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I will if you will

Towards sustainable consumption

About the Sustainable Consumption > Looking Forward, Looking Back: a survey Acknowledgements
Roundtable of how more sustainable products have
Gillian Thomas
been mainstreamed in the past, yielding
This report is the concluding work of the Judith Dobbyn
lessons for future market
Sustainable Consumption Roundtable, jointly Peter Melchett
hosted by the National Consumer Council transformation. Emma Noble
(NCC) and the Sustainable Development > Communities of interest - and action? A Kevin Morgan
Commission (SDC) for 18 months from briefing on the opportunities and Mike Green
September 2004 to March 2006. Roberta Sonnino
barriers for community-level action,
Mike Pearce
Funded by the Department for based on ten in-depth interviews with
Graeme Trayner
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs project leaders.
Viki Cooke
(Defra) and the Department of Trade and
Jo Hillier
Industry (DTI), the Roundtable brought
Sara Eppel
together a small group of leading experts All these reports, and a series of smaller Scott Ghagan
in consumer policy, retailing and internal research papers referenced in the Maxine Holdsworth
sustainability to advise government on how report, are available from Margaret Adey
to create consumer choices that stay or Terence Ilott
within environmental limits. Sue MacDonald
Following this final report, the government Aphrodite Korou
will set out a plan for further action on Bob Ryder
Work of the Roundtable Philip Stamp
sustainable consumption.
The Roundtable has conducted its own Jack Frost
primary research into a range of possible John Manoochehri
solutions and approaches to sustainable Roundtable members Tom Morton
consumption. Our work included: Melanie Howard
> Ed Mayo (chair): chief executive, NCC Rohit Talwar
> A major two-day Consumer Forum, Adrian Monaghan
facilitated by Opinion Leader Research, > Alan Knight (chair): head of corporate Paul White
with findings reported in Shifting accountability, SABMiller Fred Steward
opinions. > Rita Clifton: chair, Interbrand Roger Levett
Alex MacGillivray
> A seminar for stakeholders in Cardiff, > Tim Jackson: professor of sustainable Hannah Pearce
with the participation of Welsh Assembly development, University of Surrey Barfoots of Botley Ltd...
Minister for the Environment and
Planning, Carwyn Jones. > Jill Johnstone: policy director, NCC ...and many others who contributed their
time and perspectives.
> Roundtable input into an event on > Sinead Furey: General Consumer Council
sustainable consumption with of Northern Ireland
Sustainability Scotland Network and SDC > Andrew Lee: director, SDC (campaigns Production
in Stirling. director, WWF-UK to Febuary 2006) Editing: Greg Stevenson and Beth Keehn
> A General Consumer Council for Northern > Chris Pomfret: senior associate, Design: Greg Stevenson
Ireland event – led by Roundtable University of Cambridge Programme for
Member Sinéad Furey – on responsible Photography: Cristian Barnett
consumption. (

> A high-level Business Dialogue event, Printing: Seacourt cleaner design and print
Secretariat (
facilitated by Cambridge Programme for
Industry, with 30 senior managers, retailers > Convener: Joanna Collins
and manufacturers from international ISBN: 1 899581 79 0
businesses, exploring the respective roles > Researcher: Paul Steedman May 2006
of consumers, government and business in > Policy assistant: Poppy Maltby (to
driving change. November 2005)
> Seeing the Light: a report based on in- > Administrative assistant: Ahmed Khayyam
depth interviews with 30 households, (from November 2005)
with and without micro-generation,
about their awareness of how they use sustainable
energy in the home.

> Double Dividend?: a detailed

sustainability appraisal of expert
nutrition guidelines on diet, and a survey
of the evidence on how schools can offer
menus that are both more sustainable
and nutritious. a joint initiative from SDC and NCC

i Preface

1 Executive summary

4 Introduction: from a three-planet economy to one

9 One: people – the first corner of the triangle

27 Two: business – the second corner of the triangle

31 > Recommendations for helping business

33 Three: government – the third corner of the triangle

35 > Recommendations for implementing the framework
37 > Recommendations on procurement

39 Four: linking the triangle through a product and lifestyle approach

42 > Recommendations for our homes
45 > Recommendations for the food we eat
47 > Recommendations for getting around
49 > Recommendations on holiday travel

51 Five: show people they are part of something bigger

53 > Recommendations for community-based action

55 Six: the long-term challenges

61 > Recommendations on long-term challenges

62 Conclusion

63 Appendix one: Glossary

64 Appendix two: Consumer forum methodology

65 Appendix three: Business dialogue methodology

66 References and notes

Preface: future life

This report is about the good life:

the good life that is possible if
people, business and government all
share responsibility to open the way
to new solutions.
These drawings are by ordinary
people who worked with us in our
research. They are a selection of the
positive dreams and aspirations
people have for their future life and
for the well-being of their loved ones.
With the right imagination and
application, the conditions can be
right for all to live a good life and
fulfil these aspirations, sometimes in
new and smarter ways. And we can
do so with the essential bonus of
living in ways that are sustainable so
that they generate quality of life for
all, and for good. This report is
dedicated to that opportunity.

Executive summary

On the key environmental issues of The illustrations we offer to achieve

our day, progress depends on enabling this do not solve all the issues of a
people to act together. This report sustainable future. But, by opening
sets out how a significant shift people’s minds to the impacts of their
towards more sustainable lifestyles is actions and demonstrating
possible and positive all round. alternatives, they can also help
build the space for more mandatory
Some of the building blocks are
policies to tackle the most
already in place, in terms of an
difficult issues.
extensive evidence base and an
existing set of commitments from In our deliberations, we focus
government. The key now is to take primarily on the environmental
action that enables people to take up dimensions of sustainability, while
the more sustainable habits and testing the implications of our
choices that they want. recommendations for social justice.
In part this is in recognition of the
The focus needs to be on creating a
complexity of the debate and our
supportive framework for collective
own limitations. But more
progress, rather than exhorting
fundamentally, it is because we
individuals to go against the grain. This
recognise that living within
is the approach that we heard time and
ecological limits is the non-
again in our engagement with
negotiable basis for our social and
consumers and business – encapsulated
economic development.
in the notion of ‘I will if you will’.
It is possible to make sustainable habits
and choices easier to take up, by ‘Living within ecological
drawing on insights about consumer limits is the non-negotiable
behaviour and using people’s basis for our social and
preferences for purchasing shortcuts,
and what we call the trend towards
economic development.’
‘choice editing’ (see glossary).
People, business and government – We view the challenge of sustainable
the three groups at the corners of our consumption as a spectrum. At the
‘triangle of change’ – will play a key near end of this spectrum are
part in this. This report looks at each measures that require less in terms of
group in turn, and then at policies that intervention and active change.
can link them: while no one of the A simple technological intervention –
three can lead alone, a co-ordinated a mini wind turbine on the roof, or a
approach can create the opportunities big cut in standby power
and responsibilities to accelerate requirements for TVs and set-top
change. The right policy approach will boxes, for example – could have a
focus on positive solutions that work very positive environmental impact.
with the grain of people’s aspirations In the centre of the spectrum are
rather than against them. And it will more deep-seated changes to habits
put consumer lifestyles, and the and routines, like restoring a sense of
everyday products and services that seasonality to what we eat, turning
people use, centre stage. off lights and opting to walk or cycle

in the neighbourhood rather than
taking the car. At the far end of
There is space for Start from where
the spectrum are innovations and change people are
measures that allow people to
Government can be bolder about Four areas of our lives generate four-
change behaviour or aspirations in a
driving markets, as there are win-win fifths of our overall impact on the
more fundamental way, such as
outcomes. A mass of people are environment around us: how we run
around air transport.
ready and willing to see new policies our homes; the food we eat; how we
The purpose of public policy on introduced that will help them change get around; and how we travel on our
sustainable consumption should be to their behaviour in the face of climate holidays. The way to connect with
enable government, business, and all change and global poverty. But they people’s aspirations in these areas is to
of us as individuals to move need the government to set an promote symbolic and effective action
progressively along this spectrum, example and make it easier for them that touches their everyday lives.
tackling the right issues at the to do the right thing.
right points.
> Advance practical initiatives such
To start this, and improve quality > Set a visible example to the public, as these catalysts for behaviour
of life for all and for good, we now by making all central government change:
need a step-change forward. The buildings and transport carbon-
government’s sustainable • giving airlines a clear incentive to
neutral by 2012, and putting a
development framework for the UK introduce carbon offset on an
priority on changes such as
aims to deliver a ‘strong, healthy and ‘opt-out’ basis to wake people up
sustainable food and on-site
just society within global limits’. The to the impact of flying;
renewable energy in public settings
challenge is to move to patterns of like schools and hospitals. • making on-site energy generation a
consumption that achieve both common sight in new homes and
principles at once. The government public buildings, to connect people
has already made a commitment to with climate change;
‘set out a plan for further action on
sustainable consumption’. On the • rolling out smart meters, to
right, we set out our headline findings help people get to grips with
and principal recommendations. energy use;

This report details practical solutions. • enabling schools to serve balanced,

While its recommendations are aimed seasonal, quality food, to get
at the UK government, they have an children into good eating habits;
eye to the implications for future • giving serious incentives to low-
wider development. Rather than a carbon cars.
rigid set of rules, we have established
a Sustainable Consumption Action
We believe that action on all five
Framework as a guide for
catalysts together would have a
government policy. We see that short-
powerful cumulative impact on
term action can also contribute to
individuals, helping to break habits
longer-term solutions on more
and shape new behaviours. It will also
complex issues. In our concluding
help to open minds to other more
chapter we examine some of these
challenging lifestyle changes needed
deeper challenges that we face on the
in the long term.
path to a more sustainable future.

Don’t put the Show people Develop the tools
burden solely on they’re part of and momentum to
green consumers something bigger tackle more
Government and business must focus People are willing to change, but difficult issues
fairly and squarely on mainstream they need to see others acting
There are ways in which sustainability
consumers, rather than expecting the around them to feel their efforts are
imperatives collide with contemporary
heroic minority of green shoppers to worthwhile. Fairness matters.
consumer aspirations, particularly
shop society’s way out of A combination of incentives,
when it comes to foreign travel and
unsustainability. Choice editing by community initiatives and local
the car culture. With the right
manufacturers, retailers and regulators feedback will reassure people that they
process, government should not be
already has a track record in getting are part of a collective movement
scared to engage people and business
high-impact products off the shelves that’s making a real difference.
in dialogue on thorny issues.
and low-impact products onto them –
so bring out the responsible
consumer in everyone by making > Reward households for careful use
of energy and water via taxes and > Commit to an ongoing programme
sustainable products the norm.
tariffs, and penalise excessive of deliberative fora with the public,
consumption. The government’s at a national and regional level,
Energy Review is an opportunity working with media partners to
> Collaborate with business
to enable such incentives on enable as many people as possible
champions to plot ten
energy use. to engage with what they can do to
sustainability ‘product roadmaps’
meet the carbon reduction targets
by 2007 for rapid change in > Empower and resource local
of 20 per cent by 2010 and 60 per
priority high-impact products. This authorities to help people play cent by 2050.
could accelerate the switch to: their part in sustainable
communities. Councils should give > Develop a working economic
• low-carbon cars;
street-level feedback on recycling model for HM Treasury that can
• low-energy home entertainment; and other achievements, reward track the links between national
and those who pledge to adopt income and resource consumption,
• the next generation of energy- sustainable behaviours, and by 2008. This must be
efficient lighting. support community-level action. underpinned by comprehensive
accounts for high-impact resource
flows within the UK(1).

Introduction: from a three-planet
economy to one

We live in a consumer society, with two. Then along come the and sustain growth rates of seven per
unprecedented individual comfort, promotions for ice-makers and cent by 2010(5). These are urgent
convenience and choice. What we buy beer-chillers. imperatives, but, equally, where will all
may come from shops and businesses the natural resources to make the
> On average, cars have become
that in turn may buy from factories products to fuel such growth come
more energy-efficient, but we use
and farms. All these supply chains from? Sustainable consumption is not
them more(2). Thanks to greater
start in the same place – nature. a luxury concept for the rich to worry
car-dependence and the uptake of
about. It is a necessity for all.
The connections between how we higher-emission models, including
live and the natural systems of the SUVs, UK CO2 emissions from Our findings, which are upbeat and
planet are made opaque by the road transport in 2004 were nine positive, build on what has been
complexity of today’s economy. Yet per cent higher than 1990(3). achieved, through the recognition of
the simple truth is that if everyone in the wider challenge of ‘sustainable
The sustainable development
the world consumed at the average development’ in so much of business
framework for the UK, agreed by
rate we do in the UK, we would need life and government policy. This work
government, aims to deliver a better
three planets. was set in train by the government’s
quality of life within global limits.
UK sustainable development strategy,
This report is about how we should The challenge of sustainable
Securing the future, which establishes
look after that end of the supply consumption is about ways of living
sustainable consumption and
chain to ensure our continued that can achieve both principles. The
production as one of four priorities.
prosperity – wherever we are. From opportunity we explore is whether we
The principles enshrined in this
water conservation to climate change, can update our lifestyles, and get
strategy for the government, UK-
the solutions range from simple to smarter about how to do this.
wide, make clear for the first time
complex, but a common theme is
that sustainable consumption is the
collaborative action. We cannot
model we need to realise the twin
expect business or the government to
‘The simple truth is that if goals of ‘living within environmental
do it alone; but they can enable
people to take part. With co- everyone in the world limits’ and ‘ensuring a strong, healthy
consumed at the average and just society’, underpinned by
ordination and a little courage,
rate we do in the UK, we good governance, sound science and
solutions are available.
a sustainable economy.
Even so, it might be tempting to duck
would need three planets.’
Building on the thinking first set out
this issue, taking comfort in
in Changing Patterns, alongside work
uncertainties in the scientific data or
This has an irreducible international from the Prime Minister’s Strategy
simply expecting markets to ensure
dimension. On current growth rates, Unit, Securing the Future illustrates the
we innovate our way out of trouble.
Chinese consumer spending will make government’s increasingly
But consumption – a field which
the country the world’s second largest sophisticated model of behaviour
covers not just shopping, but how we
market in terms of household change for sustainable consumption(6).
use things and how we get around; all
consumption by 2014(4). Over the Our findings flesh out some practical
the ways in which we use the planet’s
same time horizon, the UN steps for putting these ideas into
resources in our everyday lives –
Millennium Development Goals aim action with consumers.
cannot be sidelined. Production-side
solutions are crucial, but cannot to cut human poverty. The Our findings also build on existing
provide the whole answer: Commission for Africa has argued government action relating to the role
that significant economic growth is of business and the products they
> Products like fridges can be
required to lift Africa from poverty. make and sell in achieving sustainable
designed to use less energy, but we
They set out recommendations to consumption. We have drawn on the
quickly start to expect larger ones
enable African countries to achieve recommendations of the
and it becomes normal to own

government’s Advisory Committee Getting to grips with the forces that We also know that consumer goods
on Consumer Products and the drive consumer behaviour is and services play a huge variety of
Environment, as well as pioneering challenging. But there is already a roles in people’s lives. Some of these
sectoral strategies co-ordinated by considerable evidence base on which roles are purely functional. Food
both DTI and Defra, including the to build change. Two or three key satisfies a need for subsistence,
draft Food Industry Sustainability lessons emerge from that evidence housing for basic protection. But
Strategy(7). In turn, we have set base(8). We know, for instance, that material artefacts also have another
some future challenges for the there is a considerable gap – the vital purpose. Cars, houses, fashions,
new Sustainable Consumption so-called ‘value-action gap’ – between gifts, trophies, photographs: all these
and Production Business Task Force. people’s attitudes, which are often goods are called on to play vital
pro-environmental, and their symbolic roles in our lives. From
everyday behaviours. football matches to weddings, from
Consumer behaviour family holidays to dinner parties,
Enabling behaviour change is no from the work environment to social
trivial task. Our consumption ‘People often find occasions, the ‘evocative power’ of
patterns offer a complex, yet telling themselves “locked in” to material goods and services is used to
picture of the kind of society we consumption patterns that shape our social world(9). Through
have become and of our relationship are unsustainable.’ them we negotiate status, understand
to material goods and services. our identity, interact with our family

and friends, and even pursue the Our findings increasingly willing to embrace key
dreams and aspirations which give our aspects of a smarter, more sustainable
We have drawn extensively on this
lives meaning. lifestyle, but on one reassurance: that
body of knowledge. We have also
others, whether your neighbour at
It is legitimate to ask, of course, added to it, albeit in a modest way,
home or your competitor in business,
whether this heavy reliance on through limited primary research with
act likewise – the simple idea of ‘I
material things for social and consumers and businesses. Our
will if you will’(12).
psychological ends is a good thing. findings draw from our deliberative
In fact, this may turn out to be one analysis of these sources and focus It is government, at all levels, that is
of the most important questions of on the policy framework that could best placed to co-ordinate a collective
all in our search for sustainable make a difference. approach to change, through an
consumption. But the reality is that enabling policy framework.
It is worth noting that, while our
‘stuff ’ shapes our lives and we neglect
analysis is informed by a UK context, People, business and government
that insight at our peril.
many recommendations relate to each occupy a corner in a triangle of
Another hugely important lesson for policy issues that are devolved. change. No one, or even two groups,
sustainable consumption is that, far Because it has been commissioned as can lead on sustainable consumption
from being able to exercise free a joint initiative by Defra and the alone. Different corners lead at
choice about what to consume and DTI, such recommendations in this different times by doing what they
what not to consume, people often report apply to England only. can do best. Until now this has often
find themselves ‘locked in’ to However, many of the underlying been accidental. The change might be
consumption patterns that are issues – for example, about the space profound if it were co-ordinated.
unsustainable. The literature on this is for change, the psychology of choice,
very clear and goes a long way to or the evidence of market
explaining the value-action gap. transformations – will apply in equal
‘Lock-in’ occurs in part through measures to all four nations. We hope
‘perverse’ incentive structures – this work will be a resource for each
economic constraints, institutional of the devolved administrations, as
barriers, or inequalities in access that they explore specific strategies
actively encourage unsustainable appropriate to their context.
behaviours. It also flows from social
expectations and cultural norms.
Sometimes we act unsustainably ‘People, business and
out of sheer habit. Sometimes we government each occupy
do so because that’s what everyone a corner in a triangle of
else does(10). change.’
This evidence emphasises the
difficulty associated with negotiating
sustainable consumption. But it also Our headline assessment is that a
highlights the potential for policy to critical mass of citizens and
establish new opportunities for businesses is ready and waiting to act
sustainable living and to intervene on the challenge of sustainable
more creatively to unlock ‘bad habits’ consumption(11). But to act, they need
and negotiate new social norms. the confidence that they will not be
acting alone, against the grain and to
no purpose. One thing we have
observed though, is that both the
business world and citizens are

