The sustainable consumption of products is seen as such an important issue that it's one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals
When it comes to tackling climate, many experts believe that the consumption of products needs to become more sustainable.
It’s seen as so critical that “ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns” is one of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
This is because, according to the organisation, should the global population reach the expected 9.6 billion 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets could be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles.
Speaking at a conference at the World Economic Forum’s Davos summit towards the end of January, the World Economic Forum’s head of consumer industries Zara Ingilizian added: “We also know that consumers, especially younger consumers, are becoming more aware of the issues associated with the health of our planet.
“Increasingly they are seeking products that are produced and consumed sustainably – the key question is, how do we meet consumer demand and transition the consumer value chain to a state that is more responsible?”
Businesses need to accelerate the transformation to more sustainable production, says Nature Conservancy CEO
Covid-19 has changed the way people consume products and has resulted in an increase in online shopping, a shift towards buying essentials, and a larger emphasis on sustainable consumption.
Post-pandemic, the UN believes countries have an opportunity to build recovery plans that will “reverse current trends and change consumption and production patterns” towards a more sustainable future.
Speaking at Davos, charity the Nature Conservancy CEO Jennifer Morris believes Covid needs to “really accelerate the transformation to more sustainable production and consumption”.
She added: “This is because, for the first time in our generation, we’re recognising the connection between human and planetary health in profound ways.
“And I’m excited to talk about the ways companies, governments and consumers can lead on this very important topic of sustainable consumption.
“As society rebuilds, there is a real sense of renewed opportunities for companies and governments to put investments and consumption through a carbon-neutral biodiversity lens – and at the Nature Conservancy, that’s what we’re focused on.
“We’re focused on ensuring healthy oceans, fresh water and lands tackle the climate emergency and that we protect the most important lands, ocean systems, and fresh water on which all life depends – and responsible production and consumption is critical to this work.
“Food systems, in particular, are critical for this – we’re using so much of our planet that we’re not going to have anything left for our children.
“So right now we’re seeing a real convergence of agriculture and environment for the first time not being seen as a zero-sum game, but being able to connect the two in profound ways.
“We know now that it doesn’t have to be that we produce food that depletes the planet, and it’s possible to shift our food system in an effort to restore nature instead of depleting it.
“And it’s not just environmental NGOs saying this, consumers and companies are saying this as well.
“The majority of respondents to a survey of consumers and consumer goods companies conducted by Edelman said it’s not just about doing no harm, businesses and consumers want to see sustainability work that does good for the planet.”
Businesses will need to ‘constructively disrupt’ almost everything they do, says Procter and Gamble chairman
In order to do this, some business models will need to move away from a linear economy, which at present is predominantly used.
The linear economy means that raw materials are used to make a product and after use, any waste left is thrown away.
In order to move away from such a business model, Procter and Gamble’s chairman David Taylor believes companies need to “constructively disrupt” almost everything they do.
Speaking at the Davos summit, he added: “And those words are important because disruption can destroy – what we need is a way to constructively create a new reality.
“This is because we have to change the way we consume many of the products that we and other companies make.
“There’s lots of disruption, and it’s accelerating, but in the sustainability field we have to look at how to constructively disrupt everything we do.”
At Procter and Gamble, this work started at the operations level, with it making a commitment to advance a portfolio of natural climate solutions, generating carbon benefits equal to the cumulative emissions by 2030.
Taylor explained: “This will effectively make our manufacturing operations carbon neutral for the decade and deliver an estimated carbon benefit of 30 million tonnes.
“But it’s more than that, we have to work with those who advance a number of projects that protect, improve and restore critical landscapes around the world like the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund.
“We know we have to do more than that, we have to make products in a way that consumes less energy and water, and we can do that through our scientific capability to change the way we formulate our products.
“It even goes to how consumers consume the products – even if we change our supply chain or manufacturing operations, that’s not enough we have to help work with consumers that ultimately use our products to consume them in a way that has a lower impact.”