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Sustainable consumption for policymakers: measuring, learning and acting
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering. Stockholm Environment Institute.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Current patterns and levels of consumption are a key driver of unsustainable resource use and pollution, which contributes to global environmental degradation. Rapid reductions in environmental pressures are required to avoid irreversible loss of fragile ecosystems and social and economic crises. Consumption must become sustainable. Governments have an essential role to play in delivering this. The aim of this thesis is to examine three aspects of the policymaking process on sustainable consumption – measuring, learning and acting – and the links between them. Each aspect has a linked objective.

  1. Measuring: Assess existing and novel techniques for calculating the environmental pressures of consumption that enable government to measure and monitor a country’s progress towards sustainable consumption
  2. Learning: Determine whether – and, if so, how – consumption-based indicators might better support policymaker learning on sustainable consumption
  3. Acting: Identify ways in which governments can enhance their actions to support sustainable consumption

The research is presented in six papers and organised in three parts: one for each objective. Parts 1 and 2 investigate current and future opportunities for policymakers to measure the environmental pressures linked to their country’s consumption, what these mean for achieving sustainable consumption and whether consumption-based indicators support learning about sustainable consumption. These parts are based on the Swedish experience of sustainable consumption. Part 3 examines various sustainable consumption interventions and what these could mean for government action in the future. This part draws on examples from several countries. Qualitative and quantitative methods are used to answer these questions. These comprise systematic review and mapping, macro-environment economic modelling and analysis, interviews, workshops and focus groups.

The results provide a number of insights. First, novel consumption-based measurements for Sweden highlight the scale of the challenge involved in achieving sustainable consumption and the importance of increasing the policy applicability of indicators. Second, while indicators provide some learning for policymakers, their contribution to changing existing practices and navigating political or institutional barriers is limited. The learning potential of indicators is constrained by institutional environments. Instead, learning must be structured and enabled by institutions. Third, with regard to the actions studied, increased government involvement appears a necessary and, to some actors, desirable option. Nonetheless, a number of barriers to and enabling factors for policy action to promote sustainable consumption must be considered. In terms of the connections between the three elements of measuring, learning and acting, what might first appear to be a linear relationship is in reality far more complex. Measurement does not necessarily lead to learning – and learning is not always followed by action. Policymakers act without the level of knowledge they would like while indicators remain unused and, in some cases, are even rejected. Learning comes from practitioners’ involvement in action, as well as research into the actions themselves, the problem and solutions. Understanding government efforts on measuring, learning and action to promote sustainable consumption offers insights into how these multiple factors might contribute, separately and together, to more sustainable consumption.

Abstract [sv]

Nuvarande konsumtionsmönster och konsumtionsnivåer är huvudsakliga drivkrafter bakom ohållbar användning av naturresurser och förorening vilka bidrar till global miljöförstöring. En snabb minskning av negativ miljöpåverkan är nödvändig för att undvika en irreversibel förlust av känsliga ekosystem och socio-ekonomisk kris. Konsumtionen måste därför bli mer hållbar och myndigheter har en viktig roll att spela för att uppnå detta mål. Syftet med denna avhandling är att undersöka tre aspekter av beslutsfattandeprocesser kring hållbar konsumtion – mätning av miljöpåverkan, lärande och åtgärder – samt kopplingarna mellan dessa. Varje aspekt är kopplad till ett mål;

  1. Mätning av miljöpåverkan: Utvärdering av existerande och nya metoder för beräkning av miljöpåverkan kopplad till konsumtion som möjliggör för myndigheter att mäta och följa upp en nations åtgärder för att uppnå hållbar konsumtion
  2. Lärande: Fastställande av ifall och på vilket sätt konsumtionsbaserade indikatorer kan vara ett bättre stöd för beslutsfattare i lärandeprocessen kring hållbar konsumtion
  3. Åtgärder: Identifiering av på vilka sätt myndigheter kan förstärka och förbättra sina åtgärder för att stödja en mer hållbar konsumtion

Forskningen presenteras i sex artiklar och är uppdelad i tre delar, en för varje mål. Del 1 och 2 undersöker nuvarande och framtida möjligheter för beslutsfattare att mäta miljöpåverkan kopplad till nationell konsumtion, vad dessa möjligheter innebär för att uppnå målet om hållbar konsumtion samt ifall användning av konsumtionsbaserade indikatorer stödjer lärande kring hållbar konsumtion. De två första delarna är baserade på svensk erfarenhet av arbete kring hållbar konsumtion. Den tredje delen undersöker en rad interventioner framtagna för att uppnå hållbar konsumtion, och vad dessa kan innebära för myndigheters agerande i framtiden. Denna del bygger på exempel från ett flertal länder. Kvalitativa och kvantitativa metoder används för att besvara frågeställningarna. Dessa omfattar bland annat systematisk granskning, sammanställning och kartläggning av existerande forskning, miljö-ekonomisk modellering och analys, intervjuer, workshops och konsultationer i fokusgrupper.

