The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) invites research groups, jointly with other stakeholders, to submit proposals for a new research programme on scope for reducing the environmental impact of consumption. The research is intended to foster efficient use of resources and low emissions, and contribute to solutions rather than describing the consequences of current consumption. The new programme is expected to have a coordinating role in research on sustainable consumption and, in the long term, to develop into the leading knowledge hub in a network of influential stakeholders, both in the academic community and elsewhere, in the subject area concerned.

Consumption of goods and services, driving growth, is a key foundation of modern society. At the same time, many of the environmental problems facing the world are connected with our production and consumption patterns. These problems include adverse impacts on the climate, unsustainable resource use, depletion of ecosystems, reduced biodiversity and environmentally polluting emissions. The goods and services we consume affect the environment, and also our health, throughout their life cycle, from production to distribution, use and recycling or destruction. Environmental impact depends both on how much we consume overall and on how what we consume affects the environment. Our behaviour and attitudes, too, play an important role. How do consumers choose — or refrain from choosing — to integrate environmental awareness into their decisions, and what is the role of norms, attitudes and values? There is a great deal of support for the view that we must develop present-day consumption patterns in a more sustainable direction.

Traditionally, control of our consumption has been exerted by means of financial instruments in the form of taxes and subsidies, through regulations in the form of laws and ordinances, and with information measures such as environmental labelling. We need to understand how various control instruments interact with one another and can best be combined to bring about sustainable consumption.

In December 2015 the world’s nations agreed on a new universal, legally binding climate deal: the Paris Agreement. The Agreement recognises that ‘sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production… play an important role in addressing climate change.’ In September of the same year, the world’s leaders had undertaken to pursue 17 global Sustainable Development Goals, one of which is to ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. Such patterns are seen as preconditions for a transition to a more sustainable economy.

In spring 2016, Mistra appointed an international panel of experts tasked with drawing up a background report ahead of a decision on a call for proposals concerning sustainable consumption. The panel’s remit included recommending the focus of a new research programme on the subject. This call is based on the expert panel’s conclusions and proposal in their report Sustainable Consumption: Research Challenges (Appendix 1).

On the basis of the expert panel’s recommendations, Mistra has selected four areas that may be included in a research programme. Mistra requires at least two of these to be clearly covered by programme proposals submitted:

  • Sustainable consumption, well-being and the Good Life
  • Sustainability in supply chains
  • Alternative systems of provisioning for sustainable consumption
  • Policies fostering sustainable consumption.

The research must focus on formulating solutions rather than describing consequences of current consumption. It must have the potential to be transformative; have a system perspective; take into account sustainability, including health aspects and emissions with an environmental impact, throughout the supply chain; and be interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary in nature. It is extremely important to actively involve recipients of the research results right from the planning stage, and on throughout the whole research progress, and to forge ties with stakeholders with ownership of the problems concerned, such as government agencies, consumer organisations, NGOs and companies that can, and wish to, make a difference. The programme must also help to build networks and achieve coordination of Swedish research in sustainable consumption.

A changed consumption pattern is part of the solution to reduce climate change. Mistra therefore expects dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration between this programme and other Mistra programmes that focus, entirely or partly, on the climate.

Find out more.

Ovanstående text på svenska.