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Social Innovations for Sustainable Consumption: the social transformation of consumption practices through social currencies
The document "Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" established as one of its main objectives "Ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns." The goals listed are mainly related to the structures and processes that anchor production and consumption practices. The challenge is to promote initiatives that are capable of renewing everyday consumption practices in a way that makes them sustainable, which means meeting human needs while at the same time seeking to respect the limits imposed by the environment. This requires changes in institutional, cultural, political and market in the way society is structured, which goes beyond technological innovations in industrial processes and products and individual consumer practices. This social transformation can occur from the construction of a more democratic and participatory public sphere that seeks to face the socio-environmental challenges of consumption through social inclusion, in which civil society acts as a protagonist in this process. This action may involve both mobilizations and pressures for the necessary institutional changes to occur as well as in bottom-up movements (Lorek & Spargenberg, 2014) characterized by social innovation initiatives (Backhaus, Genus & Wittmayer, 2017) such as the formation of collaborative networks to generate solutions focused on local development, responding social demands through the shared interests and values of and among the communities involved (Seyfang & Smith, 2007). Thus, the question that guided this study was: What is the transformative potential of social innovation initiatives in the promotion of sustainable consumption in relation to dominant institutions in the conventional market? A case study of an exploratory and descriptive nature of the social currency models operated by community banks in Brazil was carried out. Data collection took place through interviews and documentary analysis. The results show that there is a citizen mobilization in the development of more sustainable lifestyles with the purpose of reducing the environmental impacts of consumption, increasing access to consumption and to increase the social welfare of the community where the social currency initiatives implemented by community banks. The use of social currencies are capable of promoting transformations in the socioeconomic relations in the territory towards the improvement of the local living conditions. However, they face challenges inherent to social innovation, such as public policies directed to social finances; legal and cultural recognition of initiatives; and community empowerment. Most of the policy actions developed for sustainable consumption have been more focused on combating the negative consequences of consumption practices involving short-term activities than on understanding, questioning and transforming this practice (Dolan, 2002, Jackson, 2006). Strong sustainable consumption promotion strategies should focus on attempts to increase human well-being through social structures (Lorek & Fuchs, 2013). Has a direct articulation with social innovation initiatives that discuss alternatives for the growth and development of communities and individuals through emancipation and political participation in their daily dilemmas.