A threefold strategy is needed to achieve sustainability: efficiency is widely accepted, consistency relates to the transition to technologies that work in harmony with nature – but without sufficiency, both miss the mark.

Sufficiency is about finding the right balance when it comes to consumption and production. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that sustainability goals cannot be achieved through technological innovations alone. Instead, incorporating sufficiency strategies is seen as key to limiting the demand for goods, which is increasing from year to year. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now recognised that sufficiency has a critical role to play in achieving the climate targets. In Germany and around the world, sufficiency is being integrated into more and more climate and energy scenarios.

The Wuppertal Institute defines sufficiency as a strategy for reducing consumption and production levels through changes in social practices. The approach has two aims: firstly, to stay within Earth’s planetary boundaries by adopting sustainable consumption patterns and, secondly, to ensure that all human needs are met. Efficiency and consistency help us to do things right, but sufficiency helps us to do the right things. To achieve the climate targets and avoid the risk of delaying facing up to problems, much more attention must now be paid to the opportunities offered by sufficiency and how they can be realised.

Spending free time in neighbourhood community gardens can be part of a sufficiency-orientated, energy-saving lifestyle.

Sufficiency research is conducted within all of the Institute’s divisions. In addition to projects with an informative and educational purpose, their work also focuses on how to avoid unnecessary journeys and facilitate a shift to more eco-friendly modes of transport, reduce living space requirements by means of intelligent housing management, improve the availability of returnable and reusable products, and intensify product use.

One example of the Institute's sufficiency-related projects is UrbanUp. Here, the researchers investigated the transformative potential of sharing among neighbours in community gardens, for instance, and assessed these activities from a life cycle perspective. Another example is the junior research group EnSu, which integrates assumptions about social change and sufficiency policy into transport, building and energy system models.

Questions addressed by sufficiency research include the following:

  • What social, infrastructural and political factors are hampering efforts to moderate consumption, and how can these obstacles be overcome?
  • How can a participatory approach be taken to determine basic human needs?
  • What policy instruments and communication strategies can be used to get the importance of sufficiency across to the general public and business?
  • What part can art, culture and education play in initiating the kind of societal change that recognises the role of the natural environment as the basis of sufficiency-focused development?
  • What consequences does sufficiency have for the structure of the economy, social cohesion and the achievement of the climate targets?
  • What business models can companies use so that their products and services help to reduce consumption?
  • What strategies and policy instruments are suitable for creating conditions that promote sufficiency-orientated lifestyles and economic activity instead of making such practices more difficult or even ineffectual?


Here you find publications on sufficiency.

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Von nichts zu viel

Suffizienz gehört zur Zukunftsfähigkeit. Über ein Arbeitsvorhaben des Wuppertal Instituts


Here you find research activities in the field of sufficiency.

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