Resultaten i denna avhandling bidrar med ett flertal insikter. Först, belyser nya fotavtrycksberäkningar för Sverige omfattningen av utmaningen att uppnå hållbar konsumtion samt vikten av att öka indikatorers tillämpbarhet för beslutsfattandeprocesser. För det andra visar resultaten att även om indikatorer kan bidra med ett visst lärande för beslutsfattare är deras bidrag till att förändra nuvarande tillvägagångssätt och navigera politiska och institutionella hinder begränsad. Potentialen för att de skall bidra till ett ökat lärande kring hållbar konsumtion är dessutom begränsad av den institutionella omgivningen. Kunskapsuppbyggnad och lärande måste istället struktureras och möjliggöras genom institutioner. Slutligen belyser forskningen att en ökad inblandning av myndigheter verkar vara en nödvändig, och av vissa aktörer en önskvärd lösning. Med detta sagt finns det ett antal barriärer och möjliggörande faktorer som måste övervägas vid beslutsfattande för att lyckas främja hållbar konsumtion.

När det gäller sambanden mellan de tre elementen som studerats i denna avhandling; mätning av miljöpåverkan, lärande och åtgärder, är det som först kan tyckas vara linjära relationer mer komplexa. Mätning av miljöpåverkan leder inte nödvändigtvis till lärandeivoch en lärandeprocess följs inte alltid av åtgärder. Beslutsfattare agerar utan den kunskapsnivå de egentligen eftersträvar och indikatorer förblir oanvända och i vissa fall till och med avfärdade. Kunskap och lärande byggs upp genom att utövare tvingas till handling, och att själva agerandet, problemet och lösningarna i sin tur studeras. En ökad förståelse av myndigheters insatser för mätning av miljöpåverkan, lärande och agerande för att främja hållbar konsumtion erbjuder insikter i hur dessa tre faktorer kan bidra, både separat och tillsammans, till en mer hållbar konsumtion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2019. , p. 67
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 1926
Keywords [en]
Sustainable consumption, environmental pressures, consumption-based indicators, footprint, policymaker, measuring, learning, action, Sweden
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263838ISBN: 978-91-7873-362-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-263838DiVA, id: diva2:1370468
Public defence
2019-12-06, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20191115

Available from: 2019-11-15 Created: 2019-11-15 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The Swedish footprint: A multi-model comparison
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Swedish footprint: A multi-model comparison
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2019 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 209, p. 1578-1592Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden has a large per capita carbon footprint, particularly compared to the levels recommended for maintaining a stable climate. Much of that footprint falls outside Sweden's territory; emissions occurring abroad are "embodied" in imported goods consumed in Sweden. In this study we calculate the total amount and geographical hotspots of the Swedish footprint produced by different multi-regional input-output (MRIO) models, and compare these results in order to gain a picture of the present state of knowledge of the Swedish global footprint. We also look for insights for future model development that can be gained from such comparisons. We first compare a time series of the Swedish carbon footprint calculated by the Swedish national statistics agency, Statistics Sweden, using a single-region model, with data from the EXIOBASE, GTAP, OECD, Eora, and WIOD MRIO databases. We then examine the MRIO results to investigate the geographical distribution of four types of Swedish footprint: carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and materials use. We identify the hotspot countries and regions where environmental pressures linked to Swedish consumption are highest. We also consider why the results may differ between calculation methods and types of environmental pressure. As might be expected, given the complexity and modelling assumptions, the MRIO models and Statistics Sweden data provide different (but similar) results for each footprint. The MRIO models have different strengths that can be used to improve the national calculations. However, constructing and maintaining a new MRIO model would be very demanding for one country. It is also clear that for a single country's calculation, there will be better and more precise data available nationally that would not have priority in the construction of an MRIO model. Thus, combining existing MRIO data with national economic and environmental data seems to be a promising method for integrated footprint analysis. Our findings are relevant not just for Sweden but for other countries seeking to improve national consumption-based accounts. Based on our analysis we offer recommendations to guide future research and policy making to this end.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2019
Keywords
Footprint, Multi-regional input-output databases, Environmental pressures, Model comparison, Consumption-based accounting, Hotspots
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-244096 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.11.023 (DOI)000457351900129 ()2-s2.0-85059297912 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20190219

