What is Sustainable Consumption?

Sustainable Consumption refers to “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 further generations”1. In more recent years, the scope has been expanded to not only cover the environment but also include social and economic aspects.

Sustainable Consumption is not just about buying more sustainable products but also includes the way of living, going beyond mainstream consumption practices. Some examples of a more sustainable lifestyle include refusing to consume when not necessary, taking unsustainable options out of the market and switching from products to services.

It has an essential role in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Among the 17 SDGs established by the United Nations in 2015, at least three are directly related to Sustainable Consumption. They are namely Goal 12: “Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”; Goal 14: “Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources” and Goal 15: “Sustainably Manage Forests, Combat Desertification, Halt and Reverse Land Degradation, Halt Biodiversity Loss”. The Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity has also identified the linkage between biodiversity and sustainable consumption in the document Biodiversity and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Technical Note.”

1 Oslo Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production (1994). The Imperative of Sustainable Production and Consumption: Defining sustainable consumption. Accessible: http://enb.iisd.org/consume/oslo000.html