The Demand Side of Sustainability

Dear Valued Customers

With rising populations and disposable incomes, consumption patterns around the world are changing. While the increase in consumption leads to improved material well being, it also puts additional pressure on the environment. The real challenge is to determine whether we can hope to see the present level of well-being at least maintained for future periods or future generations.  Hence, the overriding objective of sustainability is one of decoupled economic growth and human well-being from resource consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

With this backdrop, it is clear that we cannot grow with a “business as usual” mentality and expecting sustainable development to happen just by concentrating on efficient use of natural resources and adopting environmental economic principles and practices. We thought that poverty was the worst form of pollution and the only way to attain a decent environment was to become rich by development even with a futureless, jobless and cultureless economic growth.

Our society is experiencing a rebound effect of overconsumption together with an unsustainable lifestyle. These are the hardest nut to crack as far as the demand side of the SCP consumption pattern is concerned.  With such development, there is the tendency for an excessive consumption of resources and extravaganza that will continually put immense pressure on our natural resources, biodiversity and ecological balance.

As Albert Einstein said “the problems that we have created cannot be solved at the level of thinking that created them”, the solution lies in a different way of thinking.  We need to review the way we are living. Question our dreams, our attitude to life and our day to day habits.   This pace and type of development is not only unsustainable but also non-durable.

Our priority areas for sustainable consumption could be transportation, food and beverages, and buildings.  It should be noted that sustainable consumers’ behavior is constrained by macro-economic factors, production culture, social and physical infrastructure.

Approaches to mainstreaming sustainable lifestyles include provision of product information, product bans, changing advertisement, and “nudging” consumers through social instruments.  Also collective consumption is a promising new approach to sustainable consumption.  Through Sustainable Public Procurement (SPP) government spending can set an example for sustainable consumption.

Knowledge and capacities on all levels of society are key requirement for advancing SCP on massive scale.  Some examples of learning practices already exist in several countries.  Policy action is needed in order to upscale and mainstream them into educational initiatives.

As we become richer, we also become less secure and more stressed. Both security and quiet mind are goods that should increase not decrease as our people become richer.  All it requires is a novel way of looking, of discerning, of meaning and it is not necessarily a difficult task nor does it require super sophisticated thinking.

Quest for perfection too often leads to inaction. Some progress is much better than no progress.  Presently, many unsustainable lifestyles are the norm and changing these norms poses a major challenge that requires careful scrutiny of existing routines and underlying values related to comfort, material consumption, and status assumptions.

See you soon.

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