Available from: 2019-02-19 Created: 2019-02-19 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved
2. Environmental pressures from Swedish consumption – A hybrid multi-regional input-output approach
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental pressures from Swedish consumption – A hybrid multi-regional input-output approach
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2019 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 228, p. 634-644Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden has a policy goal of solving major environmental problems in Sweden within a generation, without increasing environmental or health problems in other countries. Following up this goal requires indicators for domestic and external footprints of Swedish consumption. This paper presents such macro-level indicators for the years 2008–2014.

The new indicators are consistent with Swedish statistics from the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts. They combine a multi-regional input-output (MRIO) database, to capture the external components of Sweden's consumption, with national input-output, trade and environmental statistics. The hybrid MRIO-Sweden model provides a comprehensive environmental account for follow-up of the Generational Goal.

This paper presents impacts from household consumption, government consumption and capital formation, covering emissions of greenhouse gases, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter smaller than 2.5 μm (PM2.5), land use, materials consumption, and blue water consumption.

Except for land use, the majority (60% or more) of the environmental pressures due to consumption occurred outside Sweden in 2014; more than 90% of sulphur emissions and more than 80% of the water use fell abroad. The environmental pressures from consumption decreased over this period for all indicators (except materials consumption). This suggests an absolute decoupling between environmental pressure due to consumption and economic growth, which rose over the period. It is, however, too early to determine whether this is a genuine trend or a temporary stabilisation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019
Keywords
Consumption, Environment, Generational goal, Trade, Multi-regional input-output, Decoupling
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263837 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.04.181 (DOI)
Note

QC 20191122

Available from: 2019-11-15 Created: 2019-11-15 Last updated: 2019-11-22Bibliographically approved
3. Environmental pressure from Swedish consumption - The largest contributing producer countries, products and services
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental pressure from Swedish consumption - The largest contributing producer countries, products and services
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2019 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 231, p. 698-713Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In order to produce goods and services that are consumed in Sweden, natural resources are extracted and pollutants are emitted in many other countries. This paper presents an analysis of the goods and services consumed in Sweden that cause the largest environmental pressures in terms of resource use and emissions, identifying in which countries or regions these pressures occur. The results have been calculated using a hybrid model developed in the PRINCE project combining the multi-regional input-output database EXIOBASE with data from the Swedish economic and environmental accounts. The following environmental pressures are analysed: Use of Land, Water and Material resources, Emissions of Greenhouse gases (GHG), Sulphur dioxides (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), and Particulate Matters (PM 2.5 and 10). The product groups are those goods and services bought for private or public consumption and capital investments, as listed in the Swedish economic accounts. The results show that Sweden is a net importer of all embodied environmental pressures, except for land use and material use. The most important product groups across environmental pressures are construction, food products and direct emissions from households (except for sulphur dioxide emissions and material use for the latter). Other product groups that are found to have environmental pressures across several indicators are wholesale and retail services, architecture and engineering, dwellings, motor vehicles and machinery and equipment. However, for the three natural resource pressures Use of Water, Land and Material resources, agricultural products are a relatively important product group along with products from forestry for the last two indicators. A considerable proportion of the environmental pressure occurs in Sweden, but when comparing those of domestic origin and that occurring internationally, the majority of all pressures for Swedish consumption occur abroad (except for land use). Other countries stand out as particularly important as origins of pressure for Swedish consumption, most notably China, which is among the top five countries for emissions to air, as well as blue water and material use. Other highly relevant countries or regions are Rest of Asia and Pacific (i.e. Asia and Pacific except Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, India, South Korea, China and Japan), Russia, Germany as well as Denmark and Spain for certain product groups and environmental pressure combinations. This pattern of geographically spread pressures caused by Swedish consumption indicates the need for addressing the pressures at various levels of collaboration: national, within the European Union, bilateral and international.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-255353 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.05.148 (DOI)000474680100059 ()2-s2.0-85066270262 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20190730

