ESC Topics and Competencies


ESC consists of many and diverse topics and issues, including Life quality, Lifestyles, Resources, Economics, Consumption and the environment, Consumer rights and responsibilities, Information management, Health and safety, Change management and Global awareness. To download the list of ESC Topics and Competencies, please click here.

ESC Topics
Below is a list of general themes of which students should have knowledge. This list is adapted from the Consumer Citizenship Education (CCE) Guidelines,  Vol. 1, Higher Education, 2005.

Life quality

  • Values, needs and desires
  • Human rights, ethical codes and spiritual principles
  • Sufficiency and moderation
  • Sustainable development
  • Sustainable consumption



  • History of social and economic development
  • History of consumption
  • Present social conditions
  • Present consumption patterns
  • The symbolic roles of consumption
  • The role of the family
  • Alternative lifestyles



  • Natural
  • Human
  • Financial
  • Technological
  • Organizational
  • Interrelatedness of systems and processes
  • Balances and imbalances



  • Economic models and practice
  • Production and trade
  • Multinational companies
  • Social responsibility
  • Savings, loans, investments
  • Financial services and instruments
  • E-commerce

Consumption and the environment

  • Product life cycles and traceability
  • Packaging
  • Recycling, reusing, repairing products 
  • Energy
  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Communication
  • Entertainment
  • Tourism
  • Climate, soil and water protection
  • Biodiversity
  • Waste management
  • Ecological impact


Consumer rights and responsibilities

  • Laws and norms
  • Agreements and contracts
  • Consumer protection policies
  • Transparency/accountability
  • Complaints, redress, replacement, reimbursement
  • Conflict resolution


Information management

  • Digital literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Advertising and persuasion
  • Labelling
  • Peer pressure
  • Data-based information systems
  • Consumer support agencies 


Health and safety

  • Food safety
  • Gene-modified organisms
  • Diet and nutrition
  • Ecological, organic food
  • Addictives
  • Lifestyle illnesses and epidemics
  • Social services
  • Product safety
  • Labelling and quality control 


Change management

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Future perspectives
  • Active citizenship
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Community service 


Global awareness

  • Global interdependence
  • Energy, trade, commerce, agriculture, land use
  • Poverty
  • Human rights
  • Labour rights
  • Crime
  • Precautionary principle
  • Fair trade
  • Millennium Goals
  • World citizenship


ESC Competencies
This information is contained in UNEP's Here and Now! Education for Sustainable Consumption - Recommendations and Guidelines (p. 24-25).

The basic learning outcomes of ESC can be defined as attitudes, knowledge, skills and behavior leading to:

  • Critical awareness
  • Ecological responsibility 
  • Social responsibility
  • Action and involvement
  • Global solidarity

More specifically, ESC encompasses the following generic competencies:

  • Appreciation of nature and of human diversity and multiculturalism
  • Concern for justice, peace and cooperation
  • Self-awareness
  • Concern for quality
  • Appreciation of the interrelatedness of individuals and society
  • Capacity for empathy/compassion
  • Ability to make critical, reflected decisions
  • Ability to apply knowledge in practice
  • Ability to cope with one’s emotions
  • Information management skills
  • Capacity for generating new ideas
  • Capacity to adapt to new situations
  • Willingness and ability to be of service to others
  • Ability to recognize global perspectives.     

ESC subject specific competencies include development of the following attitudes, knowledge and skills:
1)   Ability to define what one considers to be a good quality of life and to be able to identify the values upon which this is based.
2)   Realization of the complexity and often controversial nature of sustainable consumption issues.
3)   Insight into how individual lifestyle choices influence social, economic and environmental development.
4)   Ability to acquire, assess and use information on the consequences of consumption especially on the environment.
5)   Knowledge of consumer rights and central consumer protection laws.
6)   Basic knowledge of the market system and the role of business.
7)   Knowledge of how the production processes are linked to the consumption system.
8)   Basic knowledge of the interaction of pricing mechanisms with the consumer’s attitudes and behaviour.
9)   Insight into the practicalities of both the supply and demand sides of production and consumption and their outside-of-the-market relationships to community development.
10)   Awareness of a commodity’s intangible and symbolic characteristics.
11)   Ability to recognize, decode and reflect critically upon messages from the media and the market.
12)   Knowledge of social networks responsible for shaping consumption patterns (peer pressure, status, etc). 
13)   Consciousness of civil society’s power to initiate alternative ways of thinking and acting.
14)   Individual and collective understanding of consumer social responsibility in relation to the corporate social responsibility.
15)   Ability to manage personal finances (budgeting, saving, investing, taxes and fees).
16)   Ability to manage physical resources (effective control, maintenance, reuse and replacement).
17)  Knowledge of conflict resolution in general and in particular in relation to consumer related situations such as product safety, liability, compensation, redress and restitution.
18)   Ability not only to envision alternative futures but also to create reasonable paths of action leading to these.