Figure one: the ‘triangle of change’


The products
and services people
use, and the infra-
structure available,
link government
with business
and people

Business People

One: people Ó the first corner of the triangle

Fewer than one in three people have > The arrival of recycling bins on
heard of the term ‘sustainable people’s doorsteps helped people
development’; and qualitative studies to take ‘environmental’ action. Yet
suggest that very few, even of these, recycling can also dominate their
can explain what it means(13). So it frame of reference and some
makes sense to start from how struggle to think about other ways
people understand their own lives, in which they can make a
and the connections to the world difference(16).
around them.
> In a world of information-
overload, it is not more
‘It’s scientific jargon, isn’t it? So maybe information campaigns or leaflets
you don’t understand exactly what point that are needed(17).
they are getting to because it’s not
Those at the Forum were able to be
highlighted in, like, say, our language Ó
frank about the gap between what
layman’s terms. You don’t take notice of
they felt about the urgency of the
it… and I believe in recycling and love
challenge and what they felt able to
talking over the environment, but… I don’t
do as individuals in the current
seem to understand what they’re saying.’
context of their lives(18). The barriers
Consumer forum participant
they cited resonated clearly with those
identified by a well-developed body
To do so, we used the research of research(19):
technique of a structured, deliberative
> we are creatures of habit, reluctant
Consumer Forum. We commissioned
to make changes that challenge our
Opinion Leader Research (OLR) to
run an event in which over a hundred
people, from all walks of life, > we are highly influenced by the
deliberated on their aspirations and social norms we see around us;
how these fitted with ideas of policies > we often lack access to facilities
to encourage more sustainable like doorstep recycling or good
consumption. (See appendix two for public transport;
more about how this operated.)
> we perceive sustainable options to
In designing this, and learning from be expensive and niche;
it, we also drew on a previous pilot
event run by Defra, as well as > we are preoccupied with short-
qualitative and quantitative work by term household budgets and, for
Brook Lyndhurst, MORI and others low-income consumers, with
on public attitudes on the making ends meet on a weekly
environment(14). Together these had basis; and
confirmed that: > we often do not trust the
> People recognise the issues, government bodies and businesses
and there are a high proportion that are exhorting or enticing us
of people that want to ‘do the to change.
right thing’(15).

The space for change ‘The environment is at the forefront Together these add up to four-fifths
really, at the moment, of people’s of our impact as households on the
We were struck by the number of
agendas. And it’s the world, isn’t it? If we local and global environment(25). The
spontaneous references to
don’t look after the world, it won’t be good news is that smart synergies can
environmental concerns at our
here for the grandchildren or the great- be found in these four areas between
Consumer Forum, when people who
grandchildren.’ many of our aspirations and more
participated took the time to think
Consumer forum participant sustainable ways of living.
and talk freely about their aspirations
in relation to consumer trends(20).
These were not often mentions of In looking to the future, many people
The right approach
the ‘environment’ as a word, per se. at the Forum placed their emphasis
Instead, a number of people of all on non-material aspirations. This is ‘I totally agree you need someone to be in
ages in each group spoke up about not to downplay the lively interest control… it’s not just about the
global warming, food additives, shown by some in powerful cars and government, it’s about us as well… but you
pollution, Hurricane Katrina and big houses, especially many younger need a leader and that’s it, that’s the only
flooding. Most apparent was a people. But across the whole social way forward really.’
growing sense of insecurity about the spectrum there was a preoccupation Consumer forum participant
chaotic impacts of climate change. with wanting to be healthy, safe and
secure and to have more time to
‘Somewhere along the line somebody’s
invest in good relationships with
‘I remember a pretty hot summer five got to take responsibility, haven’t they?
family and friends.
years ago when I bought four fans. The And every single person as an individual is
next year I had to get air conditioning. According to research, 25 per cent of not going to, ever. Somebody that we
What will it be like in ten years time?’ people between the age of 35 and 50 look up to and is supposed to be looking
Consumer forum participant from across all social groupings after us, needs to do something, needs to
report that they have taken a take control…’
significant reduction in income in Consumer forum participant
This finding runs alongside other
order to put their family and quality
evidence that suggests there is
of life first(23).
currently political space for more There was a clear appetite among
action to make sustainable living a participants at the Consumer Forum
reality. In pre-election polling by ‘There is a growing awareness that for government to take action to
MORI, in 2005, 28 per cent of voters consumption does not equate to personal make sustainable habits and choices
cited ‘the environment’ as an issue happiness.’ easier. But this had to be the right
that would be very important to them Deborah Mattinson, Joint CEO, OLR(24) kind of action, for them to be willing
in deciding which party to vote for – to support it. The Forum provides
more than the number mentioning additional evidence to illustrate four
Drawing on the way in which people
Iraq or Europe(21). Of course, during key guidelines(26).
described their aspirations and related
elections these issues tend to slip to the issues under discussion at the
down the campaign agenda, yet Consumer Forum, we have identified 1. Make it fair
follow-up polls in September 2005 four areas of our lives that people
revealed that 47 per cent of voters Fairness matters. People want to
may connect to for action:
thought the quality of the ensure that interventions are fair and
environment would get worse in the > how we run our homes, not open to abuse by free-riders or
next few years compared to only manipulation by ‘rich’ people(27).
> the food we eat,
22 per cent who thought it would Interventions are perceived to be fair
get better(22). > how we get around, and when the polluter pays in proportion
> holiday travel.
to their impact, the interests of lower-
income groups are safeguarded and
no-one is let off the hook.

‘I think it would make you more aware of ‘We don’t like being taxed but… if I knew
Fair for all what you were actually throwing away.’ it was going to a good cause, then I’d be
Consumer forum participant more willing to part with that money than
As participants acknowledged, if I was told that it was an extra 20 quid
there is a need for care, to tax on my flight.’
ensure that policies to tackle ‘I would certainly reduce the amount of
Consumer forum participant
excessive consumption support, waste I had if I knew I was paying between
rather than overlook, the 50p and a £1 for a bag.’
interests of low-income groups.
Consumer forum participant In fact, the group was accepting of
Recent work, for example, has
shown that, with careful design,
the idea of paying extra to offset the
policies to promote water and carbon from each flight, even
There was also openness towards the
energy efficiency, and discourage insisting that this should be on an
idea of banding council tax in line
waste, can be progressive, and opt-out rather than an opt-in basis.
make low-income households with home energy efficiency ratings,
better-off, rather than worse(28). on condition that support is available
to help low-income groups make ‘I don’t see the opt-in, I just see there
Similarly, with careful design, improvements(29). being a different figure for me to pay
sustainable consumption could
for my flight… I’d be happy to see that,
help poorer groups by giving
but I’m not going to make any choice
added impetus to investment in ‘I think it’s a good idea in principle as long
energy-efficient homes; getting about it…’
as people who can’t afford to insulate
healthy, fresh food into all Consumer forum participant
their house are given help to insulate it.’
supermarkets, schools and
hospitals; and ensuring that the Consumer forum participant
26 per cent of households
2. Help people to act together
without access to a car are well
served with alternatives.
Even on the contentious topic of
‘Well, I don’t mind if we collectively
cars, there was support for widening
sacrifice, but I don’t want to sacrifice Ó
the tax gap between high and low-
me and my family Ó when the bloke next
emission vehicles in line with the
door isn’t.’
‘polluter pays’ principle. The concept
Consumer forum participant
of pay-as-you-drive taxation,
compared with a flat road tax, split
participants on grounds of fairness. When thinking about interventions,
Many in the group liked the concept people wanted assurance that they
of a direct and fair connection would be acting in collaboration
between the amount you drive and the rather than isolation. Among many,
amount you pay, but there were also there is a default assumption that
real concerns that it would unfairly they would be making an individual
impact on less affluent groups. sacrifice for no guaranteed outcome
or benefit. Indeed, acting in
When it comes to cutting back on
isolation is seen as futile and
flights, participants judged that
compulsory rises in ticket prices
would be effective but unfair, in the New behaviours, prompted by
sense that less affluent consumers interventions, need to become
would lose out. However, the concept ‘social norms’ to be truly effective
becomes more acceptable if the tax and successful. Interestingly, support
were to be assigned in a transparent for paying to deal with carbon
manner, and go into making offsetting was on the grounds that
improvements and cost reductions in this could become a new social
inter-city train services. obligation that people would feel

ashamed of ducking. Some even Participants thought a recycling The four ‘E’s
suggested that those who ‘opt-out’ lottery would be a fun way of
If people are asking for government
should be made to sit at the back of creating a buzz around recycling. In
to set an example, and to make
the plane! Norway, a scheme like this was
interventions tangible, fair and the
designed by the packing and filling
norm, then these challenges
industry, to avoid a direct levy, and
‘Would all the opt-out people please go to correspond well to the three ‘E’s –
carton recycling has increased from
the back row?’ Exemplify, Enable, Encourage –
35 to 68 per cent(35).
Consumer forum participant which the government signed up to
in its 2005 Sustainable Development
Strategy. Helping people make better
Thanks, perhaps, to the intervention 4. Win people’s trust
choices, the strategy said, requires
of Jamie Oliver, there was unanimous
Of course, people can be sceptical of more than just persuasion. The task
support expressed at the Forum by
the motives of government and for government was represented in a
parents with school-age children for
business. As part of this, some diagram (figure 2)(38).
paying more for healthy and
people saw fiscal incentives as ‘just
sustainable school dinners. The fourth ‘E’ is Engage. As Securing
another tax’. Significantly,
the Future recognises, engagement is
People acknowledge that it does not transparency helps overcome this(36).
not just a one-way process of
take them long to adjust to new Above all, interventions need to be
communicating at people or relying
habits, even when they were averse to seen to be motivated by
on conventional ‘above-the-line’
change before it happened(31). This environmental concerns, rather than
persuasion. It requires a real
adjustment effect was also evident raising revenue(37). Likewise, there is a
commitment to community action,
from the sharp rise in support for the strong perception that business’
deliberative processes and involving
congestion charge among Londoners motives are often not ‘pure’ when it
people in change on their own terms.
after its introduction(32), and the comes to sustainable issues, as in the
The distinguishing feature of
increased local popularity ratings for case of supermarkets putting a
sustainable consumption policy will
wind-farms after their construction(33). perceived mark-up on organic foods.
be the way in which it engages
A dominant theme of the event was honestly and courageously with
‘There should be more things like recycling… that consumers are looking to people to create and retain
It was a pain when it happened, but now you government representatives to set an its mandate(39).
don’t think about it.’ example and make it real. This is
The four ‘E’s are a theoretical
Consumer forum participant especially true on the difficult issues
framework. The challenge is to put
of flying and car use. People wanted
them into practice. One practical
to see politicians putting their money
3. Make it positive and tangible approach, which is gathering
where their mouth is, both in terms
momentum internationally, is ‘social
Participants liked the idea of being of public procurement (investing in
marketing’. There is a strong evidence
able to pay in instalments, through microgeneration for public buildings
base in relation to health and wider
their bills, for a mini wind turbine to and school meals), and in terms of
public policy goals(40). The National
generate electricity for their homes at personal behaviours (flying less and
Consumer Council (NCC) defines
the same time as getting the savings driving hybrid cars).
social marketing for government as
from drawing less from the National ‘a systematic process using marketing
Grid. Microgeneration, therefore, techniques and approaches to achieve
‘What do you think would happen if Tony
proved to be an appealing prospect, behavioural goals’(41). The starting
Blair started driving around in a hybrid
because it is something very positive point for this approach is to identify
vehicle? I think sales of them would go up
and tangible that everyone could do the behaviours that are a priority to
1000 per cent overnight.’
in a visible way(34). change, or perhaps sustain.
Consumer forum participant

Figure two: as attitudes and behaviours
change over time, the approach evolves

> Remove barriers
> Give information
> Provide facilities
> Provide viable alternatives
> Educate/train/provide skills
Catalyse > Provide capacity
Is the package
> Tax system
enough to break Engage
a habit and
> Expenditure – grants > Community action
kickstart change?
> Reward schemes > Co-production
> Recognition/social pressure - > Deliberative fora
league tables > Personal contacts/enthusiasts
> Penalties, fines and enforcement > Media campaigns/opinion formers
action > Use networks
> Leading by example
> Achieving consistency in policies

It is easy to become sidelined into priorities and design interventions These are, however, one step back from
promoting behaviours that are easy to that segment and target the right precise behaviours and are far from
achieve but trivial in terms of people and behaviours. For the definitive. They only prompt the more
environmental benefit. Equally, it purpose of illustration only, a detailed, thorough analysis that is needed
makes little sense to focus efforts on selection of indicative targets, relating to determine the relative significance
behaviours that are worthy and to climate change, are set out here. of potential lifestyle changes.
important, but have no chance of
taking off in the immediate term
across the mainstream. Some forms Learning from health
of behaviour bring knock-on benefits.
Improving public health, from smoking to diet, all too often means changing
For example, people can act in people’s behaviour. Across a number of countries, including the USA, Canada,
symbolic ways that bring Australia, New Zealand and the EU, ‘social marketing’ has been used to achieve
psychological or social benefits that this, for example by:
extend beyond the immediately > being clear about what behaviour could be like and focusing on the right ways to
measurable environmental ones. achieve very specific improvements;
Whose behaviour it is also matters. > focusing on the right people, by using ‘segmentation’ approaches which go
For some, what is needed may be beyond their immediate circumstances to capture what they think and feel
behaviour change. For others, such as about issues, what moves and motivates them;
people using public transport, it may > taking a long-term approach and using a mix of interventions and ways of
be supporting and sustaining existing reaching people; and
patterns of behaviours that might > using communication and information only in the context of an overall, co-
otherwise be eroded. ordinated marketing mix, rather than in isolation.

What matters is what is most effective The evidence is clear that social marketing of this kind can be a practical and
for more sustainable outcomes. But, effective approach for achieving behaviour change.
above all, there is a need to choose

With the right focus on behaviour,
and its nature and drivers, the next Top tips: illustrating
step is to build an in-depth behaviour change goals
understanding of where people are The average person in the UK is
starting from. responsible for 9.6 tonnes of CO2 a
year. To meet the target of a 20
This points to the importance of per cent cut by 2010, this will
designing the right approach, rather need to come down to 7.9 tonnes,
than falling back on whatever policy and to meet the 60 per cent
reduction target, this will need to
lever is in favour at the time. Each of
come down to 3.5 tonnes by
the components of the four ‘E’s 2050(42). What behaviours could
approach has radically different policy begin to address this?
implications – for example, around How we run our homes
investment (enabling), around 1. Raise the number of people
community (engaging) and around switching to all-renewable green
fiscal incentives and regulations energy tariffs.
(encouraging). 2. Promote key energy-efficient
habits, such as the installation
Starting from where people are, and
of home insulation and prudent
choosing the right mix of use of high-efficiency, energy-
interventions can make sustainable using household products(43).
habits for people easier to achieve The food we eat
and more attractive to do. 3. Cut down on excess meat and
dairy produce.
4. Increase the consumption of
more in-season produce.
How we get around
5. Raise the market share of cars
that are B or above on new
energy ratings(44).
6. Increase the percentage of
commuters that work from
home, car-share or opt for
cycling, the bus or train(45).
Holiday travel
7. Stabilise and then increase the
number of people choosing to
holiday in Britain, rather than
8. Raise the number of people
offsetting carbon emissions(46).

Can people lead change as consumers?

