The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"The mindless burning of fossil fuels, which I call "burning diamonds", is having a disastrous effect on the planet's natural, social and economical environment. We should instead be using the vast resource of fossil remains for higher-state energy transfer processes to produce hydrocarbon materials... while at the same time moving towards using the renewable energy which will give rise to a new solar age."
Mick Pearce, architect

The Natural Advantage of Nations (Vol. I): Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century


Section 5: A National Collaborative Approach

1 Consumption and low impact affluence
2 Patterns of consumption are a global issue
3 Policy approaches and action
3.1 Summary of policy approaches for sustainable consumption
4 Industry attention and action
5 Strategies for the future
5.1 Clarifying the focus for action on consumption
5.2 Developing better indicators
5.3 An alternative conceptual approach for describing systems of production and consumption
5.4 Enhancing the potential of limited, localized actions
5.5 Improving products and services: the logical focus for production and consumption
5.6 The overall strategic goal: leapfrog to new systems of products and services
Reference List from the Book

This chapter has been adapted for this publication by Professor Christopher Ryan of RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia from his report Sustainable Consumption: Global Status Report 2002 (UNEP, 2002b). That report was produced for the UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Environment (DTIE) for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg in 2002. The growing attention to the issues of sustainable consumption is a natural outcome of decades of work on cleaner production and eco-efficient industrial systems.

It represents the final step in a progressive widening of the horizons of pollution prevention; a widening which has gone from a focus on production processes (cleaner production), to products, (eco-design), then to product-systems (incorporating transport logistics, endof- life collection and component re-use or materials recycling) and to eco-innovation and eco-effectiveness (new products and product-systems and enterprises designed for win-win solutions for business and the environment).



References from the Book

1 The UNDP 1998 Human Development Report stresses the need for sustainable consumption to be defined in ways that avoid ideas of giving up or losing out, emphasizing instead the idea of what could be called low-impact affluence.


2 Thus patterns of consumption may differ between communities or populations because different volumes of goods and services are consumed which are, nevertheless, produced in the same way (i.e. with the same resource/waste impacts per good or service) or because the same volumes of goods and services are consumed in different contexts where their production impact is different.


3 UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) (1998) Human Development Report, UNDP/Oxford University Press, New York .


4 For a detailed analysis of this idea see Hawken, P., Lovins, A. and Lovins, L. H. (1999) Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Earthscan, London .


5 UNEP (2002b) Sustainable Consumption: Global Status Report 2002, UNEP, Paris (report written by Professor Chris Ryan, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, and the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE), Lund University, Sweden).


6 Fukasaku, Y. (1999) 'Stimulating Environmental Innovation', The STI Review, no 25, issue 2, Special Issue on Sustainable Development, OECD, Paris, p48.


7 See Tables 22.1-22.3 for a summary of the agreement about actions and policies

regarding sustainable consumption.


8 UNEP (2000) Consumer Trends and Expectations: An International Survey Focusing on Environmental Impacts by Matthew D Bentley, in UNEP, Industry and Environment Review: Sustainable Mobility, UNEP, Paris; Bentley, M. (2000) 'Global Consumers Have Spoken: An International Study on Consumer Trends and Expectations', Environment Review, vol 23, no 4.


9 UNEP SCOPE Pilot Workshop in Sofia , Working papers, UNEP DTIE, Paris [AS2] (2001).


10 This approach is evident in UNEP initiatives both planned and underway - see for

example the WBCSD Chairman's Paper, WSSD Prep-Com 3.


11 Highlighted in the 'Sustainability through the market' report, World Business Council for Sustainable Development. For a wider view of the global trends shaping business activity, see also UNEP, WBCSD and the WRI (2002) Tomorrow's Markets: Global Trends and Their Implications for Business, Earthprint , Washington , DC.


12 Specific targets for such reductions are being set and are expected to require a reduction of 20 per cent by 2010 and 50 per cent by 2020.


13 Initial experience with such panels has emerged from trials in Denmark .


14 Kerr, W. and Ryan, C. (2001) 'Eco-Efficiency Gains from Remanufacturing', Journal of Cleaner Production, vol 9 no 2.


15 WBCSD (2001a) Sustainability Through the Market, WBCSD, Geneva ; WBCSD (2001b) The Business Case for Sustainable Development, WBCSD, Geneva .


16 As an example, see the recent review of current literature in this area: Princen, T. (2001) 'Consumer Society Review', Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol 5.


