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Systems thinking is one of the skills necessary for sustainable behavior, especially regarding sustainable consumption. Students are faced with complexity and uncertainty while taking part in it and other daily life aspects. There is a need to foster their competence in this field. From a classroom point of view, the mystery method is an example for implementing education for sustainable consumption and working with complex and uncertain content. With the mystery method students construct an influence diagram, which consists of concepts and requires several skills, especially in decision-making. Using these diagrams as a form of assessment is desirable but also very difficult, because of the mentioned complexity and uncertainty that is part of the task itself. The study presented here tackles this problem by creating an expert based reference diagram that has been constructed with the help of educational data mining. The result shows that it is possible to derive such a reference even if parts remain ambiguous due to the inherent complexity. The reference may now be used to assess students’ systems thinking abilities, which will be undertaken in future research. Beside this, the reference can be used as a reflective tool in lessons, so students can compare their own content knowledge and discuss differences to the experts’ reference.
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Global biosphere issues call for an education for sustainable consumption decisions. Enabling adolescent learners to form sustainable consumption intentions involves an understanding of underlying internal predictors. The theory of planned behavior (TPB) delivers a useful approach to this challenge. Understanding of the underlying motives behind sustainable consumption decision-making, however, requires knowledge and evaluation of three basic sustainability aspects, the generational, the coherence, and the spatial aspect. As yet, the TPB framework does not take account of those facets. In this paper, we propose an extension of the TPB that meets these shortcomings by integrating the sustainability aspects while including the concepts of sustainability knowledge and sustainability values into the existing model. Furthermore, we extended the functional range of the attitude construct to the three sustainability aspects. The objective of the present article is to introduce and discuss the adapted framework which can serve as a first step for an educational implementation of the concept of sustainable consumption.
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The United Nations formulated the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015 as a comprehensive global policy framework for addressing the most pressing social and environmental challenges currently facing humanity. In this paper, we analyse SDG 12, which aims to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” Despite long-standing political recognition of this objective, and ample scientific evidence both on its importance and on the efficacy of various ways of promoting it, the SDGs do not provide clear goals or effective guidance on how to accomplish this urgently needed transformation. Drawing from the growing body of research on sustainable consumption and production (SCP), the paper identifies two dominant vantage points—one focused on promoting more efficient production methods and products (mainly through technological improvement and informed consumer choice) and the other stressing the need to consider also overall volumes of consumption, distributional issues, and related social and institutional changes. We label these two approaches efficiency and systemic. Research shows that while the efficiency approach contains essential elements of a transition to sustainability, it is by itself highly unlikely to bring about sustainable outcomes. Concomitantly, research also finds that volumes of consumption and production are closely associated with environmental impacts, indicating a need to curtail these volumes in ways that safeguard social sustainability, which is unlikely to be possible without a restructuring of existing socioeconomic arrangements. Analysing how these two perspectives are reflected in the SDGs framework, we find that in its current conception, it mainly relies on the efficiency approach. On the basis of this assessment, we conclude that the SDGs represent a partial and inadequate conceptualisation of SCP which will hamper implementation. Based on this determination, this paper provides some suggestions on how governments and other actors involved in SDGs operationalisation could more effectively pursue SCP from a systemic standpoint and use the transformation of systems of consumption and production as a lever for achieving multiple sustainability objectives.
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There is an emerging recognition of the importance of consumption within the sustainability debate. The term ‘sustainable consumption’ has been coined to reflect this emphasis. In pursuit of its advocacy remit, the Sustainable Development Commission is currently seeking to influence government policy on sustainable consumption, specifically with regard to DEFRA’s forthcoming Sustainable Consumption and Production strategy and other UK policy developments. The purpose of this document is to enhance that process. It aims to provide a guide to the complexity of the sustainable consumption debate, an overview of the extensive literatures on consumer behaviour and lifestyle change, and an analysis of the policy opportunities suggested by these literatures.