‘I want to see the day when consumers can expect that

environmental responsibility is as fundamental to the products
they buy as health and safety is now...’(47)
Tony Blair

The things people buy – products fashion designers, the ‘Red’ label
and services (raising global funds to tackle AIDS,
championed by entertainers), through
It must be true that, as shoppers, we
to a range of imaginative ‘how to
have more options than ever before.
make the world a better place’ books
If we selected every item in a typical
and columns in the media. This is 20
large superstore, we would have up to
years on from the pioneering book,
26,000 different products in our
The Green Consumer by John Elkington
shopping trolley(48). So, because we
and Julia Hailes.
can’t weigh up the pros and cons of
every one, it is natural that we use Even so, this remains, on balance, a
decision-making shortcuts: price, minority activity. But it would be
branding, promotions, shelf position wrong to conclude that people’s
and packaging. For most, these concerns don’t matter to them. The
shortcuts form the basis of a truth is that the complexity of
shopping routine that does not easily information required to make a
accommodate wider concerns(49). judgement on product sustainability
can leave even the most dedicated
First, the shortcuts are telling
green consumer confused and
shoppers that today’s green products
disempowered(50). Our concern is,
are a luxury (or risk, depending on
then, how sustainable lifestyles can be
the branding) and for the few, not the
taken up, perhaps in new ways, by the
many. Also, when people act as
mainstream of society.
shoppers, they expect some issues to
have been dealt with. They may not At the Consumer Forum, people
be aware that government and reported feeling confused by a
retailers are delegating to them much proliferation of logos and their lack
of the responsibility of choosing of consistency. While some pointed
society’s way out of unsustainability. to the success of labels like ‘dolphin-
As a result, people’s concerns as friendly tuna’, most believed that cost
citizens often do not get reflected in and convenience would generally
their choices on the shop floor. trump them.
Of course, there has long been a
welcome minority of ethical ‘If people are driven by convenience and
consumers, taking up opportunities cost, they won’t give a damn about a
from local food to responsible pretty logo on a piece of chicken or a logo
investment and banking. They are on a fish and chip shop, it wouldn’t mean
attracting growing attention, from anything to them.’
celebrity endorsement of low-carbon Consumer forum participant
cars, the use of organic cotton by

‘The only problem is you can have so many say that their food comes from
Simpler sustainability labels on the products that it gets so supermarkets, not farms and not
Choice editing for sustainability is
confusing for the people that are buying from soil. There is nothing wrong
about shifting the field of choice things… and all they do is they put the with this, except that it is harder for
for mainstream consumers: cutting price up.’ people to see the link between a
out unnecessarily damaging Consumer forum participant healthy natural environment and the
products and getting real
food they eat when the food comes
sustainable choices on the shelves.
In the context of high consumer So who leads?
pre-made in a plastic bag. We are not
concern, but low levels of action, arguing that society should return to a
the idea of integrating the most The solution could be the trend more basic lifestyle. What we are
compelling issues of sustainable towards what we call ‘choice editing’. arguing is that the lead for ensuring
development through choice From the magazines we read, the environmental stewardship must lie
editing makes sense. Consumers radio stations we listen to or the
benefit from the assurance that
higher up in the supply chain.
the issues they care about are
shops we visit, consumers look to
considered, rather than facing the others to organise the choices that
Looking back at consumer choices
demand that they grapple with they face. As the psychologist Aric
those complexities themselves. Sigman puts it: ‘Choice is beneficial To test such an assumption, the
up to a point. But limitations, Sustainable Consumption Roundtable
restrictions and boundaries can have a decided to list some consumer
strangely liberating effect.’(51) products where there had been a
So, in relation to the threat to fish distinct shift towards a more
stocks, for instance, the consensus at sustainable supply chain. All the
the Consumer Forum was that products listed were significant in
endangered species like cod should be market terms in their own right but
removed from sale entirely until they are also now made and supplied in a
have recovered. This echoed the way that embraces at least some of
findings of a MORI poll on behalf of the principles of a ‘one-planet
the NCC in 2005 in which 74 per economy’. A panel reviewed the
cent of people surveyed agreed that available evidence on the history of
‘if fish like cod are endangered they the development of 19 products and
should not be available to buy’. identified as far as possible what the
principal driving forces were that led
to the innovation and, more
‘If you go to a fish shop, there’s a whole importantly, what link in the value
range of fish and if there’s no cod, you chain was creating those driving
can’t buy cod. End of story really.’ forces. Although it is difficult to
Consumer Forum participant establish exact causal links from the
case study data, our analysis does
The long and complex evolution of identify some significant patterns.
moving away from being a hunting, The summary for each is set out in
gathering, farming society to a fast- the table on the next three pages.
moving consumer goods society has After it, we set out our broad
resulted in rapid development, conclusions, illustrated with two
flourishing economies and better life case studies(52).
expectancy. However, it has separated
people from the natural processes
that underpin their lives. Some might

Learning from success

How we run our homes Product story and market share Key drivers

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood The FSC launched in 1993 with a forest Retailer leadership by B&Q, committing
certification and labelling scheme. Now to edit out non-sustainable wood,
12 years old, the total global market has creating the market for the FSC as a
reached $5bn of which the UK new sustainable certification. Little
constitutes approximately a third of the consumer pressure, but no perceived
demand. consumer compromise needed on price
or performance.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in In five years to 2003 there has been an Mainstreamed in industry through retailer
paint estimated 21 per cent reduction in leadership followed by voluntary industry
harmful VOC content of paint. The EU agreement. Little consumer awareness,
market share of water-based paints has but no perceived consumer compromise
risen to 70 per cent. needed on price or performance.

Ozone depleting chemicals Ozone-damaging CFCs had been phased International legislation aided by
out in EU by 1995, five years after the availability of alternative technology
Montreal Protocol. Further choice editing (HCFCs) and industry-NGO initiatives by
now needed as HCFCs are a potent Unilever, Coca-Cola and Greenpeace on
greenhouse gas. ice cream and drinks refrigerators.

A-rated cold appliances Market share of A-rated models increased Labelling alone had limited effect, but
from one per cent to 76 per cent in five enabled the key drivers which were EU
years to 2005. The least efficient new legislation to raise minimum standard,
fridge freezer on sale today consumes price incentives via EEC, and choice
only half as much energy as the least editing by retailers. Consumers were
efficient products on the market eight happy to adopt A-rated appliances as
years ago. However, demand for second they were offered at cost parity by
fridges has risen so that total energy familiar brands.
consumption only reduced by 2.2 per
cent(53) over the same period.

A-rated washing machines The market share of A-rated machines Labelling alone had limited effect, but
rose from 0 to 85 per cent in seven years enabled the key drivers which were a
to 2005. manufacturer agreement to raise
minimum standard, price incentives via
EEC, and choice editing by retailers.
Consumers were happy to adopt as they
were offered at cost parity by familiar

A-rated dishwashers Market share of A-rated dishwashers rose Labelling alone had limited effect, but
from 0 per cent to 74 per cent in seven enabled the key drivers which were a
years to 2005. Around one in four UK manufacturer agreement to raise
households have a dishwasher, relatively minimum standard, price incentives via
low compared to the rest of Europe. EEC, and choice editing by retailers.
Consumers were happy to adopt as they
were offered at cost parity by familiar

How we run our homes Product story and market share Key drivers

Condensing boilers Moved from 16 per cent of the market to Announcement in 2003 that from 2005
95 per cent in two years from 2003. Building Regulations would mandate
Space heating and hot water represent minimum B-rating (86 per cent
80 per cent of domestic carbon efficiency) for new and replacement
emissions. 1.3m new boilers are replaced boilers. This effectively banned all
every year with boilers lasting on models other than condensing boilers.
average ten to 14 years. Low consumer awareness, but no
perceived disadvantage.

Recycled paper The proportion of recycled content in Newspaper recycled content driven by an
newspaper increased from under 30 per industry-led initiative without the need
cent in 1990 to over 75 per cent in 2004. for high consumer awareness.
More widely, consumer demand for Barrier: for recycling paper generally
recycled products remains low due to the marketing mix is less attractive to
higher price, poor availability, and consumers than alternatives because of
perception of poor quality. price and quality.

Washing powder Tablet powders have been calculated to Promotion by manufacturers on

reduce packaging by 26 per cent and convenience.
reduce both detergent consumption and
use of low degradable materials. Tablets
and liquid tablets now account for
around 40 per cent of the UK market.

Lightweight packaging Packaging was the first priority waste EU legislative pressure.
stream to be legislated at EU level and
there are business cost savings from
lightweight packaging. But consumer
preference for convenience still drives
higher levels of packaging Ó one retailer
reports that 45 per cent of vegetables
are now sold as pre-packaged.

Double glazing Double-glazing started to take off during Promotion and marketing by
the 1970s fuel crisis. It has become manufacturers, with many perceived
mainstream despite the fact that it is consumer benefits, such as noise
not generally cost-effective on energy insulation, warmth, energy saving, and
savings alone, due to secondary benefits security.
including easier maintenance, higher
security and noise insulation, and
improvement to property values.

Limited transformation: Low energy light bulbs, such as Compact Barrier: Low consumer demand because
Energy-saving light bulbs Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) have been CFLs perceived to offer poorer design
on the market since the early 1980s but and performance at much higher upfront
at current levels of uptake their market cost than tungsten bulbs. Unless cheap
share is only predicted to be around 13 tungsten bulbs are phased out,
per cent by 2020. manufacturers will perceive little market
for low-energy lighting and will not
invest in innovation to improve design.

The food we eat Product story and market share Key drivers

Free range eggs Four out of ten eggs sold in shops are Combination of perceived consumer
now either free range or barn eggs. benefits Ó freshness, taste, animal
However, there is still a large market for welfare that overcome price premium.
cheaper battery eggs, particularly those
destined for use in other foods or

‘Dolphin friendly’ tuna In 1988, a campaigner filmed horrifying NGOs built awareness on an emotional
images of hundreds of dolphins dying in issue. Solutions offered involved no
tuna purse nets, sparking a tuna boycott quality or price compromise for
that spread rapidly from the US to other consumers.
countries including the UK. Over 90 per
cent of tuna sold is now classified
‘Dolphin Safe’.

Fairtrade coffee In the UK, the proportion of Fairtrade Marketing mix is equal to competition
market (roast and ground coffee) is now and the price differential is within the
around 20 per cent of the market, up price norm.
from 14 per cent in 2002.

Limited transformation: While successful in terms of high growth Labelling has enabled the development
Organics in recent years, this is from a low base. of a niche market willing to pay premium
Organic products had a market share of for perceived higher quality.
only 1.2 per cent in 2004 and around 56
per cent of organic food is imported from Barrier: mainstream consumers do not
abroad. yet perceive benefits to merit price
premium. Marketed as niche luxury

How we get around

Unleaded petrol Unleaded petrol was introduced into the Early legislation in US stimulated
UK in 1986 and leaded petrol was phased innovation on lead removal.
out over 14 years, being banned finally in EU and UK legislation, introduced in
2000. Industry objections over costs of conjunction with fuel duty incentives,
change imposed significant delay on this drove phase-out of leaded petrol by
phase-out. Fiscal support, making 2000. Cost and performance parity
unleaded cheaper, won consumer support means no perceived disadvantage
despite some early concerns about car to consumers.

Catalytic converters All new cars sold in the UK from 1993 EU legislation, implemented in UK in
had catalytic converters, eliminating 1993.
harmful carbon monoxide, nitrogen
oxides and volatile organic compound
emissions. Initial concerns from some
consumers about car performance
disappeared, given the benefits to
health, so the technology has proved

‘Choice editing’ in detail: energy- product labelling within the Energy Where consumers have led: free
efficient fridges and freezers Saving Trust’s Energy Saving range eggs
Recommended Scheme, UK sales of
A combination of product policy The size of the UK free range egg
A+ and A++ products accounted for
measures, and ‘choice editing’ by market has grown from around seven
only three per cent of sales during the
retailers, has helped to make a per cent in 1987 to 30 per cent in
six months to December 2005,
significant shift in the market towards 2005 (40 per cent of retail sales).
compared to 18 per cent of sales in
more efficient fridges and freezers. Consumer choice has led the change
Belgium and the Netherlands. There
Mandatory A-G labelling was because of the health scare of
is a challenge now to reinvigorate the
introduced by the EU in 1995, but A- salmonella, the perception of better
pace of improvement in the UK
rated models still remained stuck taste and public concerns about
market(55). This is particularly
below three per cent market share animal welfare. The price premium is
important given that demand for
until a European regulation removed modest. Legislation has helped. From
second fridges has cancelled out
anything rated below C in 1999. Then 2004, EU legislation has made it
much of the efficiency gain to date,
in 2001, thanks to price incentives compulsory for eggs to be labelled
so that, while average unit energy
from energy suppliers under the according to method of production(57).
consumption went down 16.2 per
Energy Efficiency Commitment However, lack of consumer
cent from 1996-2005, total energy
(EEC), the market share of A-rated transparency in the catering sector
consumption by fridge-freezers only
fridge freezers leapt from ten to 70 means that demand for eggs from
reduced by 2.2 per cent(56).
per cent within three years. A caged hens remains over 50 per cent.
virtuous circle has ensued in which Choice editing by caterers or
retailers have only wanted to stock regulators would be needed to drive
higher-rated appliances and further market transformation.
manufacturers have responded to
demand by raising performance
further and instigating a voluntary Figure three: market share of A-rated cold appliances
agreement which cut out C-rated (1996-2005)
fridges in 2004(54). Comet, for
example, made a policy decision not 100% Industry agreement
to stock products below a C. cuts out C-rated
fridges (D and
90% EU regulation removes E-rated chest
From the consumer perspective, fridges below C-rating freezers)
choice editing held no disadvantages, (chest freezers below E) Fridge
as A-rated products were offered by (76%)
all their favourite brands at normal 70%
prices and improved performance. EEC price support
60% introduced in
From the edited range, the customer 2001
could choose their favourite model Fridges
50% (50%)
using the criteria they have always
used – price, quality, looks and utility. 40% freezers
A-G energy (43%)
Now there may be a case for further rating
choice editing to grow the market for 30% introduced
in 1995
new A+ and A++ models, which are Chest
23 per cent and 46 per cent more freezers
efficient respectively than A-rated 10%
products. Despite the opportunity
under EEC for energy suppliers to 0%
promote A+ and A++ models, and 1996-7 1997-8 1998-9 1999-0 2000-1 2001-2 2002-3 2003-4 2004-5

Lessons learned from Looking forward, looking back

The mainstreaming of more the most energy-efficient this has generally been confined to
sustainable products, whether green dishwashers, fridges and washing food-related issues that align with
or more socially beneficial, is already machines, even when it pointed to people’s emotional concerns for
taking place in some market sectors, savings on running costs. personal health and animal welfare.
and has growing consumer Inefficient machines were still the External events like non-
acceptance. So the simplistic norm in the shops, and they were governmental organisation (NGO)
statement that the consumer is not cheaper. But when labelling was campaigns, a food scare or a
interested is no longer valid. combined with action on the part climate-related event, can suddenly
of regulators, retailers and cause background concerns to be
However, from our work on Looking
manufacturers, rapid efficiency manifested in consumer behaviour
forward, looking back, we would focus
gains meant even the least efficient change. Businesses that move in
on eight observations:
new fridge freezer on sale today anticipation of this type of
1. There is not enough evidence that consumes only half as much external influence, and sudden
green consumers on their own are energy as the least efficient consumer awareness, can become
able to change mainstream product products on the market eight market leaders.
markets. These consumers may, in years ago.
Interestingly, nearly all the products
some cases, have played a role as 4. Labelling of performance ratings covered in the case studies have had
early adopters, but the translation from A-G is a key enabler for their critics. ‘Single issue’ products are
to the mainstream depends on a choice editing, but does not by criticised for ignoring wider issues.
number of other factors. itself drive significant market Even products attempting to address
2. The crucial requirement is for the transformation. wider issues are challenged over the
product to perform up to the inevitable trade-offs that sustainability
5. Early announcement of legislation
expectation of the relevant market. requires. Success means finding the
to set minimum standards drives a
The successful products studied right ways to manage dialogue and
virtuous cycle of rapid innovation
were largely not sold on a green or debate, without it spilling over into
and further choice editing by
ethical platform, unless they damaging criticism.
retailers and manufacturers.
appealed strongly to the emotions,
as in the case of dolphin-friendly 6. Voluntary industry initiatives are an
tuna. People do not eat important ingredient. In the case of Government as ‘choice editor’
sustainability, or drive it. They eat dishwashers and washing machines,
The general observations above make
food and drive cars, and product manufacturers averted regulation by
it clear that, if more sustainable
performance has to be the primary negotiating to remove models rated
products are to be mainstreamed, they
focus of marketing, even for D or below voluntarily. But
need to be a close equivalent to the
sustainable products. If the voluntary industry initiatives rarely
norm in price, quality or availability.
marketing mix and price are within play a leadership role.
Where the market is not able to
the expected norms of the 7. Fiscal incentives only work if they achieve this product parity
relevant market then any ‘good’ close the price gap for more spontaneously, then government
attributes like sustainability sustainable products or create intervention is needed. The conclusion
suddenly become attractive to significant tax rebates for their use. for government is that there is a broad
the consumer. Incremental VAT reductions on range of regulatory options available
products like CFLs and to make more sustainable products the
3. Choice editing for quality and
insulation do not by themselves accepted norm.
sustainability by regulators,
create demand.
retailers and manufacturers has Standards can be set to phase out the
been the critical driver in the 8. Where a sustainability issue worst performing products, as in the
majority of cases. Providing acquires emotional resonance, case of EU legislation on fridge-
information failed to get more consumers can lead some degree freezers, or the 2005 UK Building
than a minority of people buying of market transformation. To date, Regulations on minimum boiler

standards. But regulation needs to be not be presented with a two-tier As we have shown, however, choice
signalled clearly in advance, over system of sustainable and editing for sustainability is not just the
timescales that correspond to unsustainable products – they should responsibility of business.
business design and investment cycles. be free to choose the door or shelf Government has a responsibility to
Timing is critical, as is working with they liked best, secure in the act as choice editors on behalf of
forward-thinking businesses. And knowledge that risk to rainforests has citizens, who often struggle to
having the confidence at times not to been ‘edited out’ by the retailer. understand what issues of concern
be influenced by the entire sector is mean for their shopping routines.
In a similar way the multinational,
important. This clearly supports the
Unilever, joined forces with WWF to
logic of having a dedicated product
set up the Marine Stewardship ‘A lot of businesses respond to purchasing
body tasked with developing clear
Council (MSC), an independent body behaviour rather than offer customers
road maps for rapid product change.
to certify sustainable fisheries. The something better… Business needs to be
Such action can also drive innovation, impetus was the need to secure long- brave Ó to go out speculatively and push
by setting performance criteria term supply of fish and this could technology that makes sustainable
beyond the reach of today’s products. only be guaranteed if the fisheries development economically viable. But
California’s zero-emission vehicles concerned became sustainable. After a government needs to help businesses to be
mandate unleashed serious investment slow start, the MSC has now certified brave Ó by incentivising and supporting
in hybrid and hydrogen vehicles for a number of key fisheries. This will innovation.’
the first time. It signalled 13 years in enable consumer recognition of the
Patrick Burrows, Tesco plc
advance that by 2003 zero-emission MSC logo to be built and, hopefully,
vehicles should comprise ten per cent this will become part of their choice
of all new car sales (sales of hybrids criteria. Retailers’ ‘choice editing’ by The work of the Advisory Committee
can offset this obligation). only stocking sustainable fish would on Consumer Products and the
significantly speed this up. Environment (ACCPE)
It is worth remembering the lesson
from 1970s Japan, where tight fuel Retailers are not the only choice These observations connect with the
efficiency standards drove Japanese editors. Big-brand manufacturers can findings of ACCPE. In three reports
innovation and their subsequent take- shift their product portfolio towards published from 2000 to 2003,
over of the global car market. It is sustainability if they see a supply-side summarised in their last report in
clear that choice editing by saving, or a new market stimulated by 2005, ACCPE made some important
government for sustainability growing public concerns or created by observations:
represents a big innovation policy or public procurement.
opportunity for UK business. Our Companies consider hundreds of > Given that sustainability is made up
strengths in R&D and skilled innovation opportunities a year and of many different environmental
manufacture means we are well-placed filter these before they are launched. and social issues, and that the
to benefit from demand for a new Relative sustainability should be one range of products available in the
generation of hi-tech, lean and clean of these filters. market are so very different, we
products, like low-carbon vehicles and have to accept that a simple
There are 200-plus models of strategy for a catch-all eco-labelling
domestic appliance and a retailer may system will also be problematic.
stock only 20. Since they make this
Business as ‘choice editor’ choice for their consumers, they will > Labels have driven change, but
want to stock the best – so why only when they are designed
In 1995 the DIY store B&Q – owned specifically for a small number of
shouldn’t those 20 be A-rated
by Kingfisher – set a target for all the key issues closely associated with
appliances? The John Lewis
timber it sold to be certified that product. Forests, for example,
Partnership has, for instance, as a
sustainable by the Forest Stewardship are clearly linked to wooden garden
matter of company policy, made this
Council (FSC) by 1999. The idea was benches so a bespoke label
choice where a sufficient range of
that consumers at B&Q stores should connecting forest harvesting with a
A-rated models is available.

