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Sustainability-oriented consumer intention among adolescents



Background: Consumption as a factor for implementing sustainable development

Private consumer behavior plays a crucial role in the implementation of sustainable development (SD). The important role of consumer behavior within the principle of SD is emphasized with consumption being an aspect of the international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not only is responsible consumption listed as a concrete SDG (SDG 12), it is also a requirement for attaining further goals (f. e. SDGs 2, 13, 14). The SDGs take into account that individual consumer behavior has consequences beyond the individual level. It affects social, ecological, and economic conditions on the local as well as the global level. Thus, through our consumer behavior we directly and indirectly influence the possibilities of the present and future generations to meet their needs. The guiding principle of SD is characterized by its goal to ensure this ability of need fulfillment (principle of intra- and intergenerational justice). The current demand for natural resources – in particular that of the industrial nations – exceeds the regenerative capacity of natural systems and thus threatens the realization of SD’s principle of generational justice. The concept of an education for sustainable development (ESD) aims at empowering learners on an individual and professional level to help transform society according to the demands of SD. Due to SD’s ecological relevance, it is an important task for modern biology education in particular to enable learners to form sustainable consumer intentions, a main determinant of consumer behavior.

Research objectives

The project’s principle objective is to empower learners to form reflective consumer intentions, so they may contribute to the implementation of sustainable development (and thus the principle of justice). It is vital to identify the cognitive and motivational factors that underlie the intention of consumption to develop educational interventions that encourage conscious consumer decision making. The immediate objective of this project is, therefore, the development of a model explaining the relationship between the intrapersonal determinants of reflected consumer intention and behavior.

Model development

Out work uses the theory of planned behavior as a foundation. The model is supplemented by aspects of sustainability knowledge (problem-identification and problem-solving knowledge with regard to sustainably-relevant issues) and sustainability values. The adapted model integrates the aspect of intra- and intergenerational impacts while also allowing for the reference of social, ecological and economical dimensions of SD. Also, the model captures effects on the individual, local and global level. The model thus refers to all the aspects relevant to the sustainability discourse (see above). As a second step, the model will be tested empirically. The planning of consumer behavior related educational interventions within the concept of ESD will be based on said model.


Bauer, D., Arnold, J., & Kremer, K. (2018). Consumption-intention formation in education for sustainable development: An adapted model based on the theory of planned behavior. Sustainability, 10(10), 1-13. [3455]. doi: 10.3390/su10103455

Participating institutes

Department of Biology Education, IPN
Prof. Dr. Kerstin Kremer
Deidre Bauer

Educational Research, IPN
Dr. Kerstin Schütte

Biology Education, University of Applied Sciences of North-West Switzerland
Dr. Julia Arnold