International mobility: Centre for Consumer Research, Gothenburg, Sweden (part 1)
The Centre for Consumer Research at Gothenburg University warmly welcomed me in their unit for 5 weeks in May and June 2018. And so did the weather in Gothenburg, spring was skipped and the city was experiencing a heat wave. The unusual heat was a good reminder about the changes our climate is facing. Thus, Nordic co-operation in sustainability issues is essential.
Centre for Consumer Research, also known as CFK, and its’ mother organization: Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI) provided an inspiring working environment. Most importantly, together with my consumer researcher colleagues director Ulrika Holmberg and dr Sandra Hillén, we found out that that we are working with similar topics, namely sustainable housing. We recognized differences in the approaches: while in ORBIT the main interest is in the wood material as a solution for climate challenge, especially carbon emission reduction; the Swedish colleagues are focusing on social sustainability and how housing solutions can enhance sustainability in this sector. Nevertheless, the housing business seems to be struggling with similar questions of how to better integrate consumer (resident) needs and wants in the industry’s sustainability pursuit. In Sweden, for example, sustainability and/ or environment certificates are widely in use (read more on Miljöbyggnad in Swedish). Through the contacts of my colleagues, I had a chance to meet one of the forerunner business actors in Gothenburg area and learn more on the Swedish approach from the practitioner perspective. However, by far Gothenburg area has not taken especially active role in building with wood.
Moreover, the stay in Gothenburg was also a cultural excursion. It became evident that wooden multistorey buildings carry heavy cultural-historical meanings in this city. Every time I mentioned my case the locals linked it to the ‘Landshövdingehus’ – 3-storey buildings of which the first floor was made of brick or stone and two upper floors of wood. These buildings were built from late 19th century until 1940s to serve the residential shortage of the working class. Many of the buildings have survived until these days. Yet, prior to building this type of ‘hybrids’, the city had experienced great fires 1802, 1804, and 1813. Perhaps, their reservations on building with wood are somewhat inherited.
Furthermore, the inspiring working community at GRI offered insightful comparisons between different industries. For example, in a coffee room discussion we reflected construction business ecosystems to the global business ecosystem of shipyards – both having significant economic and ecological impacts and requiring a long-term project management. And the consumer often disregarded.
Although the concept of bioeconomy was not currently framing any projects in this research community directly, sustainability issues in consumption and within other industries and their innovations are core specialty of this research community. I gained new perspectives and many helpful tips on how to continue research. This time we continued the discussion in Nordic Conference on Consumer Research (NCCR) in Vaasa. Yet, I am looking forward for the continuation of this co-operation during the later phases of ORBIT project. I already got hints related to the second case, namely packaging industry and consumption practices.