garden bench works (the FSC); a ACCPE concluded its work in 2005 case with fish; imminently as the
label that links fish harvesting with with the headline recommendation growing awareness of climate change
fish meals is logical; while a graded that the government establish a develops further; or still some time
energy label on energy-consuming products body dedicated to working away. However, the impetus for
goods like fridges and freezers is with the entire value chain for key market change is often outside the
logical. The design and governance products to get a framework in place control of business or government.
systems behind these three to drive environmental improvements. External events, like food scares or
examples are fundamentally In December 2005, Defra published abnormal weather may come at the
different but have been designed to for consultation a proposal to most unexpected times and seriously
create a system that works for that establish a government ‘sustainable change attitudes.
value chain. This further reinforces products unit’. We would support this
Products which anticipate these
the flaws in any catch-all generic proposal on the condition that this
potential changes will be the leaders
schemes, and could explain the unit is given a clear mandate to
of tomorrow, and companies who
continued failure of the EU develop roadmaps for rapid change in
prioritise these will increase their
Ecolabel Scheme to find appeal in priority products – in consultation
chances of long-term success
the market place. with businesses that have
and survival.
demonstrated best practice – and
The other important hunch that
negotiate their implementation Too often we hear ‘we cannot do this
ACCPE had, that our work now
through standard-setting and other because consumers do not ask for it’.
supports with evidence, is that while a
measures at UK and EU level. But the consumer did not ask for the
label may be seen as a consumer
iPod. Inspired marketers recognise
communication, the real user is the
the signs, or insights, translate these
retailer and the manufacturer. If you
‘Regulatory frameworks can be very into anticipated future behaviour and
shop at B&Q you do not have to
valuable. An interesting model is provided then launch products, branded, to
distinguish between wood products
by Siemens seizing brand advantage by meet these anticipated needs. Or,
on the grounds of sustainability.
marketing the fact that their Fujitsu technological advances are made
Consumers can focus on the
laptop is a year ahead of impending EU and then sold in a way that creates a
aesthetics and price of a shelf or
regulation on hazardous substances. ‘want’. We appeal to business to
door, safe in the knowledge that all
They can do this in the knowledge that do more of this, but in more
wood products are FSC-certified. It is
regulation is coming along to back sustainable ways.
the buyers at B&Q who specify FSC,
them up.’
on behalf of all B&Q consumers. Often, the climate for change can be
Dominique Gangneux, Deloitte & Touche, accelerated by civil society and
These insights led ACCPE to develop
Business Dialogue campaigners. But we have also shown
their ‘Tool Box Approach’. They
that successful products are rarely sold
recognised that different products
on either a ‘do-good’ platform or on a
had different sets of impacts and that The role of the consumer and negative platform. Advertising and
it often takes bespoke tools to drive marketing promotion can play a vital role, as we
change. Defra’s Market Transformation
Of course, if sustainable products are saw with detergent tablets or perhaps
Programme builds on this principle
to become the norm, consumers have with the Toyota Prius, by ensuring that
and, while under-resourced, is a good
to back them up. The examples above the consumer sees the product as equal
starting point for the more proactive
are precedents where consumer to or better than the competition. The
product policy approach that is now
behaviour has changed and where sustainability benefit then becomes a
needed. Labelling, as described above,
more responsible products are secondary but still important selling
is only one of the possible tools that
beginning to flourish. proposition. However, the bottom line
ACCPE recommended: legislation, tax
is that it will rarely be the ‘unique’
advantages and retail Sustainability considerations will selling proposition.
procurement policies were judged impact on all markets at some time in
equally important. the future. This may be now, as is the

Product roadmapping Environment Direct

‘Product roadmaps’ represent a policy Our conclusions on the potential role

approach for addressing high-impact of choice editors have implications
products. Looking forward over for the new government-backed
timescales that businesses and people consumer information service,
can respond to, the main elements of Environment Direct, to be launched
this will be: in late 2006. The Roundtable believes
that this service could play four
1. understanding the issues and range
constructive roles (in declining order
of possible solutions
of importance):
2. clear deadlines for achieving the
1. Choice editing: if it lives up to the
desired level of transformation
ambition of its conception, and
3. labelling products as a basis for publicises independent, bold and
incentives and standard-setting credible advice on product
4. robust incentives tied to product sustainability, this will help
sustainability galvanise companies into more
active choice editing.
5. supportive public procurement
specifications 2. Market research: it can demonstrate
to government and business that a
6. raising the bar through progressive significant section of people are
regulation. actively interested in the issues(60).
3. Connections: by being interactive,
One example could be for homes. giving feedback on outcomes, and
Reducing VAT on loft insulation, for uniting many disparate actions into
instance, will not itself prompt people a more coherent ‘army’ of
to go out looking for it. Linking consumers, Environment Direct
property taxes, like stamp duty or could also make people feel their
council tax, to A-G home energy actions are more worthwhile
ratings would, however, transform the and part of the bigger picture –
market for energy-saving measures alleviating the ‘lonely burden
and microgeneration. of choice’.
When it comes to products like cars, 4. Converting interest into action: it can
the evidence shows that we need to give clear and credible guidance
move beyond applying labels from A- that may help some people take
G, important first step though this action, especially among more
was. As MORI told the Department affluent individuals who have both
for Transport (DfT), ‘Environmental high levels of environmental
performance is not paramount in car concern and high impacts(61).
buyers’ minds when choosing a car - However, as we have argued, the
and this is a barrier to the potential evidence shows that information is
impact of introducing the labels in rarely sufficient to overcome
showrooms.’(59) As we saw when barriers of price, convenience,
looking back on transformation in the habits and norms.
white goods market, labelling starts
working when it is the basis for real
incentives and standard-setting.

Two: Business Ó the second corner of the triangle

Products and services will play a needed to create change, rather than
central part in the creation of a a list of reasons why change was
single-planet economy, but the impossible.
evidence suggests that, historically,
These participants saw government to
the green consumer has not been the
have three critical roles:
tipping point in driving green
innovation. It follows, therefore, that 1. Engaging in genuine partnership
business, as providers of those with those businesses who want to
products and services, must have a move the agenda forward (as
critical role. opposed to working through a
negotiated compromise position
On the one hand, this is clearly a
with the entire sector).
responsibility for individual
businesses. Supermarkets are 2. Providing future market certainty
important ‘gatekeepers’ of what via fiscal and regulatory frameworks.
consumers spend and arguably, they Companies that invest early in better
are, therefore, associated with a major standards, without proof of
proportion of the UK’s consumption commercial advantage, need to
impacts. What responsibility should know that policy levers will be used
supermarkets have as companies, for to eliminate any competitive
moving this to a sustainable level? advantage for peers that persist in
unsustainable practices.
On the other hand, the constraints of
competitive markets mean that it is 3. As a procurer practising what it
often difficult for companies to act preached. If industry and
alone, outside of a business case for commercial firms are being asked
sustainability. So, it is likely that to cut carbon then public sector
government has an important buildings and car fleets should be
enabling role to play, in using policy one step ahead, and public sector
levers to create the business case for procurement should give a market
all companies to deliver more to progressive firms by specifying
sustainable products. high standards.
Through a Business Dialogue event, The underlying theme is once again:
convened on the Roundtable’s behalf ‘I will if you will’. Businesses want to
by the University of Cambridge act, but cannot do so in isolation,
Programme for Industry, more than without the support of a business
30 senior managers from retailers and case. They need a policy framework
big-brand manufacturers gave their to create that business case, and give
views about the way forward for others reason to follow.
sustainable products. It is important These business leaders called for
to acknowledge that the individuals cross-party consensus on key issues
we spoke to held positions which like climate change, to give business
meant they were natural enthusiasts more confidence that targets and
for this agenda. As a result, their policies will not be at the mercy of
suggestions were focused on what party politics and electoral cycles.
would make their own goals easier to Sustainable consumption represents a
achieve within their own big innovation opportunity for UK
organisations and help overcome the entrepreneurs and manufacturers.
natural resistance other senior But they cannot create the market
managers may have to this agenda. on their own.
We wanted insights into what was

‘Business will tend to lead where they see The new corporate social
a business case, but the government has responsibility The new corporate
an opportunity to take a major leadership responsibility
A company with a good corporate
role and establish the frameworks from A corporate responsibility approach
social responsibility (CSR) that demonstrated a company’s
which all else flows.’
programme has, we can assume, commitment to sustainable
Ian Blythe, Boots Group plc
processes to manage and report on consumption would include:
the social and environmental impacts • explanation of how the principle of
Certainty about future market of its operations. Improvements are sustainable consumption is shaping
their business strategy;
frameworks clearly being made but the gap
• a focus on the company’s products,
Above all, the businesses that are between ‘good CSR’ and sustainable
through an environmental and social
prepared to make strategic consumption is intuitively large and, analysis of their key lifecycle impacts;
investments in low-carbon services, or more importantly, unknown. How • proactive engagement with
introduce other aspects of many CSR reports, for example, look government and NGOs in developing
at how the company’s product range a public policy framework that
sustainability into products, need creates a business case for more
more certainty about future markets. supports the principles of a single-
sustainable products;
Given clear goals over defined time- planet economy?
• a research and development
frames, business can start planning What we need to avoid is a strategy that focused on beating the
competition at product
and also create a competitive edge. perception that a good track record
sustainability Ó in terms of supply
Competitors will then be obliged to on CSR matches the requirements of chains and product use Ó alongside
follow and markets would be sustainability when there has been no other consumer priorities;
transformed. Once again, this evidence gathered to support such a • designing features that help
reinforces the potential role of a perception. A company can have a consumers use their product or
government-sponsored product body. service in a more sustainable way Ó
good CSR record, but this does not
such as economy wash options on
What our studies have shown, mean that its operations and products washing machines, and zero energy
however, is the potential value of are sustainable, nor that sustainability standby function on TVs;
shaping policies and supporting is embedded into the company’s • a serious and intelligent justification
frameworks around the products that culture and decision-making. Core to for any products offered that have
business supplies rather than the the potential to drive consumption
this is moving beyond an internal
practices in highly unsustainable
business operation itself (as was the frame of reference, coupled with an directions (for example, patio-
case with catalytic converters and engagement with key stakeholders, to heaters and domestic air
energy-efficient white goods). For accept responsibility for the impact conditioning units);
example, regulation on solvent of the products and services it sells to • marketing strategies that would
appeal to people’s values and ethics,
emissions from a paint factory’s consumers(62).
and a broader sense of well-being,
chimney would not be necessary if and avoid creating new unnecessary
there were a market incentive to sell and unsustainable wants or playing
‘Businesses can make the customer much
only water-based paint. on insecurities;
more aware of environmental issues to do
• partnerships with innovative
with products. Stores should be seen as a enterprises developing more
place for discussion, where employees sustainable products or service
proactively talk to customers about approaches; and

sustainability. Point-of-sale material should • partnership enterprises with NGOs

and policy-makers, where business
have simple, interesting messages so
expertise and skills can be married
customers feel engaged and encouraged to with the skills of the others to bring
find out more information.’ benefit to all parties, as in the
Scott Keiller, Starbucks Coffee Company case of the MSC venture.

(UK) Ltd.

Why business could get serious about sustainable consumption

Roundtable members with senior Unless businesses move now to Building and protecting brand value
business experience were compelled diversify into resource-light products also requires attention to people’s
by a hypothetical scenario: they were and services, supply chains will background concerns as citizens, even
offered the chance to inspire the become unreliable, reducing if they do not often bring these to
board of a FTSE 100 company to profitability long before they actually the shops(63). Corporate-level branding
embed sustainable consumption into collapse, and others will seize the aims to encourage consumers to buy
the heart of their business strategy. opportunity missed and fill the into a set of values identified with the
vacuum with innovative and creative company, reassuring them that once
The individuals recognised that the
solutions that eliminate the problem. they are in the store, they can rest
best place to start would not be a
assured that anything that they put
long report but a short, hard-hitting It is also often said of sustainability
into their trolleys has been produced
presentation to the main board of that it is something that is expensive
to a standard in line with these values.
that business. It would not talk about and unaffordable, or that the costs are
When it turns out those citizenship
the challenges facing the planet, but passed on to the consumer. Again, in
standards have not been met – be it
the risks to, and opportunities for, many cases, this is a myth. If
sweat-shop labour, or ‘slash and burn’
their business plan. sustainability in supply chains means
agriculture, or dolphins in tuna nets –
reduction of inputs such as energy,
Such a presentation was produced the consumer feels cheated and
water or materials, then it is clear that
and tested at the business dialogue affronted by the revelation. They feel
significant cost savings are to be had.
described above. While there were duped into having bought something
The same logic can apply to the use
considerable challenges in writing a that was not what it purported to be.
of video conferencing to reduce air
standard ‘off the shelf ’ presentation
travel, or the use of local materials to
for all the FTSE 100 companies, there
reduce transport costs and, therefore, 3. Operate efficiently within
was a consensus that if the rationale
material miles. regulatory boundaries
for a sustainable consumption case
was presented, it would highlight Environmental regulation is
risks and opportunities which can 2. Building brand value by meeting increasing on an EU and international
be summarised into six key and exceeding customer level. As the evidence strengthens
business objectives: expectations behind the need for urgent action, in
particular, on climate change
Awareness of what concerns people
governments will be under pressure
1. Continuously improving as citizens can help companies
to raise their regulatory game.
shareholder value identify innovation opportunities and
stay ahead, and therefore avoid being Being proactive about government
To grow a business, suppliers and
vulnerable to brand attacks. We have priorities gives businesses the
infrastructure must also grow, or be
demonstrated that it is a mistake to opportunity to influence the policy
discontinued. Reliance on
assume that consumers do not want agenda, and ensure it is designed to
unsustainable supply chains is a risk,
sustainable products because they are promote business certainty and
but one that tends to be consigned to
not asking for them. Consumers can opportunities for innovation. We
the unpredictable medium to long-
only choose what exists today; they talked earlier about the benefits of
term. But many of these risks are
can only express desires on the basis partnerships, of codes of practice
here now, or are imminent: fish
of today’s goods. McDonald’s failure and road maps developed jointly
supply, climate change and energy
to anticipate changes in consumer with governments and other
consumption, water shortage in many
attitudes about health and local interested parties.
countries and regions, the finite limit
culture has weakened the company.
of many raw materials. Businesses reacting early should gain,
not lose, competitive advantage.

4. Enthuse investors with a long- > businesses that understand the
term strategy that ensures broader principles of sustainable
profitability development, and recognise the
business case for action but not
Anticipating or initiating shifts in
the unique contribution the
resource availability, regulatory
consumption angle brings. They are
frameworks and consumer demand
at various stages of including the
creates huge opportunities for business.
principles of sustainability into their
In emerging markets resource scarcity
processes, policies and cultures;
is particularly pertinent.
> those businesses that recognise the
growing challenge of
5. Build pride and satisfaction into
environmental and social
the workforce and attraction for
responsibilities. These businesses
future employees
may be addressing this through
As awareness of the issues emerging CSR departments and
surrounding the over-use of policies, but their CSR programme
resources, of global climate change is shaping communication more
and poverty grow, it is essential for than strategy; and
companies to respond. If not, then
> those businesses that do not
their values will become distant from
recognise the business case for
employees, and potential employees,
CSR, let alone for sustainable
sapping morale and efficiency.
There are a number of actions that
6. Responsible behaviour
government could take to support
Even if there is no compelling business opportunities around
commercial reason for responsible sustainable consumption.
and sustainable behaviour, there is a
It is essential that an initiative is put in
moral obligation for business to play
place to start some systematic
its full role in helping society to meet
education about the issue, the business
its aspirations, without endangering
case and the opportunity. After all, we
the aspirations of the disadvantaged
know that businesses will only act if
or future generations. In other words,
they know that others will, so we have
sustainability should be embedded in
to reach as many as possible. Defra
the culture, philosophy and values of
and the DTI should convene a small
the business if it is to be seen as
team to make contact with the boards
ethical and responsible.
of the FTSE 100 and, where possible,
other business events, where access to
Helping business get serious small and medium-size enterprises
As we see it, businesses fall into one could be gained(64).
of four categories:
> those that understand the
principles of sustainable
consumption and are embedding
those principles into their business
plans, culture and values;

Recommendations for helping business

Business should engage with government to make innovation work for sustainable consumption, not against:

1. the Sustainable Consumption and Production Business Task Force should take the lead in establishing a partnership
approach between government and business to address the issue of high-impact emerging products, like domestic
air conditioning. Agreement should be reached by the end of 2006 on how energy-use data on pre-commercial
products can be made available to the proposed sustainable products unit, to enable them to advise government
on appropriate pre-emptive measures to manage the potential impact on climate change targets.

The DTI should champion policies that can promote new markets for low-carbon, material-light goods and
services. These should include product roadmaps and should ensure that sustainable consumption objectives are
fully embedded in all government strategies towards business, with application to sponsorship, science and
technology, innovation and skills.

The DTI should use its Horizon Scanning Programme to identify at an early stage new products that could
undermine sustainable consumption goals. The department should withhold innovation and science funding from
such proposals and direct it to more sustainable innovation.

The DTI should undertake a gap analysis of how the FTSE 250 CSR reports correspond to the challenge of
sustainable consumption, and issue a clear challenge to the FTSE 250 to improve voluntary reporting along these
lines by 2010.