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Policy-makers are increasingly recognising that the promotion of more sustainable consumption patterns is an indispensable prerequisite for achieving sustainable development in the long term. Policy documents and action plans have been published, and a wide array of policy instruments has been implemented with the aim of reducing the environmental and social burdens of consuming goods and services. But what are the latest trends and innovative approaches in sustainable consumption (SC) policies? What could be learnt for future policy-making? Based on an overview of European policy instruments and several case studies, the paper discusses instructive examples of SC policy instruments, in particular the Danish information campaign “One Tonne Less”, the Dutch tax incentive scheme “Green Funds”, the British “Red/Green calculator”, and the pan-European internet platform “TopTen”. Important features of novel policies — such as adaptability and collective action — are identified, and recommendations for future policies are presented. The recommendations refer to the foundation of SC policies, to the specific approach taken, to the applied instruments, and to the proper documentation of the implemented policies.
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This ‘‘Note from the field,’’ is an edited version of a policy brief summarizing the key findings from the first half of the Sustainable Consumption Research Exchange network (SCORE!) for the policy programs in the field of sustainable consumption and production (SCP). We recommend a framework for action to change to SCP that mentions the key domains to include food, mobility, and energy use/housing (the last two clearly related to urban development). It should use a systemic perspective on the SCP challenge and differentiate between developed, fast developing, and base of the pyramid economies. SCORE! focuses mainly on developed economies, and here we propose to differentiate between: (1) measures that fit with mainstream beliefs and paradigms. Here, governments could make operational agreements on implementation of instruments like green public procurement, stimulating ecodesign, etc. (2) Problems where a rough agreement on goals exists, but where change is radical, or means are uncertain, and hence planning difficult. Here, governments could foster visioning, experimentation, and support e.g. international collaboration in leapfrogging programs. (3) Problems that outright clash with the mainstream beliefs and paradigms. Here, governments could foster informed deliberation on the more fundamental issues related to markets, governance and growth.
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Compared with conventional products, sustainable products continue to attract relatively lower market shares. To increase customer acceptance, many sustainable products feature third-party certification labels (TPCL), yet it is unclear whether TPCL are effective and what processes and boundary conditions define their role in consumer decision making. Across three experimental studies, this research determines that sustainable products are characterized by credence qualities, associated with increased perceptions of risk, which negatively influence consumers' purchase intentions. Drawing on signaling theory, this study also shows that TPCL on sustainable products provide brand-like information cues that reduce the perceived risk of sustainable products. Finally, a third experimental study demonstrates that consumers must perceive TPCL as credible for them to reduce consumers’ risk perceptions.
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Purpose This paper aims to expand the emerging field of symbolic green consumer behavior (GCB) by investigating the impact of anticipated conspicuousness of the consumption situation on consumers’ choice of organic products. In addition, the paper also explores whether self-monitoring ability and attention to social comparison information (ATSCI) influence GCB in situations of anticipated high conspicuousness. Design/methodology/approach Two experiments test the study’s hypotheses. Findings The results of both experiments show that the anticipation of conspicuousness has a significant effect on GCB. Moreover, in Experiment 2, this effect is moderated by consumers’ level of ATSCI but not by their self-monitoring ability. Research limitations/implications Because ATSCI significantly interacts with green consumption because of the anticipation of a conspicuous setting, although self-monitoring ability does not, we conclude that social identification is an important determinant of green consumption. Practical implications Marketers who focus on building green brands could consider designing conspicuous consumption situations to increase GCB. Social implications Policymakers could enact change by making the environmental unfriendliness of non-eco-friendly products visible to the public and thus increase the potential for GCB. Originality/value The results validate the emerging understanding that green products are consumed for self-enhancement, but also expand the literature by highlighting that a key motivating factor of GCB is the desire to fit in.
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Green public procurement has been considered an important policy instrument on the path toward realizing sustainable consumption and production. Additionally, universities are important to the promotion of sustainable consumption through their positive effects on students and other stakeholders. This paper analyses the contribution of universities to sustainable consumption through Green Public Procurement initiatives, from both external and internal perspectives. From an external perspective, how universities express their “green” image outwardly has been analysed. The results show that 21.5% universities have put into practice different initiatives related to green procurement (having a public procurement manual), and 72.5% of them have a department in charge of environmental subjects. From an internal perspective, how universities currently position themselves in terms of green procurement policies has been analysed. The results reveal that universities generally include environmental criteria in the public procurement contract specifications and that they regularly organise awareness and media campaigns. The results reflect the perceptions of people in charge of promoting green initiatives inside the universities; however, they may or may not be involved in their institution’s mission. The value of this paper lies in its contribution to the knowledge of how initiatives implemented at higher-education institutions can contribute to sustainable consumption using theoretical and practical approaches. The biggest obstacle was the difficulty in locating the different initiatives at universities’ websites and also in the lack of uniformity for the comparison, dissemination and communication of environment-related activities. The conclusions show that green public procurement is a relatively new activity in Spain, especially in relation to sustainable consumption; however, it needs to be studied thoroughly because it can prompt policymakers to increase green practices through the adoption of measures that actually contribute to sustainable consumption.
