With the global population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, and 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.
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). The SDGs also acknowledge the cross-cutting relevance to numerous other goals including health and well-being, clean energy, decent work and economic growth, and sustainable cities and communities.
Update: COVID-19 and Sustainability Transitions Virtual Mini-Conference (27 May 2020)
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.
Expanding sustainable consumerism research is stuck at small scales.
Research on SCP has devoted significant attention to the efficacy of individual behaviour-change premised largely on consumer education and eco-labeling. Separately, attention has been paid to the development and use of more efficient and less polluting technologies (typically referred to as weak SCP or “green” consumerism). These are created 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, we also need perspectives informed by a macro-structural understanding of prevailing production-consumption patterns 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 ask:
- How do we forge a more integrated understanding of sustainable consumption and sustainable production?
- How do we 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 collaboratively design studies, generate knowledge, and initiate other activities around the six focal themes indicated below:
2020.5.7 COVID-19 and Sustainability Transitions: A Real-Time Report from the SSCP KAN (Future Earth blog)
2020.3.13 COVID-19 Can Help Wealthier Nations Prepare for a Sustainability Transition (Future Earth blog)
2019.3.27 KAN-SSCP establishes Steering Committee. The SC will guide development of the KAN in collaboration with a six-person Management Team and a soon-to-be appointed Advisory Committee. To read the full news release, click here.
2019.3.1 UNEA-4 Event: Enablers of Sustainable Lifestyles to be co-organized by the German National Committee Future Earth and the Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network for a side event on 11 March 2019. 12:00-13:30 Monday, 11 March 2019 Green Tent, UNEA-4, Nairobi
2018.8.3 Future Earth Executive Director highlights systems transformation towards sufficiency at the United Nations High-Level Political Forum at the review of SDG 12, based on the work of the Future Earth KAN-SSCP.
Daniel Fischer, co-chair of the Working Group on Communicating for Sustainable Consumption and Production, presented the group’s scoping paper at the IAMCR conference in Eugene, Oregon.
More on the conference and the abstract of the presentation can be found here.
Update: The Research and Engagement Plan of the Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production has been endorsed by the Future Earth Secretariat Team and is now available. To download the report, click here.
Advancing sustainable consumption and production in cities: a transdisciplinary research and stakeholder engagement framework to address consumption-based emissions and impacts (Journal of Cleaner Production)
Degrowth within – Aligning circular economy and strong sustainability narratives Resources, Conservation and Recycling (Resources, Conservation and Recycling)
Why achieving the Paris Agreement requires reduced overall consumption and production (Sustainability: Science, Practice and Policy)
Circular economy and power relations in global value chains: Tensions and trade-offs for lower income countries (Resources, Conservation and Recycling)