Evolution and Current Challenges of Sustainable Consumption and Production
1.1. Recent Data about the Need for Action
1.2. Methodology and Scope
2. Sustainable Consumption and Production History
2.1. The Start and Development of Sustainable Consumption and Production
- The existing ways of production and consumption are unsustainable, and
- National policies and strategies shall foster changes in these ways.
- “Decoupling environmental degradation from economic growth by doing more and better with less” (more goods and services with less impact—environmental degradation, waste, and pollution).
- “Applying the lifecycle thinking” to increase sustainable management of resources, improve resource efficiency in production and consumption phases of the lifecycle from resource extraction, to use and re-use products and services before waste disposal.
- “Sizing opportunities for developing countries” (SCP contributes to the achievement of the sustainable development by creating “new markets, green and decent jobs and more efficient, welfare-generating natural resource management in developing countries”. It is based on environmentally sound and competitive technologies).
2.2. Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Branch of SCP
- Economic domain: manufacturing and service companies which produce income and jobs while increasing efficient use of natural resources (raw-materials, water, and energy).
- Social domain: to reduce poverty, and improve well-being while respecting natural resource scarcities, and ensuring safe and healthy production.
- Environmental domain: to ensure low carbon, resource efficient and green industrialization using environmental management, and reducing emissions.
2.3. Roundtables for SCP
2.4. The Way to Sustainable Development Goals
2.5. Sustainable Consumption
2.6. Education for SCP
3. The Present Development and Issues of Sustainable Consumption and Production
3.1. Sustainable Growth or Degrowth?
- Increase in the efficiency of consumption due to technological improvements (eco-design, sustainable production, eco-innovation, etc.), and due to more efficient use of resources (3R—reduce-reuse-recycle, zero waste, circular economy, etc.); technically, it is a part of weak SC.
- Changes in consumption patterns (habits, behaviours, and lifestyles) and reduction in consumption levels (degrowth) in developed countries requiring changes in infrastructures (what is called strong SC).
- “Striving for the good life for all; it includes deceleration, time welfare, and conviviality.
- A reduction of production and consumption in the global North and liberation from the one-sided Western paradigm of development. This could allow for a self-determined path of social organization in the global South.
- An extension of democratic decision-making to allow for real political participation.
- Social changes and an orientation towards sufficiency instead of purely technological changes and improvements in efficiency to solve ecological problems. They believe that it has historically been proven that decoupling economic growth from resource use is not possible.
- The creation of opened, connected, and localized economies” (i.e., strong SC).
3.2. Measuring Sustainable Consumption and Production
3.3. Existing Trends in Sustainable Production
- Resources (raw materials, energy, and water) efficiency
- Clean energy and cleaner production
- Low emissions and climate friendly solutions
- Responsible agriculture
- Chemical leasing
- Corporate social responsibility
- Stakeholders’ engagement
- GHG emissions were reduced (−49.6%) and decoupled from the increasing chemicals production (+94.7%)
- Specific GHG emissions were reduced by 42% per energy consumption and fell by 74% per production.
- Fuel and energy consumption was reduced by 24% since 1991, and energy intensity (GHG emissions per production) fell by 55.7%.
- Renewable energies consumption has doubled since 2000.
4. Sustainable Consumption and Production in Future
- Demographic and social changes (population growth, ageing; poverty, inequality, migrations) with diverging global population trends (fertility, mortality)—education, and solidarity.
- Health management and cost pressures, changing disease burden, and risks of pandemics—healthy living, public health systems, and intensive research.
- Rapid urbanization (megacities, mobility, security)—smart: cities, communities, and homes.
- Regional instability (public debts, crises, economic and financial shocks, migrations, conflicts and wars, danger of collapse)—increasingly multipolar and smart world.
- Shift in global economic power from G7 to E7 (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey), shift to networks and coalitions in a multipolar world—empowerment of individuals.
- Limits to continued economic growth, global marketplace, entrepreneurship rising—beyond GDP initiative, human capital, happiness, and degrowth.
- Resource scarcity (water, critical raw-materials, fertile land, forests) and intensified global competition for resources (prices volatility, potential conflicts)—dematerialization, resource efficiency and circular economy.
- Accelerated technological breakthroughs (Industry 4.0 with digitalization, artificial intelligence (AI), Information and communication technologies (ICT), robotics, nano-, bio-, and eco-technologies, renewables, health care, low-carbon solutions, microbiota and synthetic biology—education, innovations, Industry 5.0).
- Growing pressures on ecosystems (population, food and energy consumption, water scarcity, mobility, decline in biodiversity), and hysteresis effect—decoupling growth from resource usage.
- Increasingly severe consequences of climate change/crisis (global warming, deforestation, desertification, natural disasters, extreme weather events)—adaptation, mitigation, carbon capture and storage, and degrowth.
- Increasing environmental pollution load (air pollution, land releases of nutrients from agriculture and wastewater, and water and marine pollution)—sustainable consumption.
- Diversifying approaches to governance (due to globalization, governments are facing a mismatch between long-term, global, systemic challenges facing society, and their more national and short-term focus and powers)—social cohesion, and policy makers’ cooperation.
- GHGs emissions reduction as compared to 1990: 20% by 2020, 55% by 2030, and net zero by 2050.
- Increase fraction of renewable energy consumption to 20% by 2020, and 38–40% by 2030.
- Rise energy efficiency: 20% by 2020, and 32.5% by 2030.
- Use less water by adapting building regulations, flood prevention, and developing crops that cope better in drought conditions.
- Advance personalized learning
- Make solar energy economical
- Enhance virtual reality
- Make computers to process information like humans do
- Engineer better medicines
- Advance health informatics
- Restore and improve urban infrastructure,
- Secure cyberspace
- Provide energy from fusion
- Prevent nuclear terror
- Supply clean water to all
- Manage the nitrogen cycle
- Develop carbon sequestration methods
- Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
4.2. Wavelike Human Development
- Four industrial revolutions  with the top prosperity year shown:
- Mechanization, steam, and water-power usage (mechanical automation), 1765
- Mass production, assembly line, electricity (industrialization), 1870
- Computer and automation (electronic automation), 1969
- Cyber-physical systems (Industry 4.0 or Factory 4.0, smart automation,), now
- Six Kondratiev’s innovation cycles, lasting 45–60 a (years) each :
- Cotton, iron and hydropower, duration, 1780–1848
- Railways, steam power and mechanization, 1848–1895
- Steel, heavy engineering and electrification, 1895–1940
- Oil, cars, and mass production, 1940–1980
- Information and communication technology, 1980–2015
- Clean technology and resource efficiency? 2015–2045?
4.3. Important Future Trends and Adaptations in SCP
4.3.1. Sustainable Consumption at a Turning Point
4.3.2. Sustainable Production Trends
- Systems and procedures, such as communication, eco-labelling, sustainable procurement, environmental management systems, dematerialization, environmental impact assessment.
- Data, information, and models, e.g., databases, best practices.
- Tools and techniques, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC), Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA), Input-Output Analysis (IOA), Cleaner Production Assessment (CPA), increased resource (energy, water, materials, employees, and finance) efficiency, and circular economy will be the most important goals for future sustainable processing and manufacturing.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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Glavič, P. Evolution and Current Challenges of Sustainable Consumption and Production. Sustainability 2021, 13, 9379. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169379
Glavič P. Evolution and Current Challenges of Sustainable Consumption and Production. Sustainability. 2021; 13(16):9379. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169379Chicago/Turabian Style
Glavič, Peter. 2021. "Evolution and Current Challenges of Sustainable Consumption and Production" Sustainability 13, no. 16: 9379. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13169379