“Choose Nature. Buy Less.”

Exploring Sufficiency-oriented Marketing and Consumption Practices in the Outdoor Industry

by Maren Ingrid Kropfeld, University of Oldenburg and Maike Gossen, TU Berlin

As we observe the discourse on strong sustainability, circularity and sufficiency slowly reaching the industry, businesses in the outdoor industry take the lead in adapting their business models and promote sufficiency-oriented consumption practices. In an exploratory study, we analyzed the marketing approaches of six outdoor companies regarding their sufficiency-promoting strategies and measures and the intended change of consumption practices.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash

Building on the body of literature on sufficiency-oriented consumption, sufficiency-promoting marketing, and social practice theory, we conducted qualitative research including secondary and primary data.

Our findings show that the extent to which sufficiency is communicated via the companies’ marketing channels as well as their main sufficiency focus varies. While all companies commit to protecting the environment and produce high-quality products, some distinguish themselves by e.g., focusing on using natural fibers or extending the use phase of products. All companies use their marketing channels (most of all social media) to promote their products and additional services such as repair services or second-hand options, give tips for the sufficiency-oriented handling of products, such as care and repair guides, provide information on the environmental impact of clothing consumption and more sustainable options, and to critically reflect on (over-)consumption and encourage consumers to buy less and keep the stuff they already own longer. We found that their promotion policies heavily rely on the products and services they offer, while price and place policies play a subordinate role.

All our case companies intend to promote sufficiency-oriented consumption practices such as reducing consumption, shifting consumption to less resource intensive options, extending the lifespan of products (most popular), and encouraging sharing options such as second-hand (minor role, but growing). Measuring the impact of their sufficiency-promoting campaigns, however, remains a challenge.

Genuine sufficiency-related efforts cannot only rely on sufficiency-promoting marketing or circular products. Businesses will have to simultaneously shift their business models away from growing product sales and towards more degrowth options.

Publication: Gossen, M; Kropfeld, M. (2022): “Choose Nature. Buy Less.” Exploring Sufficiency-oriented Marketing and Consumption Practices in the Outdoor Industry. Sustainable Production and Consumption 30, 720–736.


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