Building Blocks

What is a SCP Programme?

There is no one type of approach and no single formula by which national SCP programmes can or should be instituted. Every country needs to determine, for itself, how best to approach the development, implementation and monitoring of its SCP programme considering the existing political, cultural, economic and ecological conditions. The elements discussed in these pages are drawn from the guidelines for national SCP programmes.

The SCP Programme has been used in these Guidelines as the umbrella term to describe the various strategic ways countries approach SCP. In reality the prevailing programmes are diverse in nature. They constitute national inventories, frameworks of programmes, action plans, strategies and multi-stakeholder dialogues as well as often being treated as a priority issue in another policy framework.

It may be useful to consider the SCP programme as a cycle that moves from a national inventory or general catalogue of ongoing SCP activities to the full integration of SCP in a major national level policy framework such as a national sustainable development strategy (NSDS),national environmental action plan (NEAP) ornational development plan including poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSP). A framework of programmes tends to include a strategic overview for SCP and highlights priority areas for further work. This often leads to the development of sectoral or issue-based action plans on such topics as sustainable government procurement, energy efficiency and education for SCP which are also sometimes linked to other national strategies or plans. An integrated action plan or strategy deals with SCP more thoroughly and generally includes objectives, targets and monitoring mechanisms.

Elements of national SCP programmes

There exists extensive literature on programme and strategy development at the national level. The OECD and the United Nations have both developed principles for effective national sustainable development strategies. There is also information available on the shortcomings of recent strategic approaches at the national level. The following discussion is based on these general principles and prevailing challenges as well as the experiences of SCP experts in developed and developing countries.

There are certain key principles and elements of national programmes that should be considered. These include the programme being country-led with a high level of political commitment and based on comprehensive and reliable analysis. It also means building on existing capacity, participatory, targeted with clear budgetary priorities, integrated with existing national frameworks and monitored and improved regularly. It is true that putting some of the principles into practice in strategic planning and policy processes can be a real challenge. That is, even if they mainly represent aspects of general good governance. Further consideration of the key principles for a SCP programme can be found in Chapter 6. Some key points include:

National commitment and leadership
To increase the likelihood of the programme's success, countries should assume active leadership and in most cases initiate proceedings. A long-term commitment to SCP is an essential underlying principle. Consulted national SCP experts highlight the importance of soliciting high-level political support and selecting the appropriate ministry or ministries to lead the ongoing initiative. Setting up an inter-ministerial advisory group to manage the process is a good first step. The mechanics for such groups may already exist with prevailing sustainable development or national development/growth committees and working groups. Linking to the international and regional SCP programmes is also important.

Initiate a multi-stakeholder process
It is important that the programme development and implementation process is as participatory as possible. This includes reorienting SCP away from its traditional focus on environment to consider also economic and social issues. A multi-stakeholder dialogue as instituted in the case of Finland for example, can help to engage a wider consortium of ministries and other stakeholders including civil society and business.

Based on comprehensive and reliable analysis
The local, regional and global context (i.e. threats and opportunities) should be properly articulated in the SCP programme development process. Consumption and production patterns have social, economic and ecological impacts. This needs to be duly recognised. The programme should not be completed until a comprehensive review of problems, needs, existing activities and required actions is conducted. The information and research utilised needs to be robust.

Define objectives, targets and indicators
The setting of objectives and targets is crucial to the success of the programme. Monitoring and evaluating progress toward the programme's goals is another critical consideration. It provides for accountability of those parties involved and demonstrates achievements and worthiness of the programme itself. Japan and the UK are among the countries that have set targets and are monitoring progress towards these goals.

Integrate within existing national strategies
A SCP programme should be an ongoing, flexible and iterative process that does not constitute a one-off initiative to produce a document. It should also pursue a process of sensitising all existing national strategies to SCP and integrating relevant components of these strategies where possible. In some cases this could equate to full integration of the SCP programme in a sustainable development, poverty reduction or other existing strategy. For example, France and the UK have included SCP as a priority area in their national sustainable development strategies and Ethiopia, Jamaica and Mauritius have done the same in their national environmental action plans. However, there is also a need to integrate with mainstream activities in other policy areas that can drive SCP policy goals including skills/education and building/infrastructure. Indeed, a good starting point for many countries is the national cleaner production programme. Such a programme can be extended by incorporating sustainable consumption elements.

Develop sectoral SCP action plans
In most countries there are at least some SCP-related policies and actions in operation, particularly those related to preventive environmental approaches affecting energy and water efficiency and waste recycling. Many of these activities are delivered through existing strategies and plans. Other countries, particularly those in Latin America, have sustainable production strategies that include mainly activities concentrated at the production-side of SCP. These ongoing activities and the results of a review will lead to the identification of priority areas for the country's SCP programme. A national SCP programme is usually concentrated on a few initial key priority areas because attempting to do everything at once is neither practical nor possible. Another way to approach a SCP programme is to develop one or two sector-based action plans that link to a framework document or existing strategy. This can be a more efficient means to tackle SCP for some countries, at least in the short-term.