Åsa Callmer has done research on sufficiency. Photo: Pexels/Johanna Kvarnsell

An increasing number of researchers are agreeing that a just transition requires richer societies not only to change the way
 they consume, but also how much they consume. In a new article, researchers from KTH, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, have investigated how politics, especially at the municipal and regional levels, can respond to this.

To aim for sufficiency is a way of trying to counteract overconsumption and unjust allocation of resources. In their recently published article, Åsa Callmer, PhD in Planning and Decision Analysis, and Karin Bradley, Associate Professor at KTH, argue for this. But measures designed to limit consumption are often seen as controversial, and clash with goals of continued economic growth.

Critics argue that sufficiency politics might worsen our economy and quality of life.
– Reducing consumption is a necessity. At the same time, just as respecting ecological boundaries is an essential part of a sufficiency perspective, so are justice and well-being. Therefore, reduced consumption will not necessarily mean that people will be worse off – it can even increase well-being, says Åsa Callmer.

Local initiatives can lead the way
The study shows a lack of sufficiency orientation in national politics, yet several municipalities and regions have taken own initiatives in such a direction. These are measures to prevent waste and promote sustainable consumption – more accepted ways of working with reduced consumption and sufficiency, according to the study.

One example is the open repair workshops in municipalities such as Gothenburg. These workshops function as meeting places where people can repair, borrow, exchange and build things. Another example is working towards changing norms around consumption and what it means to have a good life, for example through arranging competitions in which households can compete with and learn from each other in minimising their waste and climate footprints. A third example is municipalities and regions that are elaborating carbon budgets that are in line with the Paris Agreement, and explore the possibilities to increase their inhabitants’ well-being within those limits.

Politicians should have clear goals
Even though these local initiatives are few and limited, Åsa Callmer’s and Karin Bradley’s article point out that they can send important signals, which in turn may facilitate more sufficiency thinking.

– It’s obvious that it’s easier to pursue ambitious initiatives if local politicians are willing to set far-reaching and clear goals, says Åsa Callmer.

Isabel Nilsson Alarcon

Read the whole article “In search of sufficiency politics: the case of Sweden” in Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy here.


Åsa Callmer
PhD in Planning and Decision Analysis

Karin Bradley
Associate Professor at KTH, Stockholm