The role of AI in overcoming the value-action gap in sustainable consumption for mainstream consumers (CDT in Data Analytics and Society)


Professor William Young, Dr Vania Dimitrova and Dr Phani Kumar Chintakayala. Contact Professor William Young to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

The majority of consumers say they care about sustainable/ethical issues, for example 94% saying they care about protecting the environment across Europe and UK. The number of shoppers translating this to ethical purchases in the UK has grown rapidly in the last decade.

Consumers’ spending on ethical food and drinks has grown by 16% in 2017 to over £11 billion but it is still only 5% of the total spent of £219 billion in the UK. The barriers for shoppers with concerns about climate change, human rights, animal welfare etc. are high as they have to go through the detailed product descriptions while searching for products that match their interests. This makes it very time consuming and difficult process for individuals with concerns.

There is potentially an opportunity for consumers to short-cut this process through using AI technology as ethical personal shopper for online purchases. This type of intervention will be the core of this exciting PhD which will have three stages. Firstly developing the AI technology, testing and piloting with consumers in social labs and on live online retail environments and thirdly, evaluating the sustainability, ethical, social and business impacts.

This work will involve technical AI development, social science data collection and analysis, sustainability evaluation and close collaboration with a range of online retailers. The outcomes will be advancement of the theories around the value-action gap, an AI personal shopper technology and a better understanding of the impact of such an intervention will have on shopping behaviours, online retail business and advancement of sustainable consumption.

Data CDT Doctoral Training

Data Analytics and Society is an ESRC funded Centre of Doctoral Training providing postgraduate research and training across 4 Universities: University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester and University of Sheffield. 

The Centre is focused on:

  • Promoting the creation and analysis of new longitudinal and streamed data resources for socio-economic investigations;
  • Creating new methods (e.g. scaling up existing methods for real time big data analytics);
  • Investigating social processes (e.g. virtualisation of retailing; data-driven decision making and social behaviours);
  • Facilitating interventions (e.g. resource targeting, network planning, social media apps for diet, travel, lifestyle planning).

Further information:

Key benefits

Working with industry on a global challenge with cutting edge technology.

Entry requirements


How to apply