Three: government Ó the third corner of
the triangle

What government can do In the centre of the spectrum are The purpose of public policy on
more deep-seated changes to habits sustainable consumption should be to
A Sustainable Consumption Action
and routines, like restoring a sense of enable government, business, and all
Framework is a guide to policy, rather
seasonality to what we eat, turning off of us as individuals to move
than a rigid set of rules. It recognises
lights and opting to walk or cycle in progressively along this spectrum.
the complexity, as well as the
the neighbourhood rather than taking Tackling the more intractable issues
possibility, of behaviour change.
the car. Even in this middle ground, at the difficult end may require a
It also views the sustainable
supportive policies and investments deep-rooted shift in societal values,
consumption challenge as a spectrum.
are essential in order to encourage, but even here government can
At the near end of this spectrum are
enable, and engage people in the effect change through its policies
measures that require very little in the
required changes. And it is critical and practice.
way of changing people’s aspirations.
that government sets an example.
A simple technological intervention – The Sustainable Consumption Action
At the far end of the spectrum are
a mini wind turbine on the roof, or a Framework is based on five elements:
innovations and measures that require
big cut in standby power requirements
people to change their behaviours 1. Use the mandate for action
for TVs and set-top boxes, for
significantly, and perhaps even to find 2. Focus on behaviour
example – could have a very positive
new ways of expressing their
environmental impact. Such a change 3. Put products and services at the
underlying aspirations. Persuading
would require changes in the market centre
people to drive less (particularly over
and changes in business practices. But
short journeys) or, worse still, to fly 4. Build collective action
with appropriate ‘choice editing’ it
less, is going to be difficult to achieve;
demands very little in the way of 5. Widen the mandate.
but should be considered both
active change from people.
possible and essential.

Figure four: the spectrum

Opening up space and support to

Government move all three groups along the line

Actions not involving major lifestyle changes, Actions that require major changes in the
but that have a big impact on sustainability way we meet our needs and aspirations

Business People

1. Use the mandate for action 3. Put products and services at At present, there is a fragmented
the centre response by government to the
Without a mandate, government can
challenge of sustainable lifestyles. A
do little to help people change their Collaborative partnerships between
range of bodies and initiatives are
behaviour. But now, from the business and government hold the
charged by Defra with encouraging
evidence we presented earlier, people key to making sustainable products
behaviour change, including the
do appear ready and willing to see and services the norm in our lives.
Energy Savings Trust, Consumer
new policies introduced that will help This means harnessing enterprise,
Council for Water, Waste and
them change their behaviour in the rather than shackling it. The key to
Resources Action Programme
face of challenges such as climate achieving this is for policy-makers to
(WRAP), the Environment Agency
change and global poverty. They are set long-term sustainability
and Defra’s own Climate Change
looking to government to make it ‘product roadmaps’ for key products
Communications programme. There
easier for them to do the right thing. and services.
is also the welcome new advice
Having a mandate is not, of course, a service, Environment Direct.
blank cheque. There are limits. And as
4. Build collective action
we argued earlier, people are most
likely to support interventions that In a consumer society and a market
are seen to be fair, that prompt a economy, the role of government is
collective response and create new to facilitate collective responses to
norms, and that are positive and collective problems that cannot be
tangible. Equally, if you don’t use a solved by individual choice.
mandate for action, you lose it. Sustainable consumption falls
squarely in this camp. It is extremely
hard for any one individual or
2. Focus on behaviour business to deviate widely from the
collective norms. Only the minority
The goal for policy action is to enable
that seek to define their identity
people to live sustainable lifestyles.
around sustainability will do so.
There is therefore a need to identify,
So we will need to move together.
and set priorities around, the
behaviours that need to be
encouraged or sustained.
5. Widen the mandate
This does not mean that the emphasis
These are practical steps. As they
for policy action is about waiting for a
progress, there will be a need to
lead from ordinary people. But any
deepen the change and foster a
policy action needs to be rooted in an
mandate for further action through
understanding and awareness of
appropriate pauses for reflection.
consumer behaviour. To bring the
After all, there are many tensions,
issues of sustainable consumption
trade-offs and dilemmas at the heart
alive, for example, people need to see
of a complex challenge such as
symbolic, effective solutions in their
sustainable consumption. The right
everyday lives. Some actions act as
process can help to acknowledge
catalysts – creating a deeper
these, to bring them out into the
commitment to sustainability than the
open and sometimes resolve them,
action itself. The effects of these
allowing society as a whole to move
interventions ripple outwards by
further along the spectrum of change
opening people’s minds to ways of
required for a sustainable future.
doing things differently.

Recommendations for implementing the framework

Defra should review whether resources currently spent on sustainable lifestyles in a fragmented way could be
better co-ordinated to achieve more effective strategic direction to the sustainable behaviour change agenda(65).
Quality and success, in terms of behaviour change, might appear at present to be variable. We recommend that
they would be better co-ordinated within a framework of a government social marketing strategy designed to
promote key behaviour change goals.

As part of this, government should set a limited number of priorities for promoting lifestyle changes.
We encourage a new focus on food and diet (responsible for a third of consumption impacts on climate) and on
the need to find positive ways to reduce the impact of meat and dairy products. Action on these, and other
priorities, could be taken forward through ‘delivery coalitions’ of non-profit organisations, consumer groups
and business.

To harness the scope for choice editing in relation to these, government should collaborate with the new

3. Sustainable Consumption and Production Business Task Force, and other business champions, to plot ten ‘product
roadmaps’ by 2008 for rapid change in priority high-impact products. Road maps for mainstreaming low-carbon
cars, energy-efficient lighting, low carbon domestic cooling systems, consumer electronics with low standby
consumption, and more sustainable fish, are all possible examples that could be developed.

We therefore support the Defra proposal for a Sustainable Products Unit, on condition that this unit is given a

4. clear mandate to develop roadmaps for rapid change in priority products Ó in consultation with businesses that
have demonstrated best practice Ó and negotiate their implementation through standard-setting and other
measures at UK and EU level.

As a practical way to advance these recommendations, we propose that a dedicated Sustainable Consumption

5. Directorate is established in Defra, with resources appropriate to the challenge of this departmental priority, and
with the support of a cross-departmental group (modelled on the Sustainable Energy Policy Network(66)) to take
forward the objectives of the Sustainable Consumption Action Plan from 2006/07.

The DTI should formally review, by mid 2007, the potential positive and negative contribution of consumer and

6. competition policy to the objectives of sustainable consumption. The DTI oversees a framework of consumer and
competition policy, including advice, advocacy and enforcement that will be critical in enabling more sustainable
patterns of consumption.

The Better Regulation Commission should review by the end of 2007 the evidence on the role of well-designed

7. regulation as a cost-effective tool to raise product sustainability standards and help achieve the government’s
sustainable development targets. This work could usefully be done in partnership with the Sustainable Development
Commission (SDC). The Better Regulation Commission should also consider how assessments of regulatory burdens
could better evaluate the contribution of regulation to making sustainable behaviour easier for consumers.

The government should advocate an ambitious EU action plan on sustainable consumption, with a focus on

8. product standards best introduced at an EU level. Priority should also be given to sharing evidence and good
practice with EU and other international partners, for example, through the Swedish-led Sustainable Lifestyles
Task Force. International grant programmes should consider incorporating sustainable consumption as a cross-
cutting objective.

Setting an example

‘I mean, at the end of the day, they’re the The Sustainable Procurement
biggest landlord in the country, aren’t Taskforce, led by Sir Neville Simms,
they? So if they want change to happen, will report in Spring 2006. The role
you start with the biggest person, not the of the public sector procurement
smallest person.’ spend of £125 billion in driving
Consumer forum participant innovation will be an important focus.
As Jack Frost, Director of Johnson
Transforming government Matthey Fuel Cells and Chair of the
procurement is essential, not only Environment Innovation Advisory
because of the current scale of its Group has argued, public procurers
environmental impacts, but also – and could do more to help unblock
even more importantly – as a investment in innovative sustainable
powerful, symbolic and highly visible technologies. By issuing procurement
signal of changing norms. calls committing the government to
purchasing only products that meet
The government has acknowledged stringent standards – if they can be
the power of public procurement to delivered below a specified cost
transform markets, in setting up the threshold and by a specified date -
business-led Sustainable Procurement the risk can be shared between
Task Force. However, less political manufacturer and buyer.
attention is currently given to making
sure that public procurers at all levels
make sustainable consumption visible
in people’s everyday lives through
schools, hospitals, council facilities
and government vehicle fleets(67).
Sustainable procurement is an issue
of credibility and trust. It is also
about making sustainable
consumption front-of-mind for
people in the settings in which they
lead their daily lives, pointing to

‘There is no substitute for ‘walking the

talk’ Ó government has a significant
opportunity as a major procurer to embed
sustainable procurement into its supply
chain. And this is just one of many areas
where leading by example will influence
learning and behaviours.’
Ian Blythe, Boots Group plc.

Recommendations on procurement

All direct impacts of central government, notably buildings and transport, should be carbon neutral by 2012.
Global bank HSBC and media company Sky have both committed to making their operations carbon neutral. The
government should adopt a broader vision of a carbon neutral public sector by 2015, with a commitment to year-
on-year progress towards this.

The government should adopt a strategic set of procurement priorities to make sustainable consumption visible to
the public in all public sector buildings and transport, as part of the goal to make the UK a leader on sustainable
procurement by 2009. We recommend that the government commits to delivering on the following procurement
targets by 2009:

a. All public sector bodies to have over 25 per cent of their car fleet at 125g C02/km emissions or below(68).

b. An ambitious programme for public sector procurement of micro-renewables, with a focus on schools, drawing
from a dedicated fund additional to the Low Carbon Building Programme.

c. A clear shift in public sector catering, especially in schools and hospitals, towards an emphasis on less
meat-intensive diets maximising the use of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables and promoting more sustainable
fish species.

Four: linking the triangle through a product and
lifestyle approach

In the four areas of our lives we have

focused on in our research – how we
The way we run The latest research tells us that our
use of energy for heating and
run our homes; the food we eat; how our homes powering lights and appliances in our
we get around; and holiday travel – The homes we live in have a big homes is responsible for 27 per cent
most of our behaviours are routine, influence on our sense of identity and of our climate change impact(70).
rather than a matter for much active how we look out on the world. One However, it has proved difficult to
thought. The evidence base on fascinating finding of some in-depth engage people in taking up energy-
consumer behaviour suggests that, household interviews we conducted efficiency measures(71).
often, we will need to have our was the impact that moving into ‘eco- As a result, the government has
unconscious routines shaken up housing’ had on people with no revised down its hopes for carbon
before we can see the value in previous awareness of how their savings from household energy
forming new ones. actions at home affected the efficiency over the next five years by
The best way to do this is to drop environment or their bills(69). nearly one million tonnes of carbon.
new tangible solutions into people’s Part of the problem, perhaps, has
daily lives, catalysts that will send ‘We felt it was better to work with the
been the failure to understand that
ripples, get them talking, sweep them house than against it. Because it was a
energy is not necessarily a household
up into a new set of social norms, low-energy house we were really careful
term. If so, talking to people about
and open up the possibility of wider with the lights, bought A-rated appliances
energy efficiency could be unhelpful.
changes in outlook and behaviour. and became frantic recyclers. We were
On pages 40-48 we look at practical really excited about it, we thought it was ‘Of course I know that it’s “energy”… they
catalysts for each of these four areas, going to be a whole new way of living.’ promote themselves as energy suppliers,
and recommendations for Teenage couple, C2D, Craven Arms but in my heart that is not the term I use
government to take positive action. Ó it’s gas and electricity Ó if that…’
Female, AB, 30s, London
People at our Consumer forum saw
their homes as a place in which they Energy is an invisible magic in our
could take control of their impacts homes. Our research for Seeing the
and make a real difference to the Light has shown that microgeneration
environment. However, it is clear that has the power to make energy visible.
most people find it hard to picture Feedback from the Consumer forum
how they use energy in the homes, also suggested that microgeneration
and do not make a natural connection can have the power to motivate and
with climate change. engage people. Making energy
generation part and parcel of people’s
‘Electricity? Well it comes from that little
homes and schools may hold the key
meter. It comes straight in here. I have no
to empowering and engaging energy
idea where it comes in from before that.
consumers for the first time. If so,
I’ve never thought about it.’
we cannot afford to leave
Female, 30s, C2D, London
microgeneration at the margins of the
UK’s climate change programme.

‘Oh yes, climate change. That’s about the

In considering the costs and benefits
weather changing. I’ve heard about that…
of particular measures, this example
yeah, it’s an issue Ó you don’t know what
shows that the government should
to put on in the morning.’
attach more weight to its potential to
Female, London
engage and motivate people in
relation to wider goals regarding
sustainable behaviour change.

‘I tell people all the time that I generate What happens if, alongside such The concept of personal carbon
my own electricity... I love it... I think it’s sustainable offerings, new products credits, in which people are allocated
fascinating.’ emerge that accelerate environmental an equitable share of carbon emission
Male, N. Lancashire, with mini-wind loss. Emerging products, such as low- rights, is receiving growing attention
turbine cost domestic air conditioning, threaten as a mechanism for addressing these
to undermine the hard-won energy challenges(74). Year on year, in line with
Positive incentives matched with
savings delivered by the government’s climate change targets, the credits
penalties for excessive consumption
climate change programme(73). allocated would decline, in order
to achieve the desired carbon
Householders will be most easily What happens with the money that
reduction at least cost. Those with
convinced that they are not acting consumers save from some
below-average use of electricity,
alone if inducements to sustainable sustainable products? The ‘rebound
heating and car fuel would be able to
behaviour are noticeable in daily life. effect’ describes how money saved,
sell their surplus credits to the
Reducing VAT on insulation has not for example, on energy bills from
market where they could be bought
proved an effective incentive, for insulating your loft, may be spent in
at a rising price by more
instance, because the question of ways that cancel out the
profligate users.
whether or not to buy insulation is environmental gains.
not on the decision-making radar in
the first place. Linking environmental
behaviours to local, property or
vehicle taxation levels, by contrast, Practical catalyst 1: micro generation
puts them firmly on the radar. Climate change leadership by this government is not yet being felt where it matters:
in everyday lives. The challenge is to raise people’s use of energy in the home from
Inducements can involve positive the subconscious to the conscious, and enable them to feel part of the climate
incentives or penalties. Positive change solution.
incentive schemes are attractive Our qualitative research, Seeing the Light, with 29 households and three schools,
propositions if they can be funded. explores what impact micro-generation technologies like solar water heating, mini wind
turbines and air source heat pumps had on attitudes to energy use. It is clear from in-
But penalties for excessive depth interviews and observations that home energy generation rarely leaves families
consumption can also be seen as unchanged in their outlook and behaviour. As the researchers say: ‘It seems that micro-
progressive, in that they safeguard generation provides a tangible hook to engage householders emotionally with the issue of
energy use… Householders described the sheer pleasure of creation and of self-
basic needs and only kick in to target
sufficiency: “It’s like growing your own vegetables.’’’
wasteful behaviours. The basis of
The most striking finding is the energy consciousness shown by those households that
charging for water and energy use have moved into social housing with micro-generation, compared to that of mainstream
and waste disposal could be householders from similar socio-economic groups.
affordable fixed rates up to a A teenage couple, who moved into social housing fitted with solar water heating in
specified threshold (taking into Shropshire, have since chosen to buy A-rated appliances and investigate the
account household size) with steeply environmental credentials of washable nappies.

rising charges thereafter(72). An elderly widow with a new air source heat pump in Kirklees is experimenting with
different settings on her heating control panel to see how she can enjoy warmth at
minimum cost: ‘I didn’t realise before that it was the immersion heater running away
with the money. It’s made me more aware of where power is being used in my house.’
Locking in the gains However, it is clear that it is not sufficient to install the technologies and leave
householders to make of them what they will. The greatest effects have been felt in
What happens if products and
households that were introduced to their micro-generators from the start and given clear
services become more sustainable, explanations of how they can be used to advantage. A similar lesson can be learned from
but people simply buy or use them schools: the catalytic role of micro-generation comes to the fore only if it is used actively
more? The overall impact on as a teaching tool and absorbed into wider school life and learning.

resources could increase.

At our Consumer forum, people were
accepting of the concept in principle, Practical catalyst 2: smart meters and feedback
but had many concerns about
practicalities of implementation, and ‘Yeah, clearly we’re all going to have to adjust, but I think I’d like to have a carbon
whether the system would impact on meter, have a kind of meter in the house so that you can actually become aware of how
much you are using. Because we don’t know, do we?’
the vulnerable. Consumer forum participant
A substantial research effort
involving pilot schemes is needed Pay-as-you-go Keypad Meters were introduced by Northern Ireland Electricity in 2000 to
replace the Powercard meter that operated using prepayment tokens. Inspiration was
before personal carbon credits can be taken from the popularity of ‘Pay as you go’ mobile phones. In December 2005, the utility
considered as a solution to climate introduced an additional tariff option for existing pay-as-you-go users that provides
change. However, this radical concept incentives for switching energy consumption to discounted off-peak times through the
introduction of a higher-cost tariff at the high peak period between 4pm and 7pm. This
needs to be looked upon as a real
helps reduce demand on the dirtiest power stations, which come on-stream at peak time.
possibility for the medium term, as a
Keypad meters have proved highly popular, with demand coming from customers not
way to lock in the gains of product previously on prepayment. They have already been taken up by one in four consumers in
efficiency, and create the right Northern Ireland. Importantly, they appear to be having a catalytic effect in terms of
incentive framework for real and energy awareness. Recent research has indicated that, thanks to the instant display
feature which gives real-time feedback on energy use, customers have made (on average)
rapid progress towards a low-
consumption savings of 3.5 per cent. Energywatch suggest that smart meters could help
carbon economy. to reduce consumption by as much as 15 per cent(75).
Energy regulator, Alistair Buchanan of Ofgem commented in March 2006 that ‘meters have
become hot news because energy prices are up 70 per cent in the year, and clearly
consumers will be interested if they can save costs by having a meter on their kitchen
wall.’(76) The Design Council’s innovative work on real-time feedback systems
demonstrates how smart metering can also be ‘sexy’(77).
In Norway, householders get energy bills complete with bar graphs demonstrating how
their energy use that quarter has compared with their use in previous years. A review of
the evidence on this and other schemes has demonstrated average energy use reductions
of five to ten per cent(78). In the UK, focus groups have indicated that on-bill feedback
could similarly prompt energy use reductions(79).

