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Consumer marketing has a deep and constant impact on our consumption patterns. Fuelled by insights from science as well as from practice, it opens exciting possibilities to ask questions such as ‘How might marketing bring about more responsible consumption patterns? And how does it weaken them?’ These are questions that are researched at the ACRC, the newly established Amsterdam Centre for Responsible Consumption.

Heading the centre is Jan Willem Bolderdijk, professor of Sustainability & Marketing at UvA Economics and Business. 'My own research is mostly into sustainability and marketing, which implies a focus on environmental concerns. The mission of the centre is wider though: responsible consumption also encompasses healthier consumption by individuals and families for instance, as well as the consumption of socially responsibly produced goods. It’s an extremely relevant field these days, and the insights we get from research help us advance towards the society we want to be together.'

Futures without advertising?

’The aim of the ACRC is to question the conventions of our society when it comes to consumption. Advertising, for example. It’s widely present and it has a deep impact on our consumption patterns. But that presence wasn’t designed by some cabal of masterminds; historic research shows how it largely evolved. Today, advertising might contribute squarely to the goals of the companies that make them and broadcast them, but how do they relate to our goals as a society? What would a world without advertising look like? Is that desirable?'

Banning ads saves businesses money?

'One of our researchers, Jonne Guyt has explored at examples that exist today. He studied whether sales would go down in municipalities that have limited the distribution of door-to-door store flyers. He found evidence that suggests consumer behaviour patterns change far less drastically than many business owners in those cities feared. Which brought them to consider the investment they saved in not having to produce, print and spread all that ad material. So, it is more of a future worth looking at than you’d expect, and this is just one of the dialogues we want to host.'

Dialogues, not demons

Indeed, the ACRC explicitly welcomes society to the table during planned events that Professor Bolderdijk calls dialogues rather than debates. 'We all make our society together. Thus, we’re not in favour of demonising the advertising or any other community. Stakeholders visit our sessions, and they play a role in our research.'

Insights for all

People care about being sustainable and healthy, but don’t always act accordingly. 'People are continuously withheld, by their surroundings, from acting as they’d like to. Marketing is a tremendously powerful force in this paradox. Both in keeping people from acting as they’d prefer as well as in bringing people to change behaviours. With our work, we question widely-held beliefs about marketing, consumption and societal ambitions, providing new insights to everyone involved: consumers, marketers, policy makers and citizens in general.'

More information?

The ACRC has a full agenda of events lined up, with topics that will be of both professional and personal interest to many. There are still some spots open for the ACRC inaugural symposium “From individual to system change” on 23 and 24 November. For more information, visit the ACRC website and the ACRC on LinkedIn.