17 Even talking of unsustainable consumption is open to a misinterpretation (which may exaggerate the role of consumer behaviour). What such a phrase actually means is: taking the consumption of resources, embodied in goods and services, as a measure of the performance of current systems of production and consumption, and demonstrating that these systems are unsustainable. Of course, as the OECD has emphasized in its own analysis, consumption data can only be interpreted for a particular site, problem and time, and the sustainability or un-sustainability of that data can be interpreted only where specific ecological limits can be established; OECD (2001) Policies to Promote Sustainable Consumption: An Overview, OECD, Paris.


18 For an overview see, for example, the website of Redefining Progress.


19 A point that the industry appears well aware of; see GeSI (Global e-Sustainability Initiative) (2002) Information and Communications Technology, GeSI/UNEP Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Paris . This is also the focus of a research project for the Melbourne based Lab 3000 - innovation in digital design. See: Ryan, C. (2004) The Digital and Sustainability: Realising an Innovative Potential, Lab Report O2, Melbourne.


20 This is the basis, for example, in UNEP work with youth and activities which focuses on individuals who are sensitive to the 'life behind the product'.


21 Michaelis, L. (2000) 'The Drivers of Consumption Patterns', in Heap, B. and Kent , J. (eds) Towards Sustainable Consumption: A European Perspective, The Royal Society, London , pp75-84. For example, proposed a framework consisting of four sets of forces which shape consumption: Demographic, economic and technical changes; Resources, infrastructure and time constraints; Motivations, habits needs and compulsions; Social structures, identities, discourse and symbols. The UNDP Human Development Report 1998 examines the history of the idea of consumption and nine hypotheses about consumption from Veblen, through Keynes to Amartya Sen.


22 ACA (Australian Consumers' Association) (2002) Green Electricity Watch Report, ACA, Marrickville, NSW.


23 The term 'systems of provision' has been used to describe a framework for understanding production, consumption and life styles. It is used here in a closely related, but more narrowly focused, way; Chappells, H., Klintaman, M., Linden, A., Shove, E., Spaargaren, G. and van Vliet, B. (2001) Domestic Consumption Utility Services and the Environment, Final DOMUS report, University of Lancaster, Wageningen and Lund.


24 A point made in UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) (1998) Human Development Report, UNDP/Oxford University Press, New York; OECD (2001) Policies to Promote Sustainable Consumption: An Overview, OECD, Paris; and the Kabelvåg Workshop (1998) Consumption in a Sustainable World, International Institute for

Environment and Development, London .


25 Based around Maslow's hierarchy - see UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) (1998) Human Development Report, UNDP/Oxford University Press, New York ; OECD (2002a) Towards Sustainable Household Consumption? Trends and Policies in OECD countries, OECD, Paris.


26 Spaargaren, G. and van Vliet, B. (2000) 'Lifestyles, Consumption and the Environment: The Ecological Modernization of Domestic Consumption', Environmental Politics, vol 9, no 1, pp50-76. Describe the ways that consumers and producers are co-actors in the creation and maintenance of systems of provision.


27 See for example, Tischner, U., Schmincke E., Rubik, F. and Prösler, M. (2000) How to do Ecodesign?, Verlag Form Praxis, Frankfurt .


28 AdBusters,


29 The development of eco-footprint measurements for some cities is a good indication of future possibilities.


30 Ryan, C. (2002) 'EcoLab: A Jump Towards Sustainability', Journal of Industrial Ecology, vol 5, no 3.


31 For a good review of such strategies see: Tischner, U., Schmincke E., Rubik, F. and Prösler, M. (2000) How to do Ecodesign?, Verlag Form Praxis, Frankfurt .


32 Studies of new car sharing systems demonstrate this well; Meijkamp, R. (2000) Changing Consumer Behaviour through Eco-Efficient Services, Thesis, Technical University of Delft , Netherlands.


33 The UNEP DTIE plan to produce a new eco-design support system will thus be an

important step in the integration of their production and consumption programmes.


34 McDonough, W. and Braungart, M. (2002) Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press, San Francisco.


35 After Manzini, E. (2001) 'Leap-Frog: Short-Term Strategies for Sustainability', in Allen, P. (ed) Metaphors for Change, Greenleaf Books, Sheffield.


36 Stated at the International Business Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production; Creating Opportunities in a Changing World, Berlin, October, 1999.


37 Pine, J. and Gilmore, J. (1998) 'Welcome to the Experience Economy', Harvard Business Review, July-August.


38 See UNEP (2001) The Role of Product Service Systems in a Sustainable Society, UNEP, Paris; UNEP (2002a) Product Service Systems and Sustainability: Opportunities for Sustainable Solutions, UNEP, Paris. (both available from UNEP DTIE website).