Global Agenda Council on Sustainable Consumption 2012-2013
Mainstreaming the idea of sustainable lifestyles is a critical priority for the consumer, media and communications industries. Across six Asian countries, 79-94% of consumers believe that business should place at least as much weight on society’s interest as on business interest, yet as few as 25% of consumers from this sample actually believe businesses are performing well at addressing societal issues. Despite commendable progress over past decades on environmental issues, the sustainability agenda is not yet in the mainstream. Progress on climate change, water security, renewable energy and food security is hindered by underpriced resources, impatient investors and confused citizens. People do not instinctively think in terms of carbon footprints, embedded water or food miles. Creating behavioural change towards sustainable consumption requires a deep understanding of personal and contextual elements, as well as linking those elements with effective triggers to simulate action.
To transform demand through interactions with the consumer, businesses must:
- Reshape demand by making sustainable consumption more personal and relevant to consumers, leveraging the power of technology to drive engagement and transparency
- Redesign products and services to deliver increased value with fewer resources, thus making the sustainable choice the default choice
Thus, two key priorities on sustainable consumption require increased attention from business. First, the concept of the “Circular Economy” in which resources and products are conceived of in entire life cycles, rather than as separate parts of a value chain. Better design allows the economically-viable recovery and reuse of resources. The concept is maturing, but needs real implementation. Second, the trend towards sustainable lifestyles, rather than just sustainable consumption, must be promoted.
- Iceland ranks first in the world on gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report 2011.
- In the United States of America, women make up only 2% of chief executive officers in Fortune 500 companies.
- Girls outnumber boys in secondary schools in 45 developing countries.
“To change people's behaviour towards sustainable living, we must change habits. To do this we must change social norms. Individual action-oriented projects such as changing light bulbs or planting trees are not going to do this. We must tap into a deeper sense of belonging to change the psyche of people. We must aim higher – and re-imagine prosperity as part of our communal identity in order to reshape consumerism.”
Peggy Liu, Chairperson, Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
“There is enough evidence that indicates that consumers fundamentally don't want to change but they do want to do the right thing and spend their money on brands that are good quality, good for people and good for the planet. If we make consumption sustainable by indicating in a clear and accessible way, at a glance, which brands are cutting it in terms of social and environmental practices, consumers will then be able to vote with their money and back the brands that are responsible. By creating a ‘consumer spring’, positive brands will be rewarded for future-proofing their businesses.”
Diana Verde Nieto, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, positiveluxury.com
International Conference on Sustainable Business and Consumption
28 November 2012
Sustainability in Packaging
13-15 March 2013
Orlando, FL, USA
1-2 May 2013
San Francisco, CA, USA
World Environment Day
5 June 2013
The Council will work to decipher how best to engage new and existing consumers in ways that help them understand, contextualize and alter their consumption. Furthermore, the Council recognizes that it is important to encourage corporations and regulatory agencies to address sustainable consumption by redefining their business models, policies and regulation.
Central to these approaches is the need for a good understanding of people’s needs in terms of sustainable consumption. With this in mind, the Council will look at the demand side of consumption, rather than traditional approaches, which have concentrated on the supply side. The Council plans to split into two work streams, one to focus on the developed world and the other on the developing world. Within these separate task forces, Council Members will examine the discourse on sustainability to encourage positive change among consumers. The Council will:
- Aim to understand people’s needs with regard to sustainable consumption
- Design opportunities to address those needs
- Build ways to express and act on those opportunities
The work of the Council on Sustainable Consumption is heavily linked to the Forum’s “Engaging Tomorrow’s Consumer” project. This initiative seeks to understand how to transform demand to enable sustainable lifestyles among consumers, in particular, what messages can be used to engage the consumers of the future and trigger simple shifts in their behaviour to enable more sustainable lifestyles while creating business value. The Council will contribute to the project in several ways: by adding to and consolidating the existing data that the project has gathered; by providing regional expertise to guarantee the relevance of the project globally; by integrating the work of individual Council Members, as well as that of their organizations, into the project; and by conducting ethnographic research to help understand consumers and how they think.
Research Analyst: Stefan Hall, Research Analyst, Global Agenda Councils, firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Manager: Tiffany West, Director, Head of Agriculture, Food and Beverage Industry, email@example.com
Forum Lead: Sarita Nayyar, Managing Director, Head of Consumer Industries, firstname.lastname@example.org
- The New Conspicuous Consumption
- The Emerging New Consumer
- Global Industry Outlook: Health, Consumers, Tech and Travel
- Who Is the New Consumer?
- Redesigning Consumption Patterns
- The Age of the Asian Consumer: How to Build a Sustainable Value Chain
- The Asian Consumer: A Sustainability Champion in the Making?
- Innovations towards Sustainable Consumer Markets