Decisions about how we spend our money can affect our happiness, but only under the right conditions. Based on the emerging social science of “happiness studies,” and as reported by the New York Times, “our types of purchases, their size and frequency, and even the timing of the spending all affect long-term happiness.”

Beyond a certain level required to meet basic needs, more income and purchasing power don’t necessarily translate into greater happiness. However, money spent on leisure and services—including vacations and meals—and on calculated purchases that are planned and anticipated over substantial periods of time, can add to happiness. This has implications for sustainability and our shift toward sustainable consumption.

Companies should seek to understand the links between sustainable consumption, happiness, and customers, and use this insight to change what products and services they offer and how they market them.

Through our recent report and through workshops we are holding with companies, BSR is exploring opportunities for business to champion sustainable consumption. Here are some initial tips for how companies can create value (and happiness) for consumers without creating more stuff:

  • Product design: Embrace the concept of “less (stuff) is more (happiness).” Understand the potential links between reducing environmental impact while creating more value for consumers.
  • Consumer engagement: Find ways to build social interactions, which increase happiness, into your marketing strategies. Social networking sites like Yelp and Facebook can create communities that are linked to your products and services.