Several of Sustainableslump’s posts have discussed the impacts of the recession on buying habits and society’s value towards consumption. Whilst on the surface this might not seem like an issue that directly affects the developing world, our purchasing practices can profoundly shape the livelihoods of others that dominate the production of the goods that fuel our seemingly endless appetite for shopping.

Consumption and the recession provides the perfect example of just how complex and correlated all the factors involved in the complicated interplay between sustainable development and the recession really are.  

For example, whilst some experts believe that the recession could boost responsible retailing and decrease some of the environmental damage associated with radical economic growth, growth in sales for ‘lower end’ retailers such as Lidl, Aldi and Primark and falling sales in Organic produce suggest that for a proportion of the market ‘sustainability’ and ‘quality’ just aren’t relevant decision-making factors.


Some trends suggest that consumers are beginning to return to ‘older’ values of quality over quantity and in regards to fashion in particular, of classic and high quality over cutting-edge and ‘quick’ fashion pieces churned out by the Primarks of the world.

In both these circumstances, however, it may be that the developing world loses out – if shoppers in the west are buying less (albeit of a better quality), factories will have to close and unemployment will inevitably rise. If cheaper retailers come to reign supreme downward price pressures on the market as a whole could occur as retailers compete in ‘a race to the bottom’, putting pressure on labour costs, production costs, margins and ultimately the value accrued by producers in the developing world.

In so many ways the recession brings up more questions about the relationship between economic growth and sustainable development than it could ever answer.  Let’s hope that effective measurement and research will make some interesting conclusions once the market recovers…..