluster analyses are not reported. They can be acquired from the authors on request.

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Schäfer, M., Jaeger-Erben, M. & dos Santos, A. Leapfrogging to Sustainable Consumption? An Explorative Survey of Consumption Habits and Orientations in Southern Brazil. J Consum Policy 34, 175–196 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-010-9150-5

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Keywords

  • Sustainable consumption
  • Lifestyle segmentation
  • Consumption styles
  • Low-income groups