“Meaningful consumption means we won’t buy from companies who don’t match our standards.”

An Inerview on Meaningful Consumption and Time to Think

Q: How would you define Meaningful Consumption?

Boserup: I would define it as modern democracy.

Q: Why is Meaningful Consumption so much in focus at the moment?

Boserup: Most people want to do something good in life, taking responsibility for the common good, for the environment and for their children. Other people might simply be in it for an alternative form of self-promotion.

Q: In what ways do you think consumption is driven by consumer experience?

Boserup: I don’t think consumption is driven by consumer experience. All our natural common sense has been drowned out by advertising.

Q: Why do you think we have moved from product-focused consumption towards cultural consumption – and what are the key social drivers behind this shift?

Boserup: Individualism and wealth have given us more possibilities to do things. The family and religion have taken a back seat – they are too old fashioned right now. So people are independent and make the most of opportunities in our fast-moving society. Of course, this is all a fashion which may change in 10 or 15 years time.

Q: Who would you single out as leaders (both people and companies) in Meaningful Consumption?

Boserup:The eco contingent. I’m a chef and I always relate everything back to food. In my little world, the eco group was the first to stand up to industrialisation and demand decent food. To have that requires no compromise – and that to me is the definition of meaningful consumption.

Q: What will the future impact of Meaningful Consumption be for brands, services and products?

Boserup: They will have a hard time. Either they become 100 per cent genuine or they employ a large department of spin doctors!

Q: What lifestyle changes do you think will be the most important in years to come?

Boserup: Crucially the lack of oil. We will see a shift from our oil-based economy to a new one. Whatever this is – and I believe it might be a variety of different energy sources – it will still affect our lifestyle and we will all notice the change. From the point of view of food, we may see a welcome return to seasonality – rediscovering the pleasure of looking forward to new-season’s strawberries, for instance

Q: What is the biggest challenge companies face in the future?

Boserup: They have to work out their key philosophy – their reason for being. To consumers profit and shareholders are no longer acceptable arguments for existence. Meaningful consumption means we won’t buy from companies who don’t match our standards. And that’s modern democracy at work. If we don’t buy, they don’t produce.

Question on Time and Meaning…

Q: How has modern society changed your notions of time?

Boserup: I remember when the fax first arrived! Now communication means I can work wherever and whenever I want. I have the freedom to make decisions for myself. Of course, it is up to me to activate that freedom.

Q: What is your definition of ‘quality time’?

Boserup: To be present. By that I mean being in the right place at the right time. Being with my children and talking to them face to face has ten times more value than talking on the phone. Similarly, when I create a really good dish I feel I’m present.

Q: Why do people today feel they have less time?

Boserup: Because they don’t manage to make decisions – they don’t activate the freedom I mentioned earlier. If you speed up communications it means you can communicate more, so you need to make conscious choices about when and how you work. If you don’t get that right then the speed of communication means work piles up on your desk and overwhelms you.

I think there is another force at play, which is the sheer amount of choices presented via opinions, advertising and hearsay. You need to form your own opinion and make your own choices. Get on top of that and you find there is more time.

Q: How do you feel the 24/7 culture has impacted on brands, products and services?

Boserup: OK it’s nice to be able to go shopping for food in the middle of the night in New York and this speed society encourages us to believe we have a right to get everything exactly when we want it. In fact, I find the whole concept meaningless. I enjoy the opposite situation – getting up at 8am to go to the greengrocer’s because I know all his good strawberries will have gone if I wait any later.

Q: Convergence technology is supposed to save us time. Is this your perception?

Boserup: Yes, I manage it. But there was a period when I didn’t and work piled up. You have to learn how to take control of laptop, phone and fax. Do that and these technologies are a good thing. For me they create time to have fun with my kids.

Q: Has technology improved our quality of life or made achieving work/leisure balance more stressful?

Boserup: The responsibility for quality of life rests with us. As I said before it’s about managing the situation and being in control of the technology you use.

Q: Can you give us a speed conclusion on Time and Meaningful Consumption?

Boserup: Common sense.

Interview: Questions by Kjaer Global for the Time to Think Conference (UK) September 2006

Key Notes on Henrik Boserup
* Regular appearances on radio and TV.
* Began his restaurant career in Denmark in 1980 and has also worked in New York.
* Known for his penchant for Harley Davidsons as well as great food.

Profile: The Danish chef Henrik Boserup is famous for two bestselling cookbooks “White Food” and “Black Food”, which inspired a whole nation to be more aware of the importance of the food they eat. A man on a mission to promote the virtues of good cuisine, he has expanded his remit to include catering, corporate presentations and team building activities.

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