Consumer studies collaborates in multidisciplinary research projects.
Our research topics include sustainable consumption and sustainability transitions; political consumerism and citizen-consumers; adoption, appropriation and appreciation of products and services; vulnerable consumers; and cultural consumption. More specifically, we study these topics in the spheres of housing; bio-based materials and innovations; food consumption, practices of eating and dining out; as well as leisure time activities.
As a multi-disciplinary research group we analyse consumption-related phenomena from a variety of socio-cultural research perspectives. These include in particular social practice and consumer culture theories that focus not only on individual consumers but acknowledge the societal, social, cultural, economic and political environment in which people live and which are inextricably linked with consumption. Moreover, multi-disciplinarity also means that we combine approaches based on consumer studies with theories originating in other disciplines, such as sustainability science, business studies, and sociology. We also collaborate in interdisciplinary research projects in order to develop a wider understanding of the challenges related to contemporary patterns of production and consumption.
We carry out both qualitative and quantitative research. In the former approach, we use interviews, focus groups, various types of written documents (e.g., stories and diaries, discussions in the media and social media, political strategy papers) as well as qualitative surveys. In the latter approach, we apply various types of quantitative surveys, both with data representative of the population and sometimes with more targeted groups. Our projects often also include participatory methods through which we aim at engaging a variety of societal stakeholders.
Below you can see a list of some key projects in which the members of our research group are and have been involved in the recent years.
Accounting, accountability and animals: Negotiating the promises and pitfalls of quantification (ANIMA 2023–2027)
This project examines the expansion of organizational accountability to non-human animals. The purpose is to take animals' needs and interests as a starting point for creating animal welfare and rights indicators for two case organizations. At the same time, the project examines the effects of quantification on individuals and organizations. For more information, please contact Markus Vinnari.
Citizens as agents of change in decarbonizing suburban and rural housing (Decarbon-Home 2020–2026)
Decarbon-Home provides research excellence in the intertwined and ongoing climate-related and social challenges which necessitate a major transition in the Finnish housing system. The focus areas are suburban and rural; the urban focus is on the suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s and the rural focus is on the peripheral areas. In the project we analyze the housing system challenges from environmental, technical and social science silos to form a comprehensive understanding and to create novel, human-centred solutions to climate-wise housing, especially via renovations. Funding: Strategic Research Council. For more information, please see https://decarbonhome.fi/ or contact Eliisa Kylkilahti or other researchers of the project.
Food futures: Prospects and actions in food systems transformations and agricultural policies (2023–2025)
The Finnish and the global food system are facing many sustainability challenges. Promoting sustainable food production and consumption requires action at a systemic level and by all actors from agricultural producers to consumers and policymakers. A better understanding is needed of how different actors’ expectations and capacity for change meet, how cooperation and interaction can be promoted, and under what conditions policy measures are acceptable from the point of view of different actors. This project examines agricultural entrepreneurs’ and consumers’ expectations for the sustainability of the food system. The project carries out (1) a survey and interviews with agricultural entrepreneurs, (2) a survey for consumers and analysis of other related data, and (3) an analysis of food futures including a mapping of future images, development of a ‘future tool’, and workshops aimed at food system actors. The project will provide extensive future-oriented information for food system actors on the ongoing and expected developments as well as on opportunities and tensions in the production and consumption of food. Funding: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. For more information, please see https://blogs.helsinki.fi/ruokatulevaisuudet/mainpage/in-english-food-futures/ or contact Mari Niva or other researchers in the project.
