How Value-Sensitive Design Can Empower Sustainable Consumption

20 Apr 2020  ·  Thomas Asikis, Johannes Klinglmayr, Dirk Helbing, Evangelos Pournaras ·

In a so-called overpopulated world, sustainable consumption is of existential importance.However, the expanding spectrum of product choices and their production complexity challenge consumers to make informed and value-sensitive decisions. Recent approaches based on (personalized) psychological manipulation are often intransparent, potentially privacy-invasive and inconsistent with (informational) self-determination. In contrast, responsible consumption based on informed choices currently requires reasoning to an extent that tends to overwhelm human cognitive capacity. As a result, a collective shift towards sustainable consumption remains a grand challenge. Here we demonstrate a novel personal shopping assistant implemented as a smart phone app that supports a value-sensitive design and leverages sustainability awareness, using experts' knowledge and "wisdom of the crowd" for transparent product information and explainable product ratings. Real-world field experiments in two supermarkets confirm higher sustainability awareness and a bottom-up behavioral shift towards more sustainable consumption. These results encourage novel business models for retailers and producers, ethically aligned with consumer preferences and with higher sustainability.

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