Recommendations for our homes

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), with the DTI, should set a 2020 target for roll-out of microgeneration
across new and existing homes. We recommend that the following measures be taken to build on the government’s
forthcoming Microgeneration Strategy(80):

a. A microgeneration commitment on energy suppliers to install microgeneration technologies on their customers’

properties alongside the Energy Efficiency Commitment, helping to create a viable market for these
technologies in the domestic retrofit sector through greater energy services provision.

b. A revised Planning Policy Statement 22 that places a clear duty on local authorities to put in place planning
policies that require the installation of at least ten per cent on-site renewables in large new developments.

c. A strengthened Code for Sustainable Buildings with carbon savings over building regulations 2005 of ten, 25, 40
and 60 per cent for Levels 1 to 4(81), with Code Level 5 requiring zero carbon emissions. Level 3 should be
required for all new homes receiving government funding.

d. A dedicated fund for public sector procurement of microgeneration.

Work by the Energy Saving Trust (EST), supported by positive feedback from our Consumer forum, shows that
incentives to energy-efficiency operate most effectively for householders at the ‘whole house’ level rather than in
relation to specific energy-saving products.

HM Treasury, Defra and the ODPM should review the potential for rebates on council tax and stamp duty land tax

2. to reward more sustainable households, and give a real incentive for investment in energy and water efficiency
measures. The current Lyons Review of local government finance and structures, due for completion in time for
the Comprehensive Spending Review 2007, offers an opportunity to explore how local authorities can have more
discretion over such measures.

We support the introduction of one-off Council Tax rebates for households that install energy-efficiency measures,

3. as piloted by Braintree Council and identified in the HM Treasury/Defra Energy Efficiency Innovation Review(82). EST
estimates that eight per cent of eligible households would take up this offer, saving 9.8 million tonnes carbon over
the lifetime of the measures(83). Post-2010 council tax re-valuation would enable a revenue-neutral banding
approach to be introduced in all areas based on A-G ratings in Home Condition Reports, a measure which was
supported by participants at our Consumer forum, on condition that support would be made available to low-
income households to make necessary improvements.

Improved householder feedback about actual consumption appears to be a very cost-effective way to tackle
energy demand.

Legislation should be introduced to enable Ofgem to implement a national meter replacement programme by
2012, to ensure that all households can benefit from smart meters that will enable them to monitor and manage
their energy use. Smart meters should be capable of displaying real-time consumption, of monitoring exported
electricity from microgeneration and of being read remotely. As a starting point they should be required for all
meter replacements and in all new connections. This should be implemented within the framework of the
government’s Energy Review and the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive.

The government should work with Ofgem, Ofreg and energy suppliers to pilot different forms of enhanced billing
feedback on energy use in 2006 and build successful models into implementation of the Energy End-Use Efficiency
and Energy Services Directive via a new code of practice for energy suppliers from 2007(84).

The current structure of the energy market, based on competitiveness, actively works against innovative pricing
mechanisms that would encourage demand reduction.

In the context of the Energy Review, we recommend that the government align Ofgem’s primary duty with the four

6. goals of energy policy: to cut carbon emissions; maintain the reliability of energy supplies; promote competitive
markets; and ensure that every home is adequately and affordably heated. A fundamental re-examination of the
structures of the energy market should then be undertaken, including the role of Ofgem and the potential of
tariffs, pricing or graduated taxes in achieving carbon reductions.

We support the introduction of a requirement for universal water metering by companies in areas under water

7. stress(85). Most of southern and eastern England has been identified by the Environment Agency as being under
water stress. Water use is very hard to influence without water metering, to enable people to monitor and be
charged for what they use. Once metering is in place, tariffs must include a built-in allowance to protect
vulnerable consumer groups.

As part of wider work on waste and resources, Defra should conduct a feasibility study into the potential of a
national Recycling Lottery to promote new forms of recycling, as recommended by the NCC, drawing on the
evidence of incentive schemes supported at a local level.

The food we eat

We are perhaps more aware than ever ‘And I think I don’t know enough about
before that what we eat plays a crucial when things are in season because I’m so
Practical catalyst 3: healthy
role in influencing our health and used to it all year around; I don’t know
and sustainable menus in
capacity to enjoy life. We are less when strawberries come.’ schools and hospitals
aware of the critical impact it can Consumer forum participant Our eating patterns, of course, are no
have on the well-being of the planet. less habitual than our use of energy.
Food is the average household’s How do we influence current trends of
However, others were frank about eating too much meat, or habits of
number one impact on climate their penchant for, or reliance on, buying strawberries in December?
change: responsible for nearly a third convenience. We can start by getting into more
(31 per cent) of our climate impact(86). sustainable habits in the first place.
The example set by meals served in
But this is not a bad news story. ‘You want to do your shopping in an hour
schools and hospitals will have a ripple
The evidence is clear that sustainable effect on what parents, pupils and
Ó you don’t want to spend 20 minutes in patients assume is a healthy diet for
consumption and better nutrition can, ten different shops that are half a themselves at home.
and should, go hand-in-hand(87). mile apart…’ Thanks to the spotlight shone by Jamie
Seasonal produce, extensively- Consumer forum participant Oliver’s Feed Me Better campaign,
farmed meat in lower quantities, and parents everywhere are now calling for
a shift away from over-exploited school meals to set a better example
Given the market share of the for children and get them used to a
white fish to sustainably-harvested more healthy diet(90). The agenda of
oily species, are all changes that are supermarkets, it is reasonable to school meal reform is a crucial
desirable from a nutritional and explore what more they can do to opportunity to get upcoming
sustainability perspective. ‘edit out’ unnecessary food miles, generations used to the pattern of the
packaging and waste, and to prioritise seasons and healthy alternatives to
There are surely few more enjoyable eating cheap meat twice or three
more seasonal produce. It may be that times a day. So far it is not clear that
and effective ways of responding to steps can also be taken, whether at the opportunity will be taken.
climate change than by reconnecting the local level through planning, or A narrow focus on nutrients alone risks
our national diet to the flow of national level through the work of neglect of the wider synergies with
seasons. According to the Institute for climate change and local agriculture
competition authorities, to ensure that that can flow from a shift towards
Grocery Distribution, two-thirds of supermarkets give people of all more fresh, sustainably-farmed fruit
consumers (and higher across ‘middle socio-economic groups access to and vegetables.
England’) report being positive about healthy and sustainable food that is Defra needs to work more closely with
buying seasonal foods(88). also affordable. the Department for Education and
Skills, the Department of Health and
It was evident at our Consumer It is not just local supply that would the Audit Commission to give local
forum that seasonal, local and organic reap dividends for carbon reduction. authorities, schools and hospitals
food is becoming increasingly topical confidence that they will not be
The disappearance of local shops, penalised for serving up seasonal,
and understood. Taking time to buy and their replacement with centrally- sustainable, quality menus rather than
and prepare quality food for family located supermarkets, is an important resorting to low-cost options.
and friends is a growing hobby for climate change issue too. It is worth In schools, the ripple effect of school
many people. This is partly due to the noting that the combined greenhouse meals should be reinforced by a
charismatic influence of celebrity parallel educational programme.
gas emissions of the nation’s weekly It will pay huge dividends for health
chefs like Rick Stein, Jamie Oliver, supermarket shop are equivalent to and sustainability if cooking classes
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the impacts from road freighting food are viewed as an essential life-skill for
Nigel Slater. in the UK(89).
all, alongside IT. Evidence from 1,600
schools participating in the Garden
Organic for Schools project shows that
getting children to grow their own
vegetables can make the job of
getting them interested in eating
greens a lot easier(91).

Recommendations for the food we eat

We recommend that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) should give the new School Food Trust a clear
mandate to help schools familiarise children with more nutritious and sustainable diets. Cooking and nutrition lessons
should be incorporated into the curriculum as a life skills tool. The DfES Growing Schools programme should be given
a dedicated fund to support schools in disadvantaged areas seeking to develop vegetable gardens or make farm visits,
to reflect the importance of the ‘outdoor classroom’ experience in getting children more interested in food origins
and quality.

Defra, in partnership with the DfES and the Department of Health (DoH), should further develop and agree with the

2. Audit Commission authoritative guidance for public procurers on how they can give due weighting to sustainability
criteria in all public sector catering contracts. Building on the work of the Public Sector Food Procurement Initiative(92),
procurers should be encouraged to use available powers to specify extensively-reared meat and dairy products,
seasonal fresh produce, and fish certified as sustainable by the MSC. Although EU rules discourage specification of
local or fair trade produce, procurers should be supported in developing such supply relationships for key food items.

Defra and the DoH should give a mandate to the Food Standards Agency to integrate advice to the public on food in

3. relation to nutritional and sustainability objectives. This will require close attention to the underlying evidence base,
but we expect it to highlight:

a. advice on fish consumption that points people towards more nutritious and well-managed species, with an emphasis
on fisheries recognised as sustainable by the MSC, and away from species the MSC identifies as over-exploited.

b. the value of moving away from meat-intensive diets to those based more around moderate consumption of local,
extensively-reared meat, and a greater intake of fruit and vegetables.

Defra should work to reduce the climate impacts of meat and dairy, by working with retailers, public procurers and

4. the UK livestock sector to develop roadmaps by 2007 for a transition to a more localised supply chain of extensively-
farmed meat and dairy products. The department should also promote the use of a diverse range of cuts of meat to
cut down on waste.

Defra should fund public-facing initiatives to increase seasonal consumption and familiarise people with lesser known

5. meat cuts and well-managed fish species, in the context of wider work on social marketing. These initiatives should be
in partnership with UK farmers, retailers, celebrity chefs and NGOs. The campaign will build on the efforts of the
Sustainable Farming and Food Implementation Group to reconnect people with the origins of food, and should be
underpinned by negotiated commitments from public procurers and retailers Ó as part of the Food Industry
Sustainability Strategy Ó to promote sustainable and seasonal produce.

Getting around

At the Consumer forum, there were We were able to conclude that the
spontaneous references to the concept of shifting taxation away Practical catalyst 4:
environmental impact of cars, and the from car ownership and onto car use hybrid cars
need for cleaner, ‘greener’ ways of in a transparent way can command When the Toyota Prius won Car of the
getting around. People talked about support. However, when it comes to Year at the 2005 Paris and Detroit
motor shows, it became a new must-
the need for more accessible, more taxation of fuel, vehicles and road have. As our Consumer forum made
reliable public transport and even use, people are often sceptical of the clear, car ownership is, for many
highlighted the advantages of walking motives of policy-makers: they see people, a symbol of status and
and cycling more. taxes as revenue-raisers rather than identity, an emotional connection as
much as a practical requirement. The
carbon-cutters. But clear and visible fact that the Prius is not just a
hypothecation – from tax revenues to desirable model but has strong
‘I love walking. You take in a lot more of
public transport – as in the case of environmental credentials means that
the world.’ their owners can have all their
London’s congestion charge, can help
Consumer forum participant aspirations from their car met while
make such taxes more acceptable still buying into environmentally
to people. advanced technology. On the right, we
But they were also candid about their set out policy options that would
These findings mirror evidence from unleash the investment needed to
personal attachment to cars and the
elsewhere about the challenge of make all the new must-have models
concept of car ownership. It was low-carbon for UK drivers.
addressing the car culture. A pre-
clear that for many people the car
requisite for achieving change is a
represents a personal symbol of
committed effort to improve public
status and identity, as well as a means
transport services, to tackle long-term
of getting from one place to another.
issues of access and mobility in a
This emotional attachment to cars –
sustainable way. But effort is also
together with the percieved
needed to address our underlying
unreliability of public transport –
attachment to cars. One clear
left people struggling to reconcile
opportunity is to work with the grain
environmental concerns with the
of people’s pride in their cars and
need to cut back on driving.
accelerate the market for desirable
Participants were asked to identify low-carbon cars.
measures they would be prepared to
We set out, right, a number of
consider in tackling the over-use of
recommendations for improving the
the car. Once again, they placed a
way we get around. These include
particular emphasis on fairness.
some suggestions for developing a
Public transport was not typically
product roadmap for mainstreaming
regarded as credible and car clubs
low-carbon cars, which can build on
were not seen as attractive – partly
the work of the Low Carbon
because they fail to meet the need for
Vehicle Partnership(93).
autonomy, which personal ownership
seems to deliver.

Recommendations for getting around

Recent research suggests that a high intensity application of measures that help facilitate behavioural change, such as
school, green and personalised travel plans, telecommuting and video-conferencing, could reduce car traffic by eleven per cent
over a decade(94).

Local authorities need encouragement from the DfT to incorporate stronger guidance in Local Transport Plans to
prioritise behavioural change measures, such as school and work travel plans, and video-conferencing, as
recommended by the SDC. The government should lead by example by adopting departmental travel plans with modal
shift targets by 2009.

Local authorities should be encouraged by the DfT to introduce ‘hard measures’ like reallocation of road space,
congestion charging and parking charges, to lock in the benefits of behaviour change measures so they are not
eroded by induced traffic. Effective enforcement of the speed limit on motorways by the police also helps to
reduce emissions.

The DfT should introduce a more explicit focus on carbon reduction into their welcome proposals for a national road

3. pricing scheme. Local authorities need more political and financial support in introducing congestion charging schemes
and public transport services. We welcome the new Transport Innovation Fund as a step in this direction(95).

Apply the approach of a product roadmap to low-carbon cars. We recommend that the DfT urgently consider the

a. Action to require car advertisements to display prominently the A-G efficiency rating of the car Ó making it more
visible on a daily basis.

b. Introduce a new top band of VED, and a £300 gap between each band, as recommended by the SDC. The top band
of VED would rise dramatically to £1,800/yr for vehicles emitting 221gC02/km or more, with a bottom band of £0
for vehicles with emissions below 100g C02/km. We propose that this policy should be announced in 2006, but
brought into effect in 2008. The SDC believes that this would dramatically improve the market demand for highly
fuel efficient vehicles such as hybrid cars, achieving carbon savings of around 0.4 to 0.8MtC/yr.

c. After appropriate consultation, announce at the earliest opportunity that the proposed road-pricing scheme will be
banded by vehicle emissions rating.

d. Remove financial disincentives to low-emission vehicles, such as the higher mileage rates given to more powerful
engines in the NHS.

e. Issue a procurement call committing the government to purchasing only vehicles that meet stringent emissions
standards (to ensure 25 per cent fleet below 125gC02/km by 2009), if such models can be delivered below an
agreed price threshold(97).

Holiday travel

Overseas travel represents a major Even so, there are fewer alternatives
aspiration for many people. to air travel in some cases. People in Practical catalyst 5: opt-out
Participants at the Consumer forum Northern Ireland, for example, can carbon offset for flights
spoke of their attachment to flying claim with some reason that air travel Carbon offset schemes are a way to
abroad for sun and for short breaks. helps to reduce their potential take action on climate change, by
putting money aside to make a
Among less affluent groups there isolation from the rest of the UK and
positive difference. Of themselves,
were numerous references to how the the European mainland. they will only ever be one of a wide
low-cost carrier boom has opened up range of policy tools needed to
Overseas travel is a more contentious reduce the impact of flying and
travel to a wider section of the
area. Of course, projected emissions manage demand, but we believe that
growth from aviation means that a positive approach to offsetting
People were also shocked when they demand management is urgent and could have public resonance well
beyond the tonnes of C02 offset, and
were informed of the impact of essential. Bringing aviation into the would help to build awareness of the
flying on climate change. For many, Kyoto Protocol and emissions trading need for other measures.
flying has always been presented as a schemes will be important steps. But British Airways adopted a carbon
positive thing, a chance to broaden it would be short-sighted to think that offset scheme in 2005, but take-up is
your mind. we can leave air passengers out of the low, implying that the issue is not
front-of-mind to most air travellers.
equation when we push for more
Public sector procurement, with a
radical interventions. As we have commitment to implement carbon
‘You just want to experience as much as
argued upfront, if policy-makers and offset across all central government
you can, and learn about the different
advocates are to create and retain the departments from April 2006, is
ways of living as well. And you can’t do
mandate for the bold action that is likely to have a positive effect on
that by staying around the same people.’ this highly competitive sector.
needed on sustainable consumption However, the scope for significant
Consumer forum participant
then policy will need to actively touch growth in market share is a very tall
the lives of citizens and engage with order, given competitive pressures.
There is a clear paradox in the them honestly and courageously. Our So we propose:
relationship between travel and contribution has been to see how 1. An ‘opt-out’, rather than an ‘opt-in’
approach for consumers. Data from
sustainability. Many champions of public support, and hence political the Travel Foundation (a voluntary
the environment and the developing will, can be built for essential demand scheme on sustainable development in
world would acknowledge that travel management measures. This is the tourism and travel) suggests this can
was a driving force in opening their rationale for rolling out carbon offset achieve around 60 per cent take-up,
far higher than on an opt-in basis.
eyes. Yet there is no question that we on an opt-out basis. Data from the payroll deductions on
urgently need to limit the rapid pension saving support this(98).
increase in carbon emissions from 2. Align the incentives on air
frequent flying. operators, within the current, highly
competitive industry. The Air
The fact that one of the ten break- Passengers Duty may be a blunt
out groups at the Consumer forum instrument in relation to climate
chose an end to internal flights within change. But, as an incentive for
airlines that want to promote more
Britain as their ‘best idea of the day’ sustainable lifestyles, it is a
demonstrates that attitudes are open practical option.
to change. It may be that, with careful 3. The market for carbon offset needs
and visible investment in to grow and to develop quality
infrastructure, and improvements in standards that operate across countries.

inner-city rail services (where these are Therefore, the Chancellor should
increase the Air Passengers Duty, but
a realistic and available alternative) more waive this for companies that offer
people might become receptive to consumers (quality-assured) carbon
leadership on curbing domestic flights. offset on an opt-out basis.

Recommendations on holiday travel

There is an urgent need to tackle emissions in advance of EU measures and wake people up to the impacts of flying.

