Sustainable consumption and production was first defined at the Oslo Symposium on Sustainable Consumption in 1994:
Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) is a holistic approach to minimizing negative environmental impacts from the production-consumption systems in society. SCP aims to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of products, services, and investments so that the needs of society are met without jeopardizing the ability of future generations to meet their needs
Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production magnified by a growing global consumer class are the main cause of environmental problems. There is also a social component to SCP, as a third of the world’s population are not consuming enough to meet their basic needs. Unsustainable consumption and production is not only a threat to the way we live our life now but by needlessly depleting and spoiling valuable resources we also threaten the material basis of future generations.
Mitigating environmental effect of human activities has traditionally focused on minimising the effects of individual goods and services, through process reengineering or end-of-pipe solutions. The SCP approach goes one step further, acknowledging the influence of consumer demand on the consumption process, and therefore as a policy area that can be harnessed to minimise the environmental effects of consumption.
The explicit targeting of consumption in environmental policy requires detailed knowledge about the environmental costs related to different areas of consumption. This necessitates an appreciation of the entire lifecycle of products. We use a variety of techniques to establish the environmental impacts of different areas of consumption. These include Life Cycle Analysis, Material Flow Accounting and National Accounting Matrices modified to account for environmental impacts.
Developing effective policy solutions to address consumption patterns and levels also requires a thorough understanding of consumer behaviour. This includes insights into the drivers for consumption, the barriers to sustainable consumption, and what motivates individuals, communities and societies to change their behaviour and eventually move to sustainable lifestyles. We use a multi-disciplinary approach to analyse the latest data and research findings and produce relevant results for policy makers.
Understanding the effects of consumption from a holistic perspective allows us to provide policy advice that will reduce environmental impacts, increase resource efficiency and avoid deferring or relocating environmental burdens resulting from our production and consumption.
The section provides useful internet links to organizations active in the area of Sustainable Consumption and Production.
EEA report on sustainable use and management of natural
EEA Topic report No 11/1999:
Commission’s web pages on the ‘Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources’ explaining the background of this Thematic Strategy, what the Commission has done about it and what is planned in the future. There is also information about how you can get involved.
|European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/RWM)||
The ETC European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/RWM) has accompanied the EU policy development since 2001. The main focus has been on material flows, applying the method of Material Flow Analysis (MFA). Comprehensive MFA data and indicators have been compiled for the EU. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published key findings and conclusions in various reports
OECD work on environmental data and indicators.
|UN System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA)||
The System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA)
was developed by UNSD as a satellite system of the System of National Accounts (SNA) to analyze
environmental and economic concerns in a common and flexible framework.
|International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE)||
ISIE is a new society that promotes industrial ecology as a way of finding innovative solutions to complicated environmental problems and facilitates communication among scientists, engineers, policymakers, managers and advocates who are interested in how environmental concerns and economic activities can be better integrated.
An interdisciplinary research institute oriented to solving problems in the area of applied sustainability research. The Wuppertal Institute develops guiding principles and concrete concepts in the area of energy, transport, material flows and resource management, climate policy and eco-efficient enterprises as well as creating new and innovative models of wealth.
ConAccount is a network of institutions working on Material Flow Analysis (MFA). The basic objectives of ConAccount are to support the information exchange between the scientists developing MFA and the users of the results, to provide the basis for the development of a coherent framework of MFA methodology, and to promote the use of MFA for statistics and policy.
|Factor Four – best practises||
A website, maintained by the Wuppertal Institute, providing best practise examples of products and services following the Factor Four principle (including further links to other best practice websites).
|World Resources Institute||
WRI is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people's lives. World Resources Institute provides information, ideas, and solutions to global environmental problems.
|UNEP Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption||
The Centre contributes to the Plan of Implementation agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production by providing scientific support to activities undertaken by UNEP and other organisations in the field of SCP.
|Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Education (IFF) – Department Social Ecology||
IFF Social Ecology focuses on the relationship between social and natural systems in the context of sustainable development. Inter-disciplinary approach is a central feature of the work, in both research and teaching.
|National Institute for Environmental Studies Japan (NIES)||
To tackle the growing environmental problems of the 21st century, NIES has restructured itself to respond to public needs with agility, as a flexible and efficient organization, one of which is "Waste Management and Sustainable Material Cycles" dealing with MFA approaches.
Ecological Footprint is an indicator to measure "use of nature," and increase awareness for sustainable development. Ecological Footprint accounts provide a conservative estimate of humanity's pressure on global ecosystems. They represent the biologically productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to supply space for infrastructure, and to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels.