Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. The implementation of SCP as an integrated approach helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.
Sustainable consumption and production is defined as “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising 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 jeopardise the needs of future generations.” Norwegian Ministry of Environment, Oslo Symposium, 1994.
SCP aims at “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. This change towards SCP involves different stakeholders, including business, consumers, policy makers, researchers, scientists, retailers, media, and development cooperation agencies, among others. It requires a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer. It involves engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement, among others.
Sustainable consumption has been recognized as an integral element of sustainable development and an issue of paramount importance. The UN Conference on the Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 recognized sustainable consumption and production as an overarching theme to link environmental and developmental challenges. Agenda 21 states that the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. Ten years later in 2002, world leaders signed the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). Chapter 3 of the Plan was devoted to “Changing Unsustainable Patterns of Consumption and Production” and declared that “fundamental changes in the way societies produce and consume are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development. All countries should promote sustainable consumption and production patterns.” In 2012, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), countries recognized that fundamental changes in the way societies consume and produce are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development, and adopted the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns.
For more information on main terms and concepts related to sustainable consumption and production and other terms associated with sustainable development, please download the UNEP publication “ABC of SCP: Clarifying Concepts on Sustainable Consumption and Production.”