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.
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 five focal themes indicated below:
2018.8.9 – Full Report for The 6th International Symposium for Future Earth in Asia on “Sustainable Consumption in Asia” is just out. <Archive>
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.
2018.6.21 – International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR)’s Annual Conference
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.
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.