Available from: 2019-07-30 Created: 2019-07-30 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved
4. Retracing the footsteps: how do footprint indicators support learning about sustainable consumption among Swedish policymakers?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Retracing the footsteps: how do footprint indicators support learning about sustainable consumption among Swedish policymakers?
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Consumption-based or environmental footprint indicators give a sense of society’s progress towards sustainable consumption. Studies of the role that sustainability indicators play in policy making report that they contribute to learning and conceptual thinking. This literature provides insights into the types of learning outcome that indicators contribute to, such as instrumental, policy-oriented, governmental, political, or societal learning. But few studies have looked specifically at consumption-based indicators or at the learning process itself, of how indicator use supports different actors in changing their ideas, perceptions, and practices – and potentially affects wider social and organizational structures to prompt the desired move to sustainable consumption.

To address this, we draw on the theory of expansive learning to investigate the potential for learning about sustainable consumption by Swedish public officials using consumption-based indicators. Data were collected in a series of interviews, focus groups and workshops. The results suggest that consumption-based indicators do help officials to learn about the concept of sustainable consumption and encourage them to push forward the sustainable consumption agenda. This is not, however, so much due to indicators per se, but rather to the creativity and agency of committed government officials. To enhance learning and change in practices further, public officials must be supported by the necessary institutions and authority to promote sustainable consumption.

National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263823 (URN)
Note

QC 20191126

Available from: 2019-11-14 Created: 2019-11-14 Last updated: 2019-11-26Bibliographically approved
5. Hybrid governance in agricultural commodity chains: Insights from implementation of 'No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation' (NDPE) policies in the oil palm industry
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Hybrid governance in agricultural commodity chains: Insights from implementation of 'No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation' (NDPE) policies in the oil palm industry
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2018 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 183, p. 544-554Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In agricultural commodity chains, companies with sizeable market shares are stepping up sustainability commitments through so-called 'No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation' (NDPE) policies - yet the delivery is fraught with difficulties. Drawing on theories of hybrid public-private governance this paper explores how commodity chain actors themselves view the limitations of private regulation and the prospects for more effective supply-chain governance. As a case study, we present interview data from the palm oil commodity chains linking growers in Riau Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, with retailers in Europe. The findings demonstrate awareness of shortcomings in existing arrangements and the need for a stronger presence of both the Indonesian state and European governments. We discuss potential hybrid governance measures, highlighting the need for a pluralistic strategy that mobilizes the combined positive forces of civil society, business and government(s). We argue that, to advance such an agenda, hybrid governance must be conceptualized not simply as a matter of blending (and hence reifying) preexisting and often highly problematic private and public institutions but as a question of how all such institutions may themselves be more thoroughly democratized in the process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
ELSEVIER SCI LTD, 2018
Keywords
Agriculture, Palm oil, Indonesia, Europe, Supply chain, Governance
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-263832 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.02.125 (DOI)000429763800049 ()2-s2.0-85043596310 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20191115

Available from: 2019-11-15 Created: 2019-11-15 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved
6. Advancing sustainable consumption at the local government level: A literature review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Advancing sustainable consumption at the local government level: A literature review
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2019 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 231, p. 1450-1462Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The consumption of goods and services can be a driver of environmental and social impacts around the world. Understanding the role that the different levels of government can play in incentivising sustainable consumption is therefore critical. Using systematic review techniques, this paper reviews the latest evidence on the importance, effectiveness, successes and failures of local government in advancing sustainable consumption. We find that there is little focus on sustainable consumption in its entirety or whether it is being achieved at the local government level. Important consumption categories like food, procurement, water, waste prevention, clothing, other consumables or services are understudied. Evaluation of the outcome of sustainable consumption interventions was limited, and the assessment that was completed gave mixed results. The most popular policy instruments were of the less coercive administrative and informative type. Multiple barriers to the success of an intervention were identified, the top ones being funding; staff capacity, knowledge or data; lack of flexibility and lock-in to the status quo; lack of guidance or political will; administrative burdens; and lack of regulatory powers or tools. Sustainable consumption interventions by local government were most effective when they had strong leadership, good stakeholder engagement, participatory approaches and extensive consultations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2019
Keywords
Sustainable consumption, Local government, Policy instrument, Review, Barriers, Enabling factors
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-255354 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.05.176 (DOI)000474680100121 ()2-s2.0-85067040492 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20190731

Available from: 2019-07-31 Created: 2019-07-31 Last updated: 2019-11-15Bibliographically approved

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