HM Treasury should introduce a clear incentive for opt-out carbon offset schemes across all airlines. This can be
implemented using a two-tier system for Air Passenger Duty, or similar approach, that gives rebates on the higher rate
for airlines that offer consumers (quality assured) carbon offset on an opt-out basis from 2007.

The government should introduce an emissions charge for internal air travel, as recommended by the SDC, to reflect

2. the environmental impact of short-haul flights relative to inter-city rail.

Five: show people they are part of
something bigger

From individuals to communities will never become mainstream unless in-depth interviews with community
there is an absolute commitment leaders from a selection of these
The spectrum of action we have
from all levels of government to projects and from existing evidence in
described makes community-based
create the conditions which allow this area(104).
action an imperative. While changes
them to thrive(102). At this stage, the
may be driven by ‘choice editing’ and A number of measures would better
priority must be to learn more about
by offering more sustainable products support their ability to deliver more
what works and what does not work
and services, strong community sustainable consumption:
from existing initiatives.
networks are needed to achieve
> a more robust and agreed
change further along the spectrum. Defra’s Environmental Action Fund
methodology for evaluating
It is simply not possible to achieve is funding around 35 community-
behaviour change, to help projects
the step-change needed for ‘one- based projects in sustainable
monitor their own effectiveness
planet living’ unless people are consumption across the country.
and compare with others;
enabled to work together, both as The initiatives vary from local
consumers and, perhaps more community-based projects like > visible commitment to the
importantly, as citizens. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Climate sustainability agenda by central
Friendly Towns and Villages, to government to convince individuals
Breaking out of habits and norms is
GAP’s EcoTeams, involving office that taking part is worthwhile – and
difficult as an individual. Groups,
colleagues. Other projects are spread to convince funders that the issues
however, can create a new
across communities of interest, such are worth supporting;
momentum for change. A substantial
as the National Trust’s Small Steps, > a supportive infrastructure and
evidence base suggests that:
Big Changes. Together, these fiscal environment, to make
> ‘unfreezing’ bad habits is more initiatives provide an opportunity to behaviour change possible and
successful in groups; learn how to achieve effective attractive, and to reward people
> overcoming social lock-in requires community-based social change. for their participation in
group support; community action;
> new social norms are negotiated in
> an ongoing government
groups; ‘Breaking out of habits commitment to provide medium-
> social learning is an effective tool and norms is difficult as term funding (as with the
for encouraging new behaviours; an individual. Groups, Environmental Action Fund’s
> community-based management of however, can create a new three-year cycle) for fully-evaluated
social goods has a long and momentum for change.’ pilot and start-up projects. Many
effective pedigree(99). projects are self-sustaining and
The popularity of walking groups and pursuing innovative partnership
WeightWatchers-style programmes and funding strategies to reduce
We look forward eagerly to the full
has shown that the group setting can the need for further public money;
three-year evaluation of these
overcome apathy and encourage projects. The lessons for stakeholders > consistent and well-resourced
people to help each other tackle and government from the support from local government.
new challenges(100). Environmental Action Fund projects Beyond waste, sustainable
Eco-clubs and other community-level should be combined with other case consumption is often not a key issue
initiatives offer a promising way study evaluations, both within the for local authorities. The ODPM
forward in helping people move sustainability field – such as the work must make sustainable living a
towards more sustainable lifestyles. done by the ChangeLAB project – priority for local government,
The have the potential to influence and beyond, in areas such as public through Local Area Agreements
governance and decision-making at health and anti-social behaviour(103). and other tools (see page 53) with
local level, leading to more active We have been able to gain some appropriate supporting funding;
citizenship(101). However, such projects provisional insights from a series of

> a government-funded network for will pledge to do Z’. One example
practitioners to share information might be to commit to improve Community learning
about resources and effective street lighting if enough people The mainstreaming of community-based
techniques, and to feed into policy- pledge to start using composters. action on sustainability requires a
making at local and national levels. strong government framework to
Another example might be offering create the enabling conditions for it
This would offer an opportunity for to thrive.
loft insulation at a discount if over 100
small community-level groups and
people in the same district took it up. Community projects do have the
larger organisations in the UK to power to effect significant behaviour
collectively engage with European Suppliers of green products and changes(107). Nonetheless, there are
and international processes, such as services could offer local authorities currently few measures of their long-
term impact, or evaluation of successes.
the UN Environment Programme’s significant discounts if they could
Projects designed with sustainability as
Sustainable Consumption plan to install or sell a fixed number
their first objective can often deliver a
Opportunities for Europe project(105). of measures in a neighbourhood, as range of other ‘social goods’. For
this would reduce their transaction example, Peterborough Environment
costs considerably. City Trust is building neighbourliness,
Pledges and feedback networks and institutions from scratch
To date, Sutton Council have signed in a brand new development within the
Smart communication can help to government’s Sustainable Communities
up over 1,000 residents to a Planet
give people the confidence that their Plan. The Trust is also working in
Pledge, offering advice, support and partnership with the Richmond
individual action is being matched
incentives like discounts on cycle Fellowship Employment and Training
by others and bringing about
repair and tube travel in return for Division, to provide volunteering
meaningful change. For example, the opportunities for people who have
pledges to take steps like fitting loft website, with the suffered mental health problems, as a
insulation, recycling supermarket stepping stone back into the community.
strap-line ‘I’ll do it, but only if you
plastic bags and leaving the car at Action for Sustainable Living in
help me do it’, invites people to Manchester is introducing people with
home for short journeys.
create a pledge along the lines of: different socio-economic profiles to
‘I’ll do something, if X many other Another excellent model for taking work on shared projects. Similarly,
people on a carbon-reduction journey Groundwork has achieved a powerful
people pledge to do the same thing’.
effect across the religious divide in
Pledges currently pick up support is supplied by CRed, the Community Northern Ireland.
through micro-marketing. Once a Carbon Reduction Project, based in Yet these projects are largely
pledge is created, flier and text the East of England and focusing on unrewarded for their contribution to
message formats are automatically Norfolk and Norwich. Through their the policy goals of central and local
website – – people government. Chasing funding from a
generated and can be circulated to
large number of different government
encourage others in a workplace or can follow pledge pathways and pots, each with different criteria, is
neighbourhood to sign up. They are receive advice and feedback on how time-consuming. It may be that the
a great device for getting people much carbon they will be saving. Together We Can programme, co-
ordinated by the Home Office, offers
interacting with others. Better feedback on the collective the best opportunities to integrate
The pledge model has the potential to achievements of a community’s community level action around
sustainability and quality of life.
be scaled up in a range of applications. street, compared with others, can also
motivate more individual action.
> NGOs could use it to get their
Pilots conducted by Guildford
members implementing mass
Borough Council and Surrey
changes like car-sharing.
University raised the number of
> Local authorities could use it to people recycling by up to 39 per cent
increase recycling levels or energy – to a high of 90 per cent – simply
conservation. The pledge could be by giving householders feedback on
made by the authority: ‘We the how well their street was doing
council will provide X, but only if compared with others(106).
Y thousand local authority citizens

Recommendations for community-based action

Government should support local community action, by joining up funding and evaluation programmes for

1. behaviour change initiatives that deliver sustainable consumption alongside regeneration, social cohesion and
healthy lifestyles. This should build on the Home Office’s Together We Can programme and Defra’s Community
Action 2020.

The ODPM, as part of its forthcoming white paper on the future of local government, should move beyond waste

2. management to make sustainable living a priority for local government. The tools at its disposal include Local Area
Agreements, Local Public Service Agreements, Best Value Performance Indicators and the Comprehensive
Performance Assessment with appropriate supporting funding and training.

Defra should fund a network for organisations delivering behaviour change for sustainable living at the community-

3. level to: share learning and information about resources and effective techniques with each other and with the
research community; and to feed into policy-making at both local and national levels. The network should draw on
the experience of the London Sustainability Exchange in building capacity among its partners and should also
facilitate engagement with EU and international networks.

The ODPM and Defra should work with local councils to pilot two new communications-based approaches to lever

4. up community action, recycling levels and energy conservation:

a. the use of web-based pledges, by local authorities.

b. better feedback on the collective recycling or other behaviour change achievements of a street or
neighbourhood by comparison with others. Feedback should be given to households on how their own street’s
recycling rate compares with the best-performing street in the area, and with the borough target.

Six: The long-term challenges

Pauses for reflection maintain, just as fervently, that it is

not about consuming less at all but
As we have already highlighted, if
about ‘consuming differently’.
everyone on the planet were to
consume natural resources and emit In the first camp are those who
carbon dioxide at the same rate as lament the ‘rampant materialism’ of
we do in Europe, we would need modern society and suggest that we
three planets to support us. If a US would actually be happier and enjoy a
citizen is taken as the model, we will better quality of life by consuming
need five planets. The obvious bears less. They point to evidence of
re-stating: we do not have this voluntary ‘down-shifting’: people
many planets! who appear to opt for a better
work-life balance, more quality time
Throughout this report, we have
with their families and a low-
been concerned with identifying
consumption lifestyle(108).
practical, positive measures to
deliver sustainable consumption. In the second camp are those who
Policy-makers need to know how to suggest that consuming less would
act now to make modern lifestyles restrict choice and reduce the quality
more sustainable. Almost every of people’s lives. They argue instead
specific action that we have identified that sustainable consumption involves
in earlier sections of the report could ‘consuming efficiently’. They highlight
be initiated – given sufficient the transformative power of the
political will – in the lifetime of market to deliver greater efficiency in
the current government. industrial processes, cleaner and
greener products, and more
At the same time, we are acutely
sustainable consumer choices.
aware that some of these measures
may be more difficult than others to This division suggests two distinct
implement; and that the actions we routes to sustainable consumption.
propose will not in themselves be One looks for deeper engagement
sufficient to meet the challenge of a with the natural world, aims for
‘one planet’ society. There is, as we increased self-reliance and simpler
have said, the need for action across lives, and calls for large-scale changes
the spectrum of issues of importance in people’s aspirations and behaviours.
for a sustainable future. The other seeks sustainability in the
continuing march of progress,
In this section of the report, we look
opening out the possibility of new,
at some of the more complex, longer-
more sustainable products that
term challenges we will face on the
simultaneously improve our lives. We
path to sustainable consumption.
appear to be offered a choice between
two competing alternatives. Which
Consuming differently or route should we choose?
consuming less?
The reality is that this suggestion of a
An important tension is evident in the ‘fork in the road’ is misleading.
debate about sustainable Neither model of change is complete
consumption. Some people insist that in itself. The first makes vast and
sustainable consumption inevitably possibly unrealistic demands on
means ‘consuming less’. Others human nature. It risks alienating those

whose behaviour it seeks to change. Those who argue for a simpler life today’s products. We can encourage
The second neglects one of the key tend to look at the existing structure people to purchase new kinds of
lessons from the past: that efficiency of consumer society – built on the ‘material-light’ products and services.
improvements are often outstripped ever-increasing accumulation and
At the same time, it is clear that, as a
by growing aspirations and increased disposal of material possessions – and
society, we will need to consume a lot
consumption elsewhere. Neither assume that the only way to stop the
less of certain things. We must burn
model is yet capable of demonstrating damage is to curb the economic
fewer carbon-rich fuels if we are to
that it will lead to a ‘one planet’ system which feeds it. This view
meet our national targets for climate
society(109). In reality, elements from alarms those responsible for keeping
change. We must stop harvesting
both strategies are going to be needed. the economy going, as well as those
wood and fish faster than they can
who have an economic interest in the
The divided view highlights some of restock. We must restrain our use of
existing system.
the key issues that lie at the heart of finite mineral resources if we are not
the challenge of sustainable to face severe economic shortages in
consumption. The first is a lack of the future. We must eat less meat. We
clarity over the term ‘consumption’ ‘We must stop harvesting must throw away fewer disposable
itself. The second is the link between wood and fish faster than products if we are to reduce the
consumption and economic stability. they can restock. We must volumes of waste going to landfill.
A third is the role of business in
eat less meat.’ It is crucial that we acknowledge these
delivering sustainability. A fourth is
constraints and place them at the
inequality. The fifth is the
heart of a sustainable economic
complexity of lifestyle aspirations in
policy. It is worth remembering that,
modern society. Those resisting any notion of
in some cases, consuming less can be
consuming less have a tendency to
We will address each of these five a straightforward case of cutting out
level charges of naivety at the down-
issues in turn. None of them is simple waste – less energy and money leaking
shifters, and insist that it is possible to
to resolve. So rather than attempting out of people’s homes, less unwanted
reduce environmental and social
to present quick-fix ‘solutions’, we packaging on supermarket products.
impacts without compromising
concern ourselves here with
economic consumption. This view is And yet, at present, it is hard to see
articulating some of the issues. At the
seen by the ‘down-shifters’ as a how rising economic consumption is
same time, we suggest some practical
defence of the status quo which is to be made compatible with these
ways in which government can
unlikely to deliver the radical changes limits. It certainly cannot be taken as
increase its competence in addressing
in consumption that appear to be self-evident that efficiency
these challenges.
needed. And so the debate gets improvements will do all the work for
increasingly polarised. How can we us. To date, despite much rhetoric to
Consuming less of what? navigate a constructive course through the contrary, there is little hard and
the middle? fast evidence of decoupling economic
Whether you believe we will need to
growth from environmental impact.
consume less or consume differently, In the first place, it is plain that not all
Rather, we in the West appear to be
it helps to be clear about what you things that people buy and do have
exporting our production impacts to
mean. The ‘consumption’ of material the same resource implications.
developing countries and then
resources is not necessarily the same Downloading MP3 tracks is treading
importing the products to consume.
thing as the ‘consumption’ of lightly compared to shopping for a
economic goods and services. But the table made from illegally felled teak To get a better handle on this, we
argument often proceeds as though it trees. It is certainly possible in need to dramatically improve our
were the same. Or else it assumes that principle to restrict resource understanding of the reliance of the
the one can easily be ‘decoupled’ from consumption while growing the economy on material resources. Our
the other. economy. We can cut the amount of statistical frameworks are, for the
energy and materials that go into most part, well-developed where

economic flows are concerned. But insufficient funds in the public purse
the same cannot be said of those to treat the sick or educate our
relating to material flows, resource children. The call to a simpler life is
requirements or environmental and not so simple after all.
social impacts. Until we have robust
Of course this immediate reality
statistical frameworks for this
should not preclude us from searching
important information, it will remain
for alternative patterns of
impossible to address the overall
consumption. If economic
resource and environmental
consumption can be decoupled from
implications of economic
material consumption, if people
consumption patterns, and impossible
purchased high-value services instead
to validate or refute the claim that de-
of resource-intensive artefacts, if
coupling is possible. The work of
consumer commodities become value
WWF and Biffaward in developing the
heavy and materially light, then we
first comprehensive set of UK
could preserve economic stability and
material flow and energy accounts
still meet environmental and social
provides the ideal platform on which
targets. If people accepted higher
to build.
taxes and invested more in the future,
we might even be able to preserve
Beyond the ‘consumer economy’ economic stability without a massive
growth in private consumption. But
A whole chapter of Securing the Future
these are all big ‘ifs’.
is devoted to the idea of the one-
planet economy – but what does this In the meantime, the existing
mean? Consumption is intimately economic structure operates as a
linked to economic stability. Vigorous major disincentive to sustainable
consumer spending signals a booming consumption.
economy, a thriving production sector,
full employment, healthy tax revenues
Models for sustainable businesses
and plenty of money in the public
purse. By contrast, as every economics Sustainable consumption has
correspondent knows, the first sign of profound implications for business
recession is a slump in high-street practices. Delivering the changes
shopping. Like it or not, our highlighted in this report requires
economies go hand in glove with more than improved environmental
consumer activity and – for the management or an allegiance to
moment at least – that means the corporate social responsibility. It
continued purchase and use of requires whole new ways of doing
material goods. business: different profitability
structures, different relationships
This is surely one of the reasons why
along supply chains, different
calls to reduce consumption are so
business models.
fiercely contested. It’s not just material
things that are at stake here, but the Most obviously, companies who have
entire structure of the modern made their profits from extracting and
economy. Without consumption selling material resources will need to
growth, it is argued, output would adapt and change. The energy sector
drop, jobs would be lost, incomes is a case in point. The privatisation of
would fall, and there would be gas and electricity markets in the late

