A new agenda for consumption

Project
Archived
2008

IIED is working on a study of sustainable consumption that aims to:

  • address consumption issues among poorer communities, countries and regions
  • create political space for opinions, values, demands and solutions from these constituencies
  • provide clear analysis and critique on how consumption problems and consumption solutions fall differentially on different social groups internationally

Background

Global discourse is beginning to acknowledge problems of “over-consumption” and “mis-consumption” and propose solutions of “less consumption” or “different consumption”. IIED has added to these debates with the (embryonic) notion of “fair consumption” that recognises that while some people in some parts of the world may need to consume less or differently, others may need to consume more, and that all consumption, if fair, should derive from production and supply chains that derive fair outcomes to society and environment.

Consumption and crisis – do we blame Asia or the west? The current global food crisis tends to get blamed on a few key factors – and one that crops up again and again is the rise in standards of living and diet in Asia. While these markets may indeed be growing fast, they are nonetheless still dwarfed on a per capita basis by consumption in the US and EU (where there is also continuing market growth for many food products).

International networks in the field of “sustainable consumption” tend to be (a) largely European-based and European-focused and (b) emphatic on environmental issues with much less attention to the environmental justice and social equity dimensions of these arguments.

We have initiated a new programme of work on sustainable consumption with specific emphasis on distribution of the impacts of consumption among global society.

Activities

We will:

  • Consult with individuals and organisations who are already working on and forming opinions on consumption
  • Prepare a notional body of collaborative work on consumption issues
  • Refine and develop this with partners – building a cross-sectoral multi-partner platform with a strong emphasis on southern perspectives
  • Build contacts and alliances with existing external activists and networks on consumption

Project objectives

  • address consumption issues among poorer communities, countries and regions
  • create political space for opinions, values, demands and solutions from these constituencies
  • provide clear analysis and critique on how consumption problems and consumption solutions fall differentially on different social groups internationally

Publications

Shifting the balance: equity and sustainable consumptionSonja Vermeulen, Ben Garside and Gabriela Weber De Morais (2009), IIED Briefing paper

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