Table of Contents

Handbook of Sustainable Development

Handbook of Sustainable Development

Second Edition

Edited by Giles Atkinson, Simon Dietz, Eric Neumayer and Matthew Agarwala

This timely and important Handbook takes stock of progress made in our understanding of what sustainable development actually is and how it can be measured and achieved.

Chapter 18: Sustainable consumption

Tim Jackson

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental geography, valuation


There is an emerging recognition of the importance of consumption within international debates about sustainable development. The actions people take and the choices they make – to consume certain products and services rather than others or to live in certain ways rather than in others – all have direct and indirect impacts on the environment, on social equity and on personal (and collective) well-being (Jackson, 2009; UNEP, 2011). Quite recently and somewhat hesitantly, therefore, policy-makers have begun to engage with the question of whether and how it may be possible to intervene in consumption patterns and to influence people’s behaviours and lifestyles in pursuit of sustainable development. During the first decade of the millennium, the UK took a (perhaps surprising) lead in this area. In 2003, in the wake of the Johannesburg Summit, the UK Government was amongst the first to launch a national strategy on sustainable consumption and production. This strategy initiated a continuing and wide-ranging process of consultation, evidence review and policy formation that has already had a significant impact and offers the potential for some quite radical policy innovations in the next few years. Amongst the activities fostered under this umbrella were the UK Round Table on Sustainable Consumption, a new ‘evidence base’ on sustainable consumption and production, a set of public engagement forums on sustainable living, and a sustainable consumption action plan launched in 2006 (DTI, 2003a, p. 32; DEFRA, 2005a).

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