Exploring consumers’ motivations to engage in local food social innovations. A study on the Galician conscious and responsible consumption movement.

Publicado: 4 diciembre, 2021 en Comunicación Ambiental, Educación, Educación Ambiental, Medio Ambiente..., Participación Pública, People-Environment Research Group
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I share the video of my paper presentation at the IAPS 2021 Symposium “Sustainability in the Post-Covid era: Challenges and Opportunities in face of Climate Change and the Energy Transition”, held in the city of A Coruña, from September 29th to October 1st, 2021, A Coruña (Spain).

The paper is entitled «Exploring consumers’ motivations to engage in local food social innovations. A study on the Galician conscious and responsible consumption movement. It is authored by Isabel Lema Blanco, Ricardo García Mira  and  Jesús Miguel Muñoz Cantero,  from the University of A Coruña (Spain).

The abstract of the paper is the following:

Governments, scientists and environmental organizations worldwide have stressed the need to decrease humanity’s environmental impact, to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, to adapt our society to global warming and other social and environmental challenges that should be globally faced. Consequently, green consumption has come to centre the interest for research on climate action and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles. In this context, the use of behavioural models to better understand the social and psychological dimensions that interact with people’s consumption patterns has gained increasing interest, and a vast majority of studies have focused on the consideration of individual factors to explain decisions regarding the purchase or consumption of green products. However, there is a growing interest in social innovations which take place in the civil society arena, and formulate bottom-up innovative solutions for sustainable development at the local scale (Seyfang & Smith, 2007). This study focus on the social and psychological dimensions that interplay in people’s patterns of consumption, studying the factors driving collective forms of food consumption in the context of grassroots social innovations (Zoll et al., 2017).

Following a qualitative approach, a multi-method design was used, which combined three data-collection techniques: participatory observation, document analysis and 26 in-depth interviews with participants in eight local food co-ops located in the Galician region (Spain). The results of the study contribute to the understanding of the different human motivations, aspirations and desires underlying conscious and responsible consumption behaviour, and the individual and collective factors that influence the processes for behavioural change at the individual and society-wide levels. First, self-oriented motivations are particularly significant for green consumption. Findings show strong linkages between health concern, environmental awareness, and the desire of sustaining healthy diets based on the high quality of seasonal organically produced groceries. Environmental awareness was found to be an essential motive across all the participants, which appears also associated with altruistic and socially oriented values (e.g., animal welfare, fair trade). Besides, feelings of connectedness with the rural territory motivates the desire of protecting these specific environments by supporting organic and local agriculture and primary sector of the economy.

In terms of motivations for people to engage in collective forms of consumption (e.g., being a member of a Food Co-op), the participants in this study report three types of motivations: a) the accessibility and affordability to organic and fair-trade groceries; b) socio-political goals; and c) the satisfaction of social needs. The desire of joining a consumption initiative is preceded by the identification of these organizations as the most suitable space for satisfying their needs of consumption. Interviewees explicit a desire for autonomy and control over their purchasing decisions, becoming independent of global corporations and supermarkets. Galician food activists share social and political ambitions and conceive food coops as grassroots movements with the capacity to change the dominant social paradigms challenging the unsustainable practices that characterize the dominant system of food production and distribution. Consumption is interpreted as “a political act”, a new way of engaging in political activism, appealing to large structural changes such as the democratization of the economy. A limited sample of participants expressed that under the decision of joining a consumption initiative relies on the desire to socialize with like-minded people, expanding their social network or friendships, or to experiment a sense of belonging, which lead to the desire to engage in collective projects who share common values, goals and environmental concerns. Also, some of them point their common ambition to change the relationships between consumers and producers, fostering mutual respect, proximity, and empathy, recognizing, and dignifying the work of the farmer/producer.

In conclusion, the results confirm that awareness of the environmental, social, and economic consequences of consumption is a direct antecedent for conscious and responsible consumer behaviour (Suárez et al., 2020). Interestingly, the decision to join a consumer’s initiative appears to be the outcome of a reflexive process on personal wellbeing linked also to environmental and social and political ambitions, which are materialized in cooperative forms of economy. Further, environmental awareness or social-political goals are not sufficient for people to tackle a process of personal change. They also need to experience the desire to “put into practice” new consumption models that promote sustainable transitions.

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