Climate-smart dairy: Assessing challenges, innovations, and solutions (SmartDairy 2022–2025)
Food systems are responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Dairy production is a significant contributor to those emissions and, given that global demand for dairy is projected to increase, there is an urgent need to reduce emissions from this sector. This project aims to assess challenges, explore innovations, and create new solutions to achieve a climate-smart dairy system. Using a multi-actor, multi-disciplinary approach across four European countries, the project explores the interconnections and consequences of climate-smart innovations within the dairy system. In Ireland, we assess the acceptability of dairy system carbon markets to accelerate the uptake of carbon mitigation measures by farmers. In Italy, we simulate the implications of new climate-smart policies and business models along the dairy supply chain. In the UK, we explore consumers’ perceptions and willingness to pay for climate-smart innovations. In Finland, we analyse socio-cultural issues related to the consumption of milk and alternative products, as well as dairy-based food waste reduction. The project aims at helping find solutions to reduce GHG emissions, increase resource efficiency, and reduce waste, and bring us a step closer to a climate-neutral future. Funding: ERA-NET / Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. For more information, please see https://smartdairyproject.com/ or contact Mari Niva or other researchers in the project.
Consumer agency in the performance of sustainable home practices (2022–2025)
The doctoral dissertation studies home practices performed by consumers. A large part of consumption-based housing emissions is generated in households, so the practices performed by consumers and opinions of consumers matter in how much emissions are generated. In this study, interest is in how consumers understand sustainable housing and how understanding shows in the performance of home practices, as well as how different material entities determine the sustainability of home practices and how these material entities and views on climate change determine or limit consumers' agency in relation to sustainable home practices. The approach is practice-theoretical with hint of a posthumanist perspective. The research project is part of the DeCarbon-Home research project. For more information, please contact Sara-Ellen Laitinen.
Bio-based dyes and pigments for colour palette (BioColour 2019–2022/2025)
Sustainable bio- and circular economy calls for alternatives for the one-sided production and consumption culture based on mass markets. The aim of the Bio-based Dyes and Pigments for Colour Palette (BioColour) project is to develop new methods of biocolourant production, characterization and application, which enable the buildup of novel processes leading to a variety of sustainable items. Also, the BioColour project aspires to establish the cultural, social and ethical aspects associated with producing and consuming biocolourants and enhance wider adaption of sustainability in businesses and consumer lifestyles. BioColour project helps generating new high-class sustainable biocolour business and advancing existing business opportunities in Finland. For more information, please see https://biocolour.fi/, or contact Eliisa Kylkilahti or other researchers in the project.
Practices and continuity of consumption (2016–2024)
The doctoral dissertation project analyses the continuities that practices bring to consumption of both services and materials. The two cases analysed in the project are theatre and furniture. All the elements constituting a practice can also carry continuities, and these elements are investigated within the project. The aim of the project is to show, how connected a consumer is to other agencies, both human and material ones. For more information, please contact Jani Varpa.
SUFOCON 2021–2022: Sustainable food transition, practices and the normativities of consumption
CCS 2020–2022: Corona cooking survey
EE-TRANS 2018–2022: Eating and energy use reconfigured? Disruptions and novel transition pathways in food and energy systems
ConPaSS 2021: Consumer-inclusive packaging system: Sustainability with circularity and bio-based materials
ORBIT 2017–2020: Orchestrating sustainable user-driven bioeconomy
POPRASUS 2016–2020: Politics, practices and the transformative potential of sustainable diets
RUOMU 2016–2020: Changing structures and competition issues in the Finnish food markets / Ruokamarkkinoiden muuttuvat rakenteet ja kilpailun toimivuus
KäPy 2016–2019: End-user Approach to Development of Business Ecosystems in Wood-Based Building Sector
RUOKAMARKKINAT 2013–2016: Efficiency of the food market and transparency of food pricing in Finland
Huippudesignia vai halpatuotantoa – Kuluttajien näkemyksiä pohjoismaisten huonekalujen muotokielestä 2015: Hankkeessa tutkittiin nuorten aikuisten suhtautumista pohjoismaiseen designiin Ruotsissa, Saksassa ja Suomessa.
PETNETS 2012–2015: Verkostojen orkestrointi lemmikkieläinliiketoiminnan kilpailueduksi
CONSER 2012–2014: Palvelukulttuuri kuluttajien tarinoissa ja taloustilastoissa
KM-Retail 2011–2013: Customer driven innovation in retail services