Sustainable Consumption & Production – Preserving Planet Earth

Sustainable Consumption & Production – Preserving Planet Earth

The world faces an unprecedented challenge from inter?linked economic, social and environmental crises. The well-being of humanity, environment, and functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s finite natural resources. The International Resource Panel, hosted by UNEP estimates that natural resource consumption will triple by 2050 on current trajectories as the world population is forecast to reach over 9 billion by 2050, with one billion people to be lifted out of absolute poverty and an additional 1 to 3 billion middle class consumers joining the global economy by 2030. We need a fundamental shift in the way goods and services are produced and consumed if we are to avoid worsening development and resources/environmental crises. There is a clear need to rethink how we pursue economic growth, as well as the business models we use, in order to shift towards sustainable ways of living that are in harmony with communities, our ecosystems and natural resources.

Every year, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) honors World Environment Day on June 5 to raise awareness about environmental issues. In 2015, the global celebrations will convene under the theme “Sustainable Consumption and Production” (SCP) which is defined as “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimising 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 jeopardise the needs of future generations”.

Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) was one of the priorities identified at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where it was recognized that sustainable development requires a transformation of consumption and production patterns in both developed and developing countries. A little over ten years later, one of the outcomes of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WWSD) was the recognition of the need for a 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) to promote the shift to SCP patterns. At that same Summit, achieving SCP was recognized as a prerequisite for sustainable development. This was followed by the initiation of the Marrakech Process in 2003, which developed various mechanisms, including regional consultations, Task Forces, and dialogues with different stakeholders, in order to refine the concept of SCP and to show how it could be made operational in very different countries, economic sectors and cultural contexts. This initial work provided a major input for development of the 10YFP, which was formally adopted at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June, 2012.

The Marrakech Process is a global and informal multi?stakeholder process that supports SCP policies and capacity building, and provides inputs for the elaboration of a 10?Year Framework of Programs on SCP (10YFP). Seven Marrakech Process Task Forces have been launched as voluntary initiatives lead by countries and with a north-south multi-stakeholder participation. These Task Forces support the development of SCP tools, capacity building and the implementation of SCP projects on the following specific SCP related issues: cooperation with Africa, sustainable products, sustainable lifestyles, sustainable public procurement, sustainable tourism development, sustainable buildings and construction, and education for sustainable consumption. The Task Forces are contributing to the design of SCP policies and supporting capacity building activities and demonstration projects, as well as the collection of good practices on SCP. One of the elements of the Marrakech Process and other initiatives for SCP with different stakeholders has been the implementation of a large range of pilot projects, to explore the practical implications and outcomes of SCP in the field. Many of these projects were implemented in developing countries, and an important part of their rationale was to see whether an approach based on the objective of SCP, as developed through the Marrakech Process, could contribute to the achievement both of sustainable development, and of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the global community in 2000. The most obvious connection between the two agendas is MDG 7, the achievement of environmental sustainability.


As part of the Marrakech Process, UNEP has developed guidelines for national SCP programmes and supported the mainstreaming of SCP in national development strategies. It is required to develop production and consumption policies to improve the products and services provided, while reducing environmental and health impacts, using appropriate science-based approaches, such as life-cycle analysis. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool to evaluate the environmental and social performance of products or services along their life cycle. Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (ELCA) evaluates extraction and consumption of resources (including energy), as well as releases to air, water and soil, are quantified through all stages of the life cycle. Their potential contribution to important environmental impact categories is then assessed. These include climate change, toxicity, ecosystem damage and resource base deterioration. Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) is a social impact assessment technique that aims to assess the social and socioeconomic aspects of products and their positive and negative impacts (real and potential impacts) throughout their life cycle, encompassing extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, re-use, maintenance, recycling, and final disposal.

Hence, SCP is seen as a holistic approach, since it integrates economic, social and environmental aspects (Triple Bottom Line), as well as technological and behavioural innovation. World Environment Day is an opportunity for us all to get involved in something which is critical for our shared future, not just limited to SCP but also to build a cleaner, greener world for ourselves and future generations. It is truly a People’s Day, reminding ourselves and others of the importance of caring for our environment. It is the chance for everyone, young and old, with their family, community or friends, to show that they care for the planet. Remember that every action counts - every year, everywhere, by everyone to make earth a better place to live, complementing the slogan of the World Environment Day “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.


About the author


Gursimran Kaur is a development professional specialized in “Rural Management”. She is a keen environmentalist associated with Centre for Environment Education and working with schools programmes and local NGOs, to generate awareness regarding environmental concerns, conservation and restoration among youth and community at large, with specific interest to work for vulnerable and marginal communities to achieve equitable and sustainable development. 


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