Indicators of SCP

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

This section provides an overview of some example sets of international indicators of sustainable consumption and production (SCP). It concentrates on the field of quantitative indicators of SCP. The information here has been drawn from chapter 5 of the UNEP report "Planning for Change: Guidelines for National Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production".

By helping track progress on set priorities and targets, indicator based monitoring is one of the most effective forms of evaluating the success of a SCP programme. They indicate progress, or lack of it, towards the specific objectives of the SCP programme. Indicators can also help measure whether a society's consumption and production patterns are becoming more sustainable and hence bringing about more equitable and sustainable development. In that regard, indicators of SCP are inextricably linked to broader sets of indicators on environment and sustainable development, including poverty reduction.

There are ongoing initiatives at the European, OECD and UN level to develop more comprehensive frameworks of indicators of SCP. This includes the European Environment Agency's Topic Centre for Resource and Waster Management set of SCP Indicators for Europe and the updated OECD set of sustainable consumption indicators, both currently being developed. To support developing countries, UNEP intends to prepare a guidance document for preparing indicators that measure progress towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production. UNEP is also participating in work being carried out by UNDESA on SCP indicators.

Overview of SCP Indicator Sets

A number of international organisations as well as a handful of European governments have developed sets of indicators for SCP, mostly as part of broader indicator sets for environment and sustainable development. In these cases, the SCP indicators often comprise only those indicators which do not have relevance elsewhere under other sustainable development themes such as agriculture, energy and transport. This generally results in the set of SCP indicators being limited in scope to some surplus indicators comprising material flows, sector specific eco-efficiency indicators and consumption-based indicators (e.g. sales of eco-labelled goods). However, some sets do make an effort to draw links between all the SCP-related indicators under the various themes in wider national indicator sets in order to draw more complete conclusions on progress toward SCP (e.g. see UK SCP indicator set). 

Several developing countries also use some SCP-related indicators in their national development or environment plans, without necessarily referring to them as such. These include indicators related to energy and water efficiency and reporting on environmental management systems. Pilot activities in several countries such as Mauritius and Indonesia will include work to develop sets of SCP indicators linked to the national programme, currently being developed. To support this, UNEP has developed a guidance framework to provide guidance to policy-makers in developing countries on the development of indicators that measure progress towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production (SCP).

Principles for the development of SCP Indicators

The monitoring of a SCP programme is an ongoing process and will evolve as better methodologies and data become available. This is also the case for the process of developing SCP indicators. It is important to first consider whom the end users of the indicators are as this will affect the final framework (e.g. government officials and general public). SCP programmes that are incorporated within other national strategies such as national sustainable development strategies and national development plans will generally utilise the existing indicator models and selection criteria. Some of the key principles for developing SCP indicators include:

  • Link to existing indicator sets
  • Develop a comprehensive framework
  • Select the right indicators
  • Define absolute or directional targets.

For more details on indicator development please see Chapter 5 of "Planning for Change".