Sustainable consumption (SC) is about finding workable solutions to imbalances – social and environmental – through more responsible behaviours from everyone. In particular, SC is linked to production and distribution, use and disposal of products and services and provides the means to rethink their lifecycle. The aim is to ensure that the basic needs of the entire global community are met, excess is reduced and environmental damage is avoided.
sustainable development: SC is an integral element of sustainable development and an issue of paramount importance to the United Nations:
“…development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” [Gro Harlem Brundtland et al., Our Common Future, WCED, New York-Oxford, Oxford University Press,1987, p. 43]
tools for change: providing tools for change is the responsibility of governments, regulatory institutions, NGOs and business. However, the role of the global consumer/citizen is essential in pushing these groups to take action more quickly and for the better. This is why two United Nations agencies, UNESCO and UNEP, are joining forces to make young people aware of opportunities offered by more sustainable lifestyles and empower them to make a difference starting from their daily lives.
consuming efficiently: any definition of SC highlights how consuming less is often a priority, but not always. Consuming differently and efficiently is the key challenge. In many cases, redistributing the chance to consume is what is needed:
“Many people - almost 2 billion! - in the world need to consume more just to survive. Many others may need to make more responsible choices. In the end, this will mean that fewer resources are needed and fewer emissions are generated, while still serving the needs and wishes of the worlds population.” [UNEP, Youth and Sustainable Consumption, Nairobi/Paris, October 1999]
factor 4 & factor 10: one way of looking at it is Factor 4 and Factor 10 approach, which argue that we should be able to live twice as well yet use half as much of our precious resources in the coming decades. We must also work towards a tenfold improvement in resource productivity in industrialised countries by 2050. [Ernst von Weisäcker, Amory B. Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving resource use, Earthscan publications, UK 1998; www.factor10-institute.org]
Production and consumption patterns must become more efficient (by 4 then 10 times) if we want a lasting and more equal access to resources for everybody.
the concept of Sustainable Consumption