Making Sustainable Consumption and Production the Core of Sustainable Development Goals

In Sustainability
Volume (Issue): 2014 6(2)
Peer-reviewed Article

This paper argues that sustainable consumption and production (SCP) should play a prominent role in the formulation and implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and discusses how this could be practically done. Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production have been declared the primary cause of environmental deterioration. This was clearly recognized already at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (or the Rio Summit) in 1992; and this recognition has been reconfirmed in all high-level sustainability meetings since then. SCP aims to change these patterns; it is a policy agenda for addressing the root causes of our ecological predicament, while, at the same time, providing for human wellbeing and prosperity. Drawing from international agreements, practical policy experience and research from a range of disciplines, the paper provides a clarifying framework for scientifically robust, policy-relevant and practical goal-setting for SCP within the SDGs. Special attention is given to how SCP in the SDGs can create synergies with other international policy initiatives. The paper explores the advantages and disadvantages of two possible options for reflecting SCP in the SDGs framework: (i) SCP as a stand-alone goal; and (ii) SCP as a cross-cutting objective, embedded within relevant goals. While these two options are not necessarily mutually exclusive, given the competing number of issues for prioritization and the fact that a 10-Year Framework of Programs on SCP has also recently been established, it is hardly foreseeable that both options can be realized. The paper further proposes a set of basic principles for SCP at the global level and makes recommendations towards the formulation of indicators supporting SCP objectives in the SDGs.