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This paper aims to link two debates and literatures at the cutting edge of sustainable development research and governance: sustainable consumption and degrowth. Interestingly, these literatures have only recently started to exchange and integrate insights, despite their similar interest in the fundamental systemic challenges to sustainable development. The paper argues that this lack of connection is due to a predominance of perspectives in sustainable consumption governance that focus almost exclusively on questions of efficiency gains. This “weak sustainable consumption” governance, however, is not able to address the challenges to sustainable development arising from overconsumption in general or the rebound effect and distributive issues in particular. In contrast, a “strong sustainable consumption” perspective provides a basis for a promising inquiry into the linkages between consumption and sustainable development as well as a fruitful exchange with degrowth. Specifically, it allows the delineation of relevant insights on the role of values in governance, obstacles to political reform, and promising political strategies for the degrowth debate and literature.
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In a sustainability perspective, consumption research has an unfortunate individualizing bias, which means that macro and structural causes of unsustainable consumption tend to be ignored. Hence, a comprehensive model of determinants of the sustainability of consumption is developed and applied on a specific case: organic food consumption. The analyzed data are published research on why consumer purchase of organic food products differs between countries. As expected, organic food’s share of total food consumption depends heavily on political regulation, including legal definitions and standards, financial support to farmers, and a national labeling system. Other important structural factors are soil conditions, an effective and efficient distribution system, and the size of the premium price demanded for organic food products. Macro factors such as the food culture and the culture’s level of postmaterialism and environmental concern play an additional role. The evidence suggests that, together, macro and structural factors such as these are more, and probably considerably more, important for the sustainability of food consumption than are individual-level attitudinal variables.
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Our dominant way of living is not sustainable and our activities as private individuals and households directly and indirectly account for a large and increasing share of total environmental impacts. These impacts are related to the structure as well as the level of consumption. In this article, research on the root causes of environmentally harmful human behavior is reviewed. Why is there no satiation of consumption in sight, even in the most affluent countries, and why do people continue to make choices that are known to be environmentally harmful? While potentially catastrophic, the harms from unsustainable consumption are mostly unintentional, which means that informational and educational means are not sufficient to produce the needed changes. They need to be implemented in concert with pervasive structural changes to make the right choice the easy choice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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Abstract The importance of sustainable consumption and production in the international agenda has been growing, both because of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production in industrialized countries and because it appears to be a means for meeting the essential needs of developing countries. Adapting Fernand Braudel's model of the three layers of the economy (everyday life, market economy and global capitalism) to the current situation, this paper advocates for differentiated policies, which cannot be limited to those based on the dominant model of a rational legal system dealing with rational consumers. The cultural and collective dimensions of consumption, the social role of conspicuous consumption, the consumption of ecological services outside formal markets, the diversity of approaches to knowledge and rationality, all plead for an overarching approach and diversified policy tools. The paper underlines the need for global regulation processes which involve all stakeholders by focusing on two examples: the international task force on sustainable tourism, and the ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility.
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In 1992, one unambiguous result of the UNCED conference was the need for changing consumption and production patterns, with affluent countries taking the lead. 20 years later, at the 2012 UNCSD, little is left over and instead the “green economy” has been the theme pursued by the OECD, the EU and other countries. So the question needs to be answered if this is finally an attempt to put into practice what was promised 20 years ago, or another diversion from what needs to be accomplished. Sustainable development is still a convincing concept, if the original definition is taken, avoiding the confusion caused by partisan interests reinterpreting the concept. Focussing on human needs fulfilment and respecting environmental limits, it can still guide strong sustainable consumption. Green economy/green growth, on the other hand, is a new terminology for what is known since 40 years as ecological modernisation. It is indeed overdue, but with its focus on efficiency and innovation it cannot guarantee to fulfil the Brundtland sustainability criteria. A factor analysis based on the I = P*A*T formula demonstrates how optimistic the assumptions regarding future technologies must be to support the green growth concept. Consequently, the authors pledge for a pragmatic, risk avoiding approach by slimming the physical size of the economy. This requires ‘strong sustainable consumption’ (including production as resource consumption), which in turn requires a change of the societies' institutional settings (formal and informal, mechanisms and orientations). Finally some elements of a strategy towards this end are pointed out, with special emphasis on the role of non-governmental organisations NGOs. Through networking and advocacy they can both stimulate bottom-up action and mobilise the pressure necessary for the institutional changes which are needed to mainstream strong sustainable consumption.
