Just Reproduction, Production and Consumption

Product and advertising regulation

What's the problem?

Companies in growth-economies have to survive on a competitive market and therefore primarily focus their activities on generating profit, which often means that the usefulness or quality of their products falls behind. This results in corporate strategies to increase the demand for their products. Growth-oriented companies increase demand through a combination of several approaches, such as a high frequency in the market introduction of new products, the limited availability of individual and spare parts or the limitation of the products life span (planned obsolescence). On the other hand, sales of products and especially of newly introduced offers are promoted by intensive advertising. This also promotes the ecologically harmful culture of consumption and disposable products and complicates the development of sufficient consumption patterns (→ Sufficiency).

What's the measure?

Instead of maximizing product sales, the focus of companies with post-growth approaches is shifting to the production of ecologically and functionally high-quality products with a long lifespan. Business practices, such as the extensive avoidance of advertising, the creation of repair facilities and individual advisory services, enable and support the social establishment of a sufficient lifestyle. 

How can the implementation look like?

In order to promote sufficiency-oriented approaches of companies, political decisions can be made in particular with the following levers:

  • Limiting incentives and possibilities for the advertising placements by abolishing the direct tax deductibility of advertising expenditure
  • Prohibition of outdoor advertising in the public area (as it is existing in São Paulo, Brazil, since 2007) and stronger regulation of advertising in media, especially television and social media
  • Reduced VAT rate for repair services (as already exists in Scandinavia, for example)
  • Supporting the production of durable and repairable products by significantly extending statutory warranty and private warranty periods
  • Strengthening of repair possibilities by obliging companies to offer spare parts and enabling their replication through open source models
  • Prohibition of the deliberate installation of inferior spare parts (planned obsolescence. using the example of France).
  • Prohibition of food destruction
  • Ban on free returns in online trading
  • Promotion of repair cafés and open workshops
  • Using advertising space/capacities/abilities/... for (anti-capitalist) enlightenment/interaction between people/art and culture/... 
  • Extend manufacturer product warranty to 5 years
  • Prohibition of food advertising on all advertising media distributed outside the shop/market - leaflets, online shops, posters, brochures etc.)
  • ban on advertising CO2-intensive (long-distance) travel by air or cruise ship
  • Sanction unnecessary deviation from interface standards (e.g. proprietary screws to prevent conventional tools from working)
  • Mandatory guarantee of software updates for hardware products (updates for security and functional maintenance) as well as open source software at the end of the updates (promotes continued use by community projects) -> precondition for long-term use of IT hardware
  • Abolish patents or significantly shorten their terms in order to avoid unnecessary additional development

How quickly can the measure be implemented?

Step by step, starting immediatly. 

Problems of social, global and intergenerational justice

  • These regulations (see implementation) must not be thought only on national terms. Otherwise, there is a danger that companies will go abroad with their profit logic, where the regulations do not apply. Then exploitation, advertising and the sale of their products will continue.
  • High-quality, durable and sustainably produced products are expensive and not everyone can afford them. Subsidies, which for example are no longer available for advertising and other things, could possibly be used to make products more affordable.

References to other measures

Reduction of gainful employment: If there were fewer or no more jobs in the advertising industry, this labour could be used for other "more useful" work or people could generally work less.

Further literature and sources

  1. Research & Degrowth: Ye, We Can Prosper Without Growth (2015, abgerufen am 2.3.2020)
  2. Schmelzer, Matthias & Vetter, Andrea (2019): Degrowth/Postwachstum zur Einführung.

Yes, we can prosper without growth:

Matthias Schmelzer, Andrea Vetter, Degrowth/Postwachstum