Sustainability isn’t just “green”

Posted by Oliver Koll on Aug 25, 2021

The discourse around the climate crisis has been hitting new peaks – likely a result of more natural disasters (e.g., flooding, wildfire, storms) combined with a growing number of consumers who aim to live more sustainably. A recent study shows that consumers’ sustainable concerns are not only green but can also relate to social and economic factors. Based on the model of conscious sustainable consumption (CSC), the authors of the study derive a nuanced typology of sustainable consumers. CSC is defined as concern “to consume in a way that enhances the environmental, social and economic aspects of quality of life” (Balderjahn, 2013).

In creating the typology, the study’s authors relied on three different data sources, all collectedinGermany: an online survey amongst 1,833 consumers, a FMCG panel including 3,335 households, and a textile panel including 8,475 households. To profile the different consumer segments, the authors combined actual purchases of FMCG and textiles, self-reported data on values and on consciousness for sustainable consumption (CSC), and sociodemographics. For a detailed description of each segment see table 1.

The study shows that sustainable consumers cannot be considered one homogeneous group. Rather, many nuances exist when it comes to environmental, social, and economic concerns. To address these consumer groups, brand managers first need to understand to which segment(s) their most likely buyers belong to and then link these buyers’ specific sustainability preferences to their brands. Most importantly, sustainability must not be narrowed down to be only “green”.


Balderjahn, I., Buerke, A., Kirchgeorg, M., Peyer, M., Seegebarth, B., & Wiedmann, K.-P. (2013). Consciousness for sustainable consumption: Scale development and new in- sights in the economic dimension of consumers’ sustainability. AMS Review, 3, 181–192.

Balderjahn, I., Peyer, M., Seegebarth, B., Wiedmann, K. P., & Weber, A. (2018). The many faces of sustainability-conscious consumers: A category-independent typology. Journal of Business Research, 91, 83-93.