Frequently Asked Questions

Changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns is essential to achieve sustainable development. One billion people in the world are not able to meet their basic needs; at the same time, there is an emerging global consumer class that puts strain on resources and the environment. Today's challenge is to separate economic growth from environmental degradation and to contribute to poverty reduction and better quality of life.

Below are frequently asked questions concerning the role of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) on poverty alleviation in developing countries.

How can developing countries benefit from SCP?

The way goods and services are produced and consumed have become unsustainable. Developed and rapidly developing countries are characterized by a rate of using natural resources that, in many cases, has gone beyond the 'carrying capacity' of ecosystems, which causes a continued deterioration of the global environment. Furthermore, developing countries not only face the environmental consequences of global impacts caused by industrial development (such as pollution or lack of adequate technologies), but also face problems related to lack of access to their natural resources, and are more vulnerable to pollution and natural disasters. Such communities also suffer social disparities, which have prevented them from real development in terms of human, natural, and economic capital.

SCP is the production and use of goods and services that meet basic needs and bring a better quality of life while sustainably using natural resources throughout the goods and services' life cycle and decreasing the amount of toxic materials, waste, and pollutants emission. The promotion and implementation of SCP can decrease damage to the environment by using natural resources in sustainable ways, which reduce superfluous costs for present and future generations and create economic growth with new jobs and business opportunities for the local people.

USISS Example

USISS (Usine Semi-Industrielle Sechoire Solaire) in Bamako, Mali is a company that dries meat, onions, and mangoes using solar power. By purchasing surplus raw products from farmers and suppliers during harvest time, the solar power drying and packaging services provided by USISS enable shopkeepers, market sellers, and roadside traders to sell these products outside of harvest time, when consumer demand is greatest.

One of the environmental benefits from USISS is that by replacing traditional meat-drying methods (using fuel from wood), the solar power method prevents deforestation. As well, greenhouse gas emission of methane gas is offset by preserving the mangoes instead of leaving them to rot.

Furthermore, suppliers of bulk fresh produce and meat (ranchers' cooperative for beef, mango sellers travelling from farms) and retailers (petrol stations in Bamako, grocery stores, street vendors) benefit from greater income as a result. With the successful business plan, low income households profit from the increase of value from their locally produced goods as well as the creation of new jobs and new business opportunities.

The illustration below demonstrates how sustainable production and sustainable consumption can have an impact on poverty alleviation

What is leapfrogging and how can it support developing countries?

SCP represents an opportunity to "leapfrog", which is a term used to describe the possibility for developing countries to bypass inefficient, polluting, and ultimately costly phases of development to jump straight onto a sustainable development path.

For example, "leapfrogging" could indicate the use of sustainable or solar energy in rural areas where unreliable or limited sources of energy previously existed. The above-mentioned USISS example is one case in which a developing country uses solar energy and jumps from more polluting ways to a more ecological friendly and economical technology.

Furthermore, providing mobile phones to farmers is another type of "leapfrogging". This form of communication technology allows the farmers to have access to the right information concerning the cost of their crops and therefore create better trade opportunities.

Why would you promote 'sustainable consumption' in a country where most people live below the poverty line?

Sustainable consumption is often not well understood and is associated with consuming less, but it has to be stressed that consuming sustainably does not necessarily mean consuming less. Especially for people in developing countries, it can mean consuming more in order to meet their basic needs. More efficient resource use allows these people in developing countries to meet more of their needs (therefore, consume more) by using the same amount of resources.

What is the Marrakech Task Force on Cooperation with Africa?

The Marrakech Process is a global multi-stakeholder process to promote SCP and to work towards a 'global framework for action on SCP', the so-called 10-Year Framework of Programmes (10-YFP) on SCP. The Marrakech Task Force on Cooperation with Africa is part of the Marrakech Process, which aims to build cooperation between developing and developed countries and to implement concrete SCP projects at regional and national levels.

The Task Force on Cooperation with Africa, led by Germany and the Secretariat of the African Roundtable on SCP, seeks to develop and support projects for implementing SCP methods in Africa, to support the integration and mainstreaming of environmental education in African schools and universities, and to promote sustainable procurement by governmental organizations through training courses and raising awareness. It also aims to integrate or link SCP in new programmes or with existing plans such as Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Among the activities of the Task Force have been the development of an African eco-labelling scheme, which promotes appropriate environmental and health-related standards within design and production of African products and to promote better market access for African products on regional and global markets; reporting on "best practice on SCP" in Africa by providing a brochure of best practices for managing environmental problems in 12 African countries; and analyzing the opportunities and challenges of promoting SCP through leapfrogging in Africa by development of a city-wide/national 10 Year Framework Programmes on SCP.

What is the Development Cooperation Dialogue?

The Development Cooperation Dialogue is a forum created within the Marrakech Process to engage development cooperation agencies and experts in sustainable consumption and Production. It is intended to lead to the development, funding and implementation of sustainable consumption and production projects, and to explore how development agencies can become an effective mechanism of implementation for the Marrakech Process.

Development agencies are already working on issues related to sustainable consumption and production, but generally through sectoral approaches. Many agencies, for example, are working on energy efficiency, waste management, and water resource management and sanitation issues, which are linked to sustainable consumption and production.