Sustainable Consumption and Production (known as SCP) is about doing more and better with less. It is also about decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation, increasing resource efficiency and promoting sustainable lifestyles.
We are currently consuming more resources than ever, exceeding the planet’s capacity for generation. In the meantime, waste and pollution grows, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Health, education, equity and empowerment are all adversely affected.
Crucially, SCP can contribute substantially to poverty alleviation and the transition towards low-carbon and green economies. To do this, SCP requires building cooperation among many different stakeholders as well as across sectors in all countries.
Sustainable consumption and production refers to “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations”.
SCP is a holistic approach and is about systemic change. It is built around three main objectives:
- Decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth. This is about doing more and better with less, increasing net welfare gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole life cycle, while increasing quality of life. ‘More’ is delivered in terms of goods and services, with ‘less’ impact in terms of resource use, environmental degradation, waste and pollution.
- Applying life cycle thinking. This is about increasing the sustainable management of resources and achieving resource efficiency along both production and consumption phases of the lifecycle, including resource extraction, the production of intermediate inputs, distribution, marketing, use, waste disposal and re-use of products and services.
- Sizing opportunities for developing countries and “leapfrogging”. SCP contributes to poverty eradication and to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). For developing countries, SCP offers opportunities such as the creation of new markets, green and decent jobs as well as more efficient, welfare-generating natural resource management. It is an opportunity to “leapfrog” to more resource efficient, environmentally sound and competitive technologies, bypassing the inefficient, polluting, and ultimately costly phases of development followed by most developed countries.
Want to know more? Visit the SCP Clearinghouse, a unique one-stop hub dedicated to knowledge sharing, cooperation and innovation for SCP implementation around the world. It brings together the actors of the SCP community at all levels – governments, civil society, the business sector and other stakeholders.
Public spending, which accounts for an average of 12% of GDP in OECD countries, and up to 30% in developing countries, wields enormous purchasing power. Shifting that spending towards more sustainable goods and services can help drive markets in the direction of innovation and sustainability, thereby enabling the transition to a green economy.
What is SPP?
Sustainable public procurement (SPP) is a "process whereby public organizations meet their needs for goods, services, works and utilities in a way that achieves value for money on a whole life-cycle basis in terms of generating benefits not only to the organization, but also to society and the economy, whilst significantly reducing negative impacts on the environment.”
Through SPP, governments can lead by example and deliver key policy objectives and send strong market signals. Sustainable procurement allows governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve resource efficiency and support recycling. Positive social results include poverty reduction, improved equity and respect for core labour standards. From an economic perspective, SPP can generate income, reduce costs, support the transfer of skills and technology and promote innovation by domestic producers.
How is UN Environment active in SPP?
UN Environment has recently coordinated two major projects in sustainable public procurement. The first is Eap Green, which ran from 2013-2016 and involved Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Belarus. Second, the SPP and Eco-labelling Project (SPPEL) ran from 2013-2017 with activities in Vietnam, Brazil, Mongolia, Morocco, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.
Making the switch to more sustainable consumption and production patterns
With funding and support from the European Commission, UN Environment has coordinated the SWITCH initiatives in three regions, aimed at making consumption and production patterns more sustainable.
SwitchMed, Switch-Asia and SWITCH Africa Green have provided support to communities, entrepreneurs and businesses in Mediterranean countries, Asia and Africa respectively, providing tools and connections for social and eco innovations. Visit the websites to find out more!