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Unsustainable consumption and production patterns have brought human civilization to the brink of a global disaster. Alteration of these patterns to minimize adverse environmental impacts has become the key question of survival, a question relevant for every country and citizen. In this paper we are looking at trends of consumption and production in the post-Soviet republics. These countries have a common history, but they took different routes to development. They are at different stages of economic growth and political processes, with differences also in consumption and production-related environmental pressures and policies. This study is based on statistical data analysis and snap-shot surveys of national experts from non-governmental organizations, reflecting their views and observations, which often differ from official positions of national governments and international organizations. In order to draw conclusions about the possibilities for further development, we analyze various sustainable consumption and production indicators, policy developments, progress achieved and the main challenges behind sustainable consumption and production governance in these countries. Sustainable consumption and production policy in the countries of the region is fragmented, and none of the countries uses a holistic integrated approach. The influence of the EU seems to be critical for advancing sustainable development principles. However, the EU accession does not address the growth effect, which is the main driver behind increasing environmental pressures related to consumption. There is still a long way to go from this mosaic of policy elements to a coherent policy with adequate institutional support and funding mechanisms.
Article
The many ecological impacts of our consumption patterns have led to an increasingly evident need for Higher Education for Sustainable Consumption (HESC). HESC focuses on several complementary aspects of society in order to demonstrate the importance of consumption as a source of environmental and social impacts and to promote a sense of individual and collective responsibility. Teaching aims include training students to be capable of proposing and implementing solutions to ecological problems associated with changing modes of consumption. To achieve an effective HESC, five pedagogical principles seem essential in training students to deal with real-life complex problems and develop solutions to them: basing the pedagogical approach on a human ecology training, considering the production – consumption system as a whole; dealing with uncertainty, encouraging collaborative learning from the diversity of students; and addressing the issue of complexity by an interdisciplinary approach. This should contribute to developing the student's key competencies in sustainability such as systemic and critical thinking, handling complexity and dealing with uncertainty via different principles of learning settings. The Master's course entitled ‘Human Ecology: environmental challenges related to production and consumption activities’ is proposed as a case report (University of Bordeaux, France). The translation of theoretical requirements, the limitations and the assessment of the HESC's course are discussed.
Article
Management education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption in higher education institutions, and higher education for sustainable development in Central and Eastern Europe can be considered as three highly relevant emerging areas in research on higher education for sustainable development. The transformation of management education to meet the increasing societal demands for responsible business has been reinforced in the light of the current economic situation. In this context, it is explored which competencies are needed for tomorrow’s business professionals and which concepts and approaches are useful to foster these competencies. With regard to sustainable consumption, several universities have initiated creative projects that have transformed campus life and have had an impact on staff’s and students’ attitudes and behaviour. Moreover, initiatives in Central and Eastern Europe show interesting developments, for example how sustainability issues have been integrated into the curriculum, particularly in the context of intense coal mining as well as urban planning. Thus, this Special Volume of the Journal of Cleaner Production presents the current progress in concepts and practices in the three emerging areas management education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption in higher education institutions, and higher education for sustainable development in Central and Eastern Europe, which to date have not been intensively discussed in the scientific discourse on higher education for sustainable development. In an overall manner, the Special Volume provides evidence that the following issues are of particular importance for future research and development in higher education for sustainable development: measuring learning outcomes; accounting for different geographical, political and cultural contexts for higher education for sustainable development; and prioritising strategies for sustainable organisational change.
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This special issue is a result of work of Sustainable Consumption Research Exchanges (SCORE!). This EU supported network project under the 6th Framework Program engaged a few hundred professionals interested in sustainable consumption and production (SCP) in Europe and beyond. A key goal of the network is to enