International Organisation Indicator Sets

Overview of International Organisation indicator sets | Overview of National indicator sets

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN/DESA) published a set of indicators "measuring changes in consumption and production patterns" in 1998, as an important element of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) work programme ofindicators for sustainable development. This set of indicators is the outcome of consultations and workshops with policy makers and experts on SCP and indicators of sustainable development. 

17 SCP indicators are selected as a core set, covering 4 key resources and 5 consumption clusters. The selection of these indicators reflects a number of key issues on SCP, including eco-efficiency, cost internalization, trends and developments in policy making, responsibilities of key actors, and the analysis of unsustainable consumption and production patterns and lifestyles. Also, an effort has been made in the selection process to avoid overlap with other chapters of Agenda 21.

This core set of 17 indicators is a starting point for further development of SCP indicators. DESA is currently in the process of revising this publication to reflect new priorities and emerging key issues on SCP, for example, impact of consumption and production patterns on climate change, recycling rate of material, waste from life-cycle of products, institutional capacity in shifting towards SCP, and others. Meanwhile, a survey on SCP indicators is as part of this revising plan, to identify the common issues and needs for training in better-use SCP indicators. The new version of SCP indicators is expected to be used as an information tool for guiding policy-making and monitoring the process of changing consumption and production patterns. 

Consumption and Production Patterns (figure 10)
Key Resources Core indicator Objectives
Energy Annual energy consumption per capita Monitors energy consumption
Intensity of energy use Monitors energy use per unit of production/ service (for selected sectors)
Share of renewable energy in total energy consumption Monitors the development of renewable energy sources
Energy prices Monitors energy prices in relation to GDP and disposable income
Materials Total material requirement Monitors total material throughput, including hidden or indirect material flows required for a national economy
Intensity of material use Monitors material use per unit of production/ service for selected sectors
Water Intensity of water use Monitors water use per unit of production/ service for selected sectors
Land Intensity of land use  Monitors land use (forestry, agriculture, settlements, infrastructure, and recreation)
Consumption Clusters Core indicator Other indicator
Mobility Distance travelled per capita by mode of transport Monitors the use of different modes of transport (foot, bicycle, train, boat, car, bus, plane)
Number of road vehicles Monitors the total number of vehicles (possibly by type and fuel efficiency)
Consumer goods and services Retail sales of selected goods per capita Monitors retail sales of goods (e.g. electronics, home-appliances, clothing,)
Market share of more sustainably produced goods and services Monitors social and environmental interest of consumers and producers
Buildings and house-keeping Residential energy and water use per household Monitors total water and energy use in households due to consumer behavior and housing design and construction
Average household size Monitors the number of persons per household
Food Market share of more sustainably produced food Monitors social and environmental interest of consumers and producers
Recreation Spending on recreation as share of disposable income Monitors the demand for recreation activities
Time spent on leisure, paid and unpaid work, and travelling Monitors time-allocation and distribution, and reflects lifestyles

The set of sustainable development indicators, which was finalised in 2006 by a group of indicator experts from developing and developed countries and international organisations, consists of a set of 50 core indicators, which are part of a larger set of 96 indicators. The set includes 13 major themes, including one on SCP. The UN Millennium Development Goals are the basis for many of the other themes.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The OECD developed a set of sustainable household consumption indicators in 1999. Emphasis is given to final household and government consumption in developed countries (as opposed to intermediate consumption and production, which is undertaken by companies). There is also a focus on the environmental pillar of sustainability.

There are three overriding themes in the framework: i) sectoral trends and patterns of environmental significance; ii) interactions with the environment; and iii) economic and policy aspects. Specific indicator topics include economic trends, resource use and trade aspects. The framework includes a total of 45 indicators, a few examples of which are shown in the below table. The OECD is currently working on a new report on sustainable consumption indicators. This report should be available by the end of 2007. 

Sustainable Household Consumption Patterns (Figure 11)
Theme Indicator Topic
Environmentally significant consumption trends and patterns Economic trends 
E.g. Level and trends of private final consumption expenditure
Socio-demographic trends 
E.g. Urban versus rural population: in 1000 inhabitants, and as % of total population
Sector-specific trends including transport, tourism, and consumption of durable and non-durable goods 
E.g. Average length of product life, by selected product groups
Interactions between consumption and the environment Air 
E.g. Air emission from passenger transport (as a share of total emissions, and related intensities in kg per capita or per-passenger km and per-vehicle km)
E.g. Waste recycling rates (paper, glass, batteries, PVC bottles, metals, other waste streams)
E.g. Waste water discharges by households
E.g. National population exposed to noise levels from various sources
Land and biodiversity 
E.g. Urbanisation: land covered by urban development in km2 and as % of total land area
Economic and policy aspects Regulatory instruments 
No indicators proposed at this stage
Economic instruments 
E.g. Tax rates on natural resource use compared to tax rates on services
Information/social instruments 
E.g. Eco-labelled products: share of purchase of eco-labelled products/total consumption purchase (%)
Trade aspects 
E.g. Ratio between imported and domestically produced goods in domestic consumption

European Commission (EC)

Eurostat, the European Commission's statistics office, has developed a set of sustainable development indicators. The indicators are linked to the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. The strategy, adopted by the European Council in Gothenburg in June 2001, and renewed in June 2006, aims to reconcile economic development, social cohesion and protection of the environment. Monitoring progress towards this overarching goal is an essential part of the Strategy.

The indicator framework includes 10 themes that reflect major sustainable development priorities. Sustainable consumption and production is one of these themes. Other indicators of SCP are included in many of the other themes. 

Sustainable Consumption and Production (Figure 12)
Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
  Sub-theme: Resource Use and Waste
1.  Resource Productivity 2.  Municipal waste generated 3.  Components of domestic material consumption
4.  Domestic material consumption by material 
5.  Municipal waste treatment, by type of treatment method
6.  Generation of hazardous waste, by economic activity 
7.  Emissions of acidifying substances by source sector
8.  Emissions of ozone precursors by source sector 
9.  Emissions of particulate matter by source sector 
Sub-theme: Consumption Patterns
10.  Electricity consumption by households 11.  Final energy consumption by sector 
12. Consumption of certain foodstuffs per inhabitant 
13. Motorisation rate
Sub-theme:  Production Patterns
14.  Enterprises with an environmental management system  15. Eco-label awards by products 
16. Area under agri-environmental commitment 
17. Area under organic farming 
18. Livestock density index 
Contextual indicators Number of households 
  Household expenditure per inhabitant, by category

There are also some other SCP indicator initiatives underway in Europe by several research institutes and public institutions. The study by Spangenburg and Lorek (2001) proposes an indicator framework (PDF - 414 KB) that can be used by households and policy makers. Indicators on construction and housing, food and transport are presented. The indicators are for households in developed countries. There are also other indicator initiatives funded by the European Commission that have relevance to the SCP indicator agenda. These include initiatives on life cycle based indicators for sustainable consumption and production in the European Union and eco-innovation indicators for Europe. Furthermore, work is being conducted by the European Environment Agency's Topic Centre for Resource and Waste Management on a new set of SCP Indicators for Europe.