Achieving globally sustainable production and consumption production patterns will require substantial structural change over the long-term. Considerable efforts have already been expended by governments, labour and business and NGOs to achieve more sustainable patterns of production. As a result, this document focuses on the new opportunities for environmental improvement provided by targeting the consumption side of the equation. The approach is based on influencing the decisions that are taken along the life cycle of a particular good or service by citizens, industry and governments, so that environmental damage is progressively reduced to levels within natural limits. The aim is to expand the opportunities for end-use consumers -- whether individuals, companies or public agencies -- to make sustainable consumption choices. Taking this approach channels attention onto the goods and services that people require to meet their needs. This then places the production sector in the appropriate role of serving world needs in a sustainable fashion.
DOCUMENT WINDOW - TOWARDS CLEANER PRODUCTION
It is evident that many worrying environmental trends are to a large extent the result of millions of discrete lifestyle decisions. However, focusing on end-use consumption does not change the basic division of responsibilities among the various actors or place the burden of change primarily on households and individual consumers. Governments have to provide the overarching framework of incentives, infrastructure, regulation and leadership that will enable other actors to take up their responsibilities for their part of the chain from production to consumption and final disposal. The business sector has a major responsibility for managing the life cycle environmental impacts of the goods and services they supply. Furthermore, public agencies and business consume large amounts of energy and natural resources, and generate corresponding levels of pollution and waste. Consumer decisions are also strongly influenced by, and in turn influence, advertising and other economic and structural mechanisms controlled by business and government.
To be successful, actions to change end-use consumption patterns requires effective incentives, accurate and available information, accessible facilities, social support systems, adequate sufficient resources and cultural norms that reward sustainable consumption practices. Adopting the end-use approach to sustainable consumption could have a number of advantages:
DOCUMENT WINDOW - AN END-USE APPROACH TO ENERGY MANAGEMENT
While the demand-side measures proposed here can influence the spectrum and volume of consumption, many environmental problems can only be dealt with through measures taken to change production practices (eg the phase-out of eco-toxicological substances).
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