Skip to main content

Feasibility and scope of life-cycle approaches to sustainable consumption

Final Report Summary - FESCOLA (Feasibility and scope of life-cycle approaches to sustainable consumption)

Consumers can contribute to sustainable development and hence also to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on two levels:
(1) they can systematically choose the more environmentally friendly of functionally similar products and services; and
(2) they can prioritise activities which cause less pollution and hence develop more sustainable consumption patterns. This study aimed to support the European Union's implementation of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. This plan talks about sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

Consumption patterns are the assemblage of single consumption decisions that consumers take over time. They are shaped by infrastructure, ownership of durables, habit, time and resource constraints, and the availability of products and services, in addition to cultural influences. Consumption patterns can be described by what people consume in material and monetary terms, and by how they use their time.

As a result of the project's comprehensive analysis a number of recommendations were formulated. These include:

- a better understanding of how emissions arise in our society and who is responsible for them is required. There is no way to move toward sustainable patterns of consumption without understanding the sustainability of the current patterns of consumption. A better analysis of existing CES data for different countries can provide new insights. Other impact categories should be attempted, and the necessary data should be generated. Targeted case studies on specific areas of luxury consumption should be undertaken.

- a further development of scenario techniques could provide an important contribution to sustainable consumption, especially if it is used to evaluate different options or courses of action. Business-as-usual scenarios should be informed by the analysis of past patterns of development. The real challenge is to embed scenario development into a real-world policy context; that is, to match policy making, for which scenarios can be useful, with the scientific work. Research should at the same time stay independent. It should be free to improve techniques and explore possibilities.

There is a need to better integrate social science research and life-cycle methods. This can only be achieved through interdisciplinary projects, with several projects conducted in parallel in several places to create a body of work. Improvements in research design, the development of HEI tools that can easily be used by project evaluators, and household self-assessments can help. Different ideas for the application of this approach should be tested.

We have shown that there is considerable scope for using life-cycle approaches to evaluated household environmental impacts, to develop sustainable consumption policies and to prepare and evaluated the implementation of sustainable consumption. Most of the applications are already feasible today. Others require further development of methods and data. All would benefit from standardisation. It is important that the tools outlined above are disseminated to policy makers and project managers in regions, municipalities, and enterprises.

Related documents