Future Earth Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production
With the global population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and in view of finite resource availability and resilience of the Earth system, current patterns of global development are not sustainable. A fundamental restructuring of current systems of production, distribution and consumption is indispensable to accommodate world demographic growth and rising consumption while facilitating sustainable development for a majority of people. Agenda 21, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, first highlighted the need for a transition toward sustainable consumption and production (SCP). More recently, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reaffirmed the overarching importance of SCP, identifying it as an explicit objective (SDG#12) and acknowledging its cross-cutting relevance to numerous other goals including health and well-being, clean energy, decent work and economic growth and sustainable cities and communities.
The Future Earth Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SSCP) Knowledge-Action Network emphasises the need to address whole provisioning systems, including consumption practices and production conditions, as well as life-cycle impacts and the economic, political, social and cultural imperatives that impel consumerist lifestyles. To promote a more systemic approach to SCP and to enable a transformation in theory and practice, the Knowledge-Action Network aims to strengthen collaboration between communities of researchers and practitioners that are currently focused on either production or consumption, including actors, decision makers and other stakeholders.
Research on SCP has devoted significant attention to the efficacy of individual behaviour-change premised largely on consumer education and eco-labeling and, separately, the development and use of more efficient and less polluting technologies (typically referred to as weak SCP or “green” consumerism), with the aim of reducing the adverse effects of goods and services on a per unit basis and to improve resource use and product performance. By contrast, perspectives informed by a macro-structural understanding of prevailing production-consumption patterns is also needed to achieve absolute reductions in energy and materials throughput (strong SCP). Satisfying this more ambitious objective is likely to entail policy measures that limit volumes of production and consumption and raise critical questions about social and economic equity, continued economic growth and individual and societal well-being.
To achieve this ambition, the SSCP Knowledge-Action Network seeks to address:
- How to forge a more integrated understanding of sustainable consumption and sustainable production, and
- How to increase the societal/policy relevance of a “strong view” of SCP.
The Knowledge-Action Network also seeks to emphasise both in its research and public engagement the need for more resolute action based on strong SCP perspectives and to build and disseminate knowledge on how this can be done in practice. An important part of this endeavour will be to improve understanding of opportunities for overcoming obstacles to the uptake of strong SCP approaches and to be prepared to take advantage of fortuitous circumstances when they arise.
In line with these objectives, the Knowledge-Action Network will co-design studies, co-generate knowledge, and initiate other activities around the four focal themes indicated below:
- Ecological macroeconomics and political economy of a transition to sustainable lifestyles
- Urban provisioning systems and well-being
- Social change beyond consumerism
- Communications and outreach
See a list of the founding members of this Knowledge-Action Network