Sufficiency Transitions: Realizing Consumption Changes for Environmental Sustainability

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss demand urgent action, with sufficiency increasingly forwarded as a means to halt environmental degradation. As an approach to (environmentally) sustainable consumption, sufficiency posits that reducing environmental footprints requires substantial changes in consumption patterns among high-consuming classes, including reduced consumption levels. Understanding how we can realize these much-needed changes in consumption patterns is essential if change is to happen.

This thesis aims to improve our understanding of sufficiency transitions by addressing the following three research questions: 1) What is the normative justification for sufficiency transitions? 2) What consumption changes does sufficiency entail? 3) How can sufficiency transitions be realized?

The thesis consists of three articles that together respond to the research questions of the thesis. The thesis uses three complementary research methods: Article 1 is a conceptual analysis of the normative foundations of sufficiency, Article 2 is a literature review of sufficiency research, and Article 3 is an empirical study of sufficiency in the context of downsizing of housing.

The thesis provides a normative argument for a focus on sufficiency in transitions toward more sustainable modes of consumption. It identifies the types of consumption changes that sufficiency may entail (absolute reductions, modal shifts, product longevity, and sharing practices) and shows the consumption changes that are required in the consumption categories of housing, nutrition, mobility, and miscellaneous consumption. In addition, the thesis shows sufficiency transitions to require changes along several dimensions, including consumer attitudes and behavior, culture, the economic system, the political system, and the physical environment. In particular, the thesis shows how socio-cultural meanings and norms can be negotiated to realize sufficiency transitions. The thesis also identifies actors that can advance sufficiency transitions, including businesses, policymakers, citizens, NGOs, and educators.

The findings of this thesis can be a starting point for practitioners working to realize sufficiency transitions, as well as for future academic research on sufficiency transitions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Holmlund-Rytkönen, Maria, Degree supervisor
  • Polsa, Pia, Supervisor
Award date25.01.2022
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-952-232-459-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-232-460-3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • 512 Business and Management
  • degrowth
  • sufficiency
  • sufficiency transitions
  • sustainability transitions
  • sustainable consumption

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Responsible organising


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