Confronting our Consumerism



We attended 'Confronting our Consumerism' put on by the Institute of Sustainable Futures (ISF). The public lecture hosted Proffessor Tim Kasser as the keynote speaker followed by Chris Reidy from ISF and Mark Chenery from

Values were the main topic of conversation, more specifically, how materialistic (extrinsic) values underpin our consumer culture and how we must confront them in order to achieve greater wellbeing and a more sustainable future. This is Tim's thang. He is best known for his book 'The High Price of Materialism' and you can check out this fun little video which sums it up pretty well here



Tim measures materialism using a values 'pie' that shows the relative importance of extrinsic values in comparison to instrinsic values. We all possess both sets of values. We all have material needs and desires. He is not saying that materialism is evil and admits that it has played a role in our success. The problem is that the materialistic 'piece of pie' is too big!


Tim thinks there are two strategies to best tackle this problem. 1) To challenge the causes of materialism. 2) To foster intrinsic values. By doing so materialism becomes a smaller piece of the pie but may still be incorporated into our lives.. much like sugar in a healthy balanced diet. This balance is very much aligned with the ideas behind Wildwon's B-Corp certification- that a business can be both profitable and have a positive impact on society.  



Advertising is obviously a large cause of the materialism fuelling our consumer culture. We can challenge this factor at an individual level, by educating individuals with the tools to resist the influence of advertising and make better choices. We can also challenge advertising from a structural level, by putting policies in place that limit the influence of advertising in our lives.

Tim suggests that advertising to children is a case that can be fought and won.  In the words of Lilly Allen 'I am a weapon of massive consumption and it's not my fault it's how I'm programmed to function'. We are raised to identify ourselves and others as consumers rather than civilians. Our early learning years are crucial for our development, imagine the space available for our intrinsic values to grow if advertising were eliminated from those years.

Read more about the ethical debates in advertising



Tim's research illustrates that intrinsic values are the key to happier people, a more civil society and a sustainable world. The good thing is that our values are easily invigorated- yay! Tim's experiments prove that 'priming' subjects by indirectly exposing them to intrinsic values made them more likely to think and behave intrinsically. His research also shows that our intrinsic values are a stronger motivator over extrinsic values. Campaigns that appeal to extrinsic values may work momentarily but are counterproductive in the long run. It is the campaigns that appeal to intrinsic values that have a more powerful response and are truly successful. To continue with the healthy diet metaphor- materialism is like sugar- it only gives you momentary happiness and fleeting energy.

This is what Wildwon are about- we create positive experiences that help foster people's intrinsic values to promote longer-lasting social change. If you would like to chat to us about this please contact us here

Millie TaitComment