Action by governments at the local, national and international levels is critical for steering patterns of demand, and thereby supply, towards sustainability. A challenge for governments is to achieve real synergies in the combination of different types of instrument to change demand.
Governments have the central role in correcting market failures through the introduction of regulations, social and economic instruments. But governments need also to review their economic and sectoral policies to ensure that subsidies do not support unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. As major consumers, public sector organisations can help shape market conditions by applying environmental criteria and goals to their procurement, service provision and administrative activities.
Given the broad scope of government action, it is important for both the effectiveness and credibility of policy measures on sustainable consumption that all public policies are mutually consistent and coherent with the wider goals of sustainable development.