1980s and early 1990s resulted in an
energy supply sector whose
profitability now rests on increasing
sales of gas and electricity to
consumers. Attempts to regulate these
industries to improve energy
efficiency and to invest in ‘energy
services’ have struggled against the
prevailing revenue structure of the
industry. The regulatory regime for
suppliers and network operators is
itself so complex now that it militates
against economic efficiency. And the
potentially attractive model of energy
service companies has failed to gain
any purchase in the marketplace(110).
But the challenge is not confined to
suppliers of primary energy and
material resources. Even in today’s
so-called ‘service economy’, business
models are predominantly based on
material commodities(111). Selling fewer
commodities invites lower profits, an
outcome which is never attractive to
shareholders. Inevitably, therefore,
business will resist changes which
appear to threaten the basis of
their profitability.
Of course, there will be some
‘winners’ in the corporate sector:
companies with the foresight and
ingenuity to respond to the challenge
of sustainable consumption and
devise more sustainable products and
services. But isolated examples of
success are not enough. It is going to
be necessary to shift the profitability
structures of whole sectors of the
economy. Without support from
government, it is difficult to see how
companies are going to respond
anything other than defensively to the
challenge of sustainable consumption.
Inequality consumers, inevitably accelerates the them laid down by government.
pressures that our lifestyles currently Inconsistent signals from within
Not every UK citizen leads a lifestyle
make upon the planet. government can undermine the best
that contributes to the ‘three-planet’
intentions of behaviour change
economy. Inequalities in income and The case for action to address poverty
campaigns. Signals from marketing
spending are growing. More people is compelling – and this requires a
and the media can do the same. At the
die from cold weather in Britain than sustainable natural resource base to
moment, the level of understanding
in any other European country. succeed. Sustainable consumption has
of these processes in policy is weak.
Similarly, the boom in car ownership relevance for every country. But where
and frequent flying is still traceable to there are trade-offs or priorities Any robust exploration of people’s
the most affluent in society, not the around investment opportunities, the behaviour reveals that our relationship
poorest. Recent research by the Civil challenge is to recognise the moral to material things is deeply entwined
Aviation Authority found that the claim of those in poverty, in with social and psychological goals.
poorest quarter of society took only comparison with the economic sway Finding ways to meet these underlying
ten per cent of the flights last year. By of people that are better-off. goals in ways that involve less material
contrast, more than half the consumption offers a relatively
passengers on budget airlines came unexplored avenue towards
Social aspirations
from the richest quarter(112). sustainable consumption(114). Research
Our work with the Consumer forum shows that social and psychological
In a culture increasingly geared to
highlighted the importance people goals are ill-served by materialism
getting around by car, to the value of
place on family, security and the anyway(115). Creating opportunities to
consumer goods and the dictates of
future well-being of their fulfil our potential in less material
fashion, there may be social shame for
communities. It even revealed a ways is a key task for sustainable
many in not being able to fit in.
spontaneous concern about the consumption policy.
‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ becomes
impact of modern lifestyles on the
a powerful and uncomfortable driver At the very least, the Consumer
environment. But there was also clear
of material consumption. The most forum showed that material
evidence of some familiar material
enthusiastic young consumers aged aspirations appear to be tempered by
aspirations: nice homes, fast cars and
between 11 and 18, are those from the real concerns about family, security
holidays in the sun.
poorest households, who can afford and the future. Understanding how
the least(113). These aspirations are often taken as a people approach this tension is
given in modern society. The crucial. Engaging with people to
The dynamics of more or less
expansion of consumer desire is seen negotiate more sustainable lifestyles
inequality also play out as a significant
as an inevitable consequence of rising offers a vital opportunity to do this.
factor at the global level, both within
incomes and increased choice. Rising
and between countries. Poverty can be
aspirations for material goods (both in
associated with environmental Mass communications and
this country and in developing
degradation, so development may sustainability
countries) pose a massive challenge to
help. Alternatively, in some of the
sustainable consumption. Mass communications – advertising,
poorest regions of the world, climate
marketing and the media – are
change is undermining attempts to Yet these material aspirations do not
powerful forces in modern society,
chart a way out of poverty. Perhaps emerge out of nowhere. In the first
shaping our aspirations, lifestyles,
there is much to be learned from place, it is clear that our personal
identities, relationships and, of course,
poorer groups and societies that have aspirations are influenced by cultural
our consumption patterns(116). In
placed a cultural premium on norms and expectations.
themselves, it is claimed, these forms
strategies of self-reliance and We constantly receive signals about
of communication are neither good
efficiency in the use of resources. Yet, appropriate or desirable behaviour
nor bad. But their impact on
in China and India, the growth of the from those around us, from
sustainability depends critically on
urban middle classes, with aspirations advertisers, from the media, from
how they are used and whose interests
to eat, travel and drive as active performance indicators, some of

they promote. There has been a surge Federation of Advertisers on
of academic interest over the last two ‘responsible advertising’ are to be
decades in how mass communication welcomed(122). But most of these focus
has shaped society. Ironically, little of exclusively on advertising to children;
this has looked explicitly at the and even in this critical area there is
impact of advertising and the media evidence that voluntary initatives are
on sustainability(117). not working(123). The impact of
marketing and the media on a wider
Not all of this impact is negative. For
range of sustainability issues over a
example, a recent surge of interest in
broader range of the population
TV documentaries and docu-soaps on
remains virtually unexplored and
environmental issues has certainly
almost completely unregulated.
raised awareness in the general
An urgent policy initiative is needed
public(118). And the creative potential
to address this.
of the advertising industry to be a
force for sustainability is significant.
Some useful recent work has been Opening out policy
done by UNEP and others on how
We have discussed these problem
advertising, branding and marketing
areas as distinct issues. But they are, of
communications can be used to sell
course, related. A growing economy
both more sustainable products and
requires thriving businesses. Thriving
the concept of sustainable
businesses encourage rising
consumption in broader terms(119).
aspirations. Rising aspirations lead to a
At the same time, the mass higher demand for economic goods.
communication media do pose some And so the consumer economy drives
major risks for sustainable itself. On a narrow view, this ‘virtuous
consumption. Advertising is an circle’ seems profitable for all
enduring reality in people’s lives. concerned and far superior to the
The advertising industry in the UK is vicious cycle of economic depression.
now worth over £18.3bn(120). But it is not sustainable.
Marketing introduces people
We need ways to deepen learning and
continually to new and different
reflection on these problem areas and
products – and to an expanding range
to build the mandate for new action
of product choice. But some of these
to address the full spectrum of
products are not sustainable at all.
sustainable consumption.
And while the effect of any particular
advert on an individual may be
relatively small, the cumulative impact
of advertising in shaping social and
cultural expectations is known to be
very significant(121).
Advertising standards currently do
little to ensure that advertising is
consistent with the government’s own
environmental or social targets.
Voluntary initiatives in the advertising
industry – such as those of the World

Recommendations on long-term challenges

Defra should commit to an ongoing programme of deliberative fora (and other events) with the public, at a

1. national and regional level, to inform policy planning. They should build on the existing commitment to a
Deliberative Forum in 2006, by working to secure partnership from broadcasters, and thereby get more people
engaged with what they can do to meet the carbon reduction targets that have already been agreed Ó 20 per cent
by 2010 and 60 per cent by 2050.

HM Treasury should develop a working economic model by 2008 that can track the links between national income,
consumption growth, and resources.

As a precondition of this, Defra, the DTI, HM Treasury and the Environment Agency should (by 2007) co-fund a
partnership programme with the Office for National Statistics to establish a comprehensive resource flow accounts
framework for the UK, building on the work of WWF, Biffaward and others, with the aim of developing robust
periodic accounts for priority resources and impacts by the end of 2008.

The new Sustainable Consumption and Production Business Task Force should define new sustainable business

4. models in different sectors, based on high service provision and low material output, and engage with government
to develop supportive policy frameworks, in close connection with the work on ‘product roadmaps’.

The government's Foresight programme should, as part of its next round of research, conduct a thorough review of
the future impact of the cultural signals received by children, parents, consumers and citizens encouraging high
material consumption. People are routinely exposed to such images and ideas through, for example, the media
and advertising. The review should focus on the impacts relating to the sustainability of UK consumption patterns,
with particular attention to ecological limits and personal well-being.

The Sustainable Development Commission and the National Consumer Council will work closely together to champion and
take forward all the recommendations in this report, through their own business plans and workstreams, and through active
dialogue with government departments.


The long-term goal of sustainable We do not claim to have found all the
consumption must surely be: societal answers. The best way of learning,
aspirations that are fair for everyone; after all, is by doing.
business models which add human
It is now time for the government to
value without taking away
get the policies in place to support
environmental value; an economy
and reward people working to make
which is stable and yet sustainable.
sustainable consumption a reality in
This is the vision set out in the
schools, hospitals, businesses and
government’s sustainable development
their own homes. The crucial missing
strategy, Securing the Future. This is the
pieces of the puzzle will be supplied
defining challenge of our century:
by them.
how to fulfil our true potential and yet
live within our means.
We believe government can be bolder
about using the mandate it has to use
public policy to influence market
solutions. We set this out as a
framework for policy on sustainable
consumption, with illustrations for
action. We do see win-win outcomes
from short-run action in a number of
fields. In turn, these can also
contribute to building a mandate for
longer-term solutions on complex
issues. These include deeper
challenges, such as our aspirations
when it comes to foreign travel and
the car culture, which at present
would simply appear intractable.

Appendix one: glossary

Choice editing: Pre-selecting the particular range of products and services available to
consumers. Choice-editing is seen by consumers as increasingly desirable as they
look to others to organise the choices that they face. Choice-editing is done by
manufacturers and service-providers when they decide which products and
services to offer, and to what specification; by retailers when they decide what to
put on their shelves; and by governments in the product standards which they
set. Choice-editing happens every day according to a wide range of criteria,
though currently sustainability is not a significant factor.

Social marketing: A systematic process using marketing techniques and approaches to achieve
behavioural goals for social good.

Product roadmaps: A policy approach for addressing high-impact products, in which government
sets out a long-term series of environmental performance objectives for a
particular product type. They are usually backed by a timetabled programme of
supportive interventions, including forward procurement calls, fiscal incentives
and rising minimum product standards. Product roadmaps respond to
businesses’ need for confidence in the future regulatory environment, while
driving continuous reductions in the environmental impacts of key products.

Triangle of change: The relationship between people as individuals and communities, businesses, and
government, indicating their shared responsibilities in taking action for
sustainable consumption. The groups at each corner lead at different times by
doing what they can do best. Co-ordinated actions can lead to profound change.

Three-planet economy: A term used to describe the fact that if everyone in the world consumed at the
same rate as the average person in the UK we would need three planet Earths to
provide the resources and absorb the waste. This assessment comes from ecological
footprinting studies and is contrasted to the goal of a ‘one-planet economy’.

Value-action gap: The observed disparity between people’s reported concerns about key
environmental, social, economic or ethical concerns and the lifestyle or
purchasing decisions that they make in practice.

Microgeneration: The production of heat and/or electricity on a small-scale from a low carbon
source. Various technologies can be used for microgeneration – air source heat
pumps, ground source heat pumps, fuel cells, micro-CHP, micro-hydro, micro-
wind, bio-energy and solar (thermal and PV(photovoltaic)).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) A company’s approach to being accountable to its stakeholders in all its
operations and activities, with the aim of achieving sustainable development, not
only in the economic dimension but also in the social and environmental aspects.

Appendix two: consumer forum methodology

The Sustainable Consumption Consumers then looked at specific Holidays

Roundtable commissioned Opinion areas of consumption – food and
> Making flights cost more through
Leader Research to conduct a major drink, getting away, getting around, at
added tax.
deliberative event looking at home, carbon use – and interventions
sustainable consumption. The aims of in those areas. We ensured that the > Carbon offsetting on flights.
the forum were: various breakout groups looked at
interventions in an area in which they
> to explore views and attitudes Carbon use
had explored their aspirations the
towards potential interventions;
night before. The interventions > Carbon credits – each person is
> to understand current consumer explored were: given a certain amount of carbon
aspirations; and credits to spend.
> to provide insights that can shape At home > Energy Services Companies –
and influence future policy-making. where people can pay back energy
> Banding council tax – linking
The event took the form of a energy efficiency with council tax. efficiency investments through
Consumer forum with 105 people their bills.
> Variable waste charging – where
recruited from the Manchester area.
consumers ‘pay as they throw’.
People were recruited to reflect the
demographics of the area. The event > Recycling lottery – where recycling
was conducted in Manchester on the is linked to a lottery scheme.
6th and 7th October 2005. The
Forum lasted over 1½ days and
Food and drink
involved a mixture of plenary and
smaller breakout sessions. > MSC logo - an environmental
standard which fisheries can apply
During the first evening, we explored
for to show that their methods are
consumers’ aspirations. No reference
was made to the environment and
sustainable consumption by the > School dinners reform –
Opinion Leader team. The event was introducing a more sustainable diet
positioned to participants as a forum in schools.
on future consumer trends. Different
break-out groups looked at specific Getting around
areas of consumption and life – food
and drink, getting away, getting > Car labelling – cars are rated
around, their homes, and their according to emissions, and tax is
families and community. weighted accordingly.

At the start of the second day, > Road user charging – drivers
Andrew Lee from the Roundtable are charged on a ‘pay as you drive’
presented the evidence on climate basis.
change and three-planet living. > Car clubs – consumers use a pool
This introduced the topic of the of cars, rather than owning their
day, and ensured that participants own car.
were brought ‘up-to-speed’ on the
key issues.

Appendix three: business dialogue methodology

The Sustainable Consumption The Dialogue looked at four

Roundtable commissioned the questions:
University of Cambridge Programme
1. What might drive changes in
for Industry to conduct a day-long
consumption patterns in the UK
‘Business Dialogue’ event in London.
over the next ten years?
This drew together more than 30
senior business managers for debate 2. What discourages or prevents
and discussion on the way forward people from consuming more
for sustainable products. sustainably?
Individuals were invited to participate 3. What actions can business take to
in the Dialogue from a range of UK deliver goods and services that
businesses that had some experience encourage and enable people to
in addressing the issues of sustainable consume more sustainably?
consumption. Participation from a 4. What can government do to
wide spread of sectors was achieved, encourage and enable more
including representatives from retail, sustainable consumption?
manufacturers of consumer goods,
utilities, business-to-business service, Each of the four questions was
business-to-business manufacturing, discussed in turn although, in
and SMEs (small to medium-sized practice, discussion of Questions 3
enterprises). and 4 tended to overlap. Question 1
was considered in plenary; the others
A significant number of participants were discussed in break-out groups
in the Dialogue had specific with reports back from
responsibility for sustainability issues representatives of each group.
in their companies, but over half had
wider strategic responsibilities Participants were also asked to
including CEOs, directors (business, review a sustainable consumption
strategy, environment), chairs, business case narrative presented by
marketing executives, and risk and the Roundtable.
communications managers.

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‘wider sustainability issues…do energy use.
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over what is important compound of electricity. The average
64. Presenting a template to the household uses 4000 kilowatt-
the difficulties that people face in board of FTSE 100 companies is
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may be relevant to think about up to 6000 kilowatt-hours, but
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65. See consumption.
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69. Sustainable Consumption
58. Ekins, P et al, 2006, A Green Living Roundtable, (2005), Seeing the Light:
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environmental goals, PSI. we use energy. 77.

78. Roberts, S. & Baker, W. (2003) drive best management practices vehicle sales will be cars emitting
Towards Effective Energy Information: for basic commodities like sugar, 100gCO2/ vehicle km or lower by
Improving consumer feedback on energy soy or palm oil, and making 2012) and the EU wide voluntary
consumption. A report to Ofgem fundamental changes to the ways agreement (that by 2008 average
Centre for Sustainable Energy, in which the CAP and the WTO carbon emissions for new vehicles bear upon them. However, there is will be 140g carbon dioxide per
also much that can be done within vehicle km) will be met. SDC,
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Preferences For Improving Energy remit, that we have chosen to Review Position Paper.
Consumption Feedback. Report to focus our attention.
Ofgem Centre for Sustainable 97. This generic approach has been
Energy 88. IGD (2005) Connecting recommended by the
Consumers with Farming and Environmental Innovation
80. DTI, March 2006, Our energy Farm Produce IGD, findings from Advisory Group.
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HM Treasury. action for behaviour change in
91. Garden Organic, support of sustainable
84. See also CSE report to Ofgem, consumption has been suggested
2004, Consumer Preferences for 92. The Public Sector Food within the academic literature for
Improving Energy Consumption Procurement Initiative Catering some time. E.g. Jackson and
Feedback Services and Food Procurement Michaelis argue that ‘there does
85. Ekins, P et al, 2006, A Green Living Toolkit gives a useful foundation seem to be more potential for a
Initiative: engaging households to achieve for this work. shift in consumption patterns if
environmental goals, PSI people are engaged in a
93. community dialogue than if they
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Policies for Sustainable Consumption. A
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report to the Sustainable
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Behavioural Change for a Sustainable 103. ChangeLAB: SDC/UKERC seminar, April
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Gerald T. and Paul C. Stern, 1996. ‘service sector’ industries which;
Environmental Problems and Human still have significant energy and
Behavior, Allyn and Bacon, Boston. material footprints.
This assessment draws heavily on 104. Communities of interest - and action?
112. Passengers using Stansted, the
a social psychological SCRT briefing, 2006
main budget airline airport
understanding of consumer 105. which is due to gain a new
behaviour. For an overview of runway by 2013, had an average
these social psychological theories, 106. Uzzell et al, 2005, Increasing income of £51,000 in 2004. One
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be available shortly from the 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity
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between the Modern and the Post-
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Thompson, J 1995. The Media
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(2002) Thinking Locally, Acting British Gas demonstrated a 27
media (Cambridge: Polity Press)
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from Work on Local Sustainability. going to landfill and a 16.2 per 117. Notable exceptions are
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Unwin) and the work of
certain social, economic and 108. See for example: Frank, R 1999.
Adbusters – a Canadian NGO
ideological trends which have Luxury Fever (Princeton);
dedicated to exposing bad
made an the development of an Hamilton, C 2004. Growth Fetish
practices in advertising
ethic of local community- (Allen and Unwin); and
management of natural Hamilton C 2003. Downshifting in 118. For example, BBC2's No Waste
resources more challenging. See Britain - a sea change in pursuit of Like Home and their Newsnight
Jackson, T. and Michaelis, L happiness (Australia Institute). ‘ethical man’ project, as well as
(2003) Policies for Sustainable ‘green living’ editions of lifestyle
109. See note 1.
Consumption. A report to the programmes such as Channel 4's
Sustainable Development 110. Unlocking energy services: Grand Designs and BBC1's
Commission. main findings of a joint Changing Rooms.

119. See for example: Compass 122. See for example:
Network for Sustainable Development www.responsible-
Utopies, The United Nations 123. See, for example, Mayo, E.
Environment Programme (2005) Shopping Generation, NCC;
(UNEP) and the United Nations Wilson, N, L Singal, S Nicholls
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UNEP; Preventive Medicine 42, 96-101.
Charter, M. et al (2002) Marketing
and Sustainability BRASS and
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‘The Roundtable's work has clearly demonstrated that citizens can engage
positively, constructively and creatively in the debate on how we tackle the big
environmental challenges of our time.’
Viki Cooke, Joint Chief Executive, Opinion Leader Research

‘This report highlights that consumers are increasingly looking to government and
business to help them live more sustainable lives and make better choices about
the products and services they buy. The job for the business community then is to
satisfy this consumer need and to provide clear and practical guidance to
government on the steps required.’
Neil Carson, CEO, Johnson Matthey & Chair of the Business Taskforce on
Sustainable Consumption and Production

‘The Roundtable has rightly identified that reconnecting people with the origins
of the food they eat can repay powerful “double dividends” for public health and
the environment. I will if you will makes a significant contribution to a critical
public debate.’
Sir Don Curry, Chair, Sustainable Farming and Food Implementation Group

‘It is hard to go it alone as a green consumer. The Roundtable has set out
practical steps that government can take to make sustainable consumption a
reality in people’s daily lives and reassure them that their actions are part of
something bigger.’
Robert Napier, Chief Executive, WWF-UK