Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sustainable Consumption Facts and Trends from a Business Perspective

This study produced by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, dated December 2008, says that current global consumption patterns are unsustainable. It is becoming apparent that efficiency gains and technological advances alone will not be sufficient to bring global consumption to a sustainable level; changes will also be required to consumer lifestyles, including the ways in which consumers choose and use products and services.

Business needs to work more closely with consumers in terms of the sustainable use of products, communicating the added value of sustainable products and enabling behavior changes.”

Consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental, social and economic issues. They say they are willing to act on those concerns. However, the report finds that willingness often does not translate into sustainable consumer behavior because of factors such as availability, affordability, convenience, product performance, skepticism and force of habit.

The report identifies three key categories for business to mainstream sustainable consumption: innovation (coming up with new products that maximize societal value while at the same time minimize environmental costs), choice influencing (providing information that helps consumers to choose and use products more sustainably) and choice editing (the removal of “unsustainable” products and services from the marketplace in partnership with other interested groups).

To show the urgency for such business innovation, the report lists the drivers of global consumption patterns (rapid population growth, the rise in global affluence and a culture of consumerism among higher income groups) as well as the resulting impacts on people and planet.

Looking ahead, the business leaders involved in the report called for talks with groups such as retailers, marketers, policy-makers, NGOs and consumer groups to increase levels of transparency and information on products to make it easier to find the right response to achieve the necessary changes in consumption patterns and lifestyles.

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