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December 24, 2008

Report Warns of Unsustainable Consumption
    by Robert Kropp

WBCSD report finds consumers willing to embrace sustainable lifestyle, but need access to products and services to do so. -- Asserting that "current global consumption patterns are unsustainable," and that "efficiency gains and technological advances alone will not be sufficient to bring global consumption to a sustainable level," a recent report issued by the Business Role Focus Area of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) calls on business to work in partnership with its customers and stakeholders to define sustainable products and sustainable lifestyles.

The report, entitled "Sus tainable Consumption Facts and Trends: From a Business Perspective", observes that global consumption levels are increasing due to such factors as rapid population growth, a rise in global affluence, and a culture of consumerism among higher-income groups.

As a result of global consumption patterns, 60% of the Earth’s ecosystem services have been degraded or used unsustainably in the past 50 years, and consumption of natural resources has increased to 125% of global carrying capacity and could rise to 170% by 2040. Despite such patterns, studies suggest that human health and social systems are not dependent upon high consumption levels.

The WBCSD report finds that consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental, social and economic issues, but because of a variety of factors such concerns do not always translate into sustainable consumer behavior.

The WBCSD calls on business to encourage sustainable consumption by developing products and services that maximize social value and minimizing environmental cost, by marketing campaigns that enable consumers to choose and use products more sustainably, and by removing unsustainable products and services from the marketplace.

The report concludes that consumers need the support of business and government in order to "lead sustainable lifestyles based on informed purchasing decisions and changes in behavior." By acting on their capacity to mainstream sustainable consumption, leading global companies can provide the products and support that consumers need. By effective regulatory action, government can ensure that consumers receive the most sustainable products and services available.

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