What is SCP?

What is SCP?

Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) refers to “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations”.

SCP is about doing more and better with less, decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. SCP is about increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles. It offers important contributions for poverty alleviation and the transition towards low-carbon and green economies. It requires building cooperation among different stakeholders as well as across sectors in all countries.

Economic development over the past 30 years has managed to lift millions out of poverty and expand the number of countries reaching middle-income status. However, it has also been accompanied by a wide array of negative environmental and social impacts, which now threaten to undermine, or even reverse, the progress that has been achieved to date.

We are currently consuming more resources than ever, exceeding the planet’s capacity for generation. In the meantime, waste and pollution grows, and the gap between rich and poor stretches wider. Health, education, equity and empowerment are all adversely affected. The need for a concerted, cooperative effort to overcome these challenges by achieving a shift towards sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns is clear.

This requires a systemic approach and involves us all: governments, international and regional organizations, business and industry, consumers, researchers, scientists, the media and others.

Want to know more? Visit the SCP Clearinghouse!

SCP key concepts and objectives 

The SCP is a holistic approach and is about systemic change. It is built around three main objectives:

  • Decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth. This is about doing more and better with less, increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing quality of life. ‘More’ is delivered in terms of goods and services, with ‘less’ impact in terms of resource use, environmental degradation, waste and pollution.

  • Applying the lifecycle thinking. This is about increasing the sustainable management of resources and achieving resource efficiency along both production and consumption phases of the lifecycle, including resource extraction, the production of intermediate inputs, distribution, marketing, use, waste disposal and re-use of products and services.

  • Sizing opportunities for developing countries and “leapfrogging”. SCP contributes to poverty eradication and to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For developing countries, SCP offers opportunities such as the creation of new markets, green and decent jobs as well as more efficient, welfare-generating natural resource management. It is an opportunity to “leapfrog” to more resource efficient, environmentally sound and competitive technologies, bypassing the inefficient, polluting, and ultimately costly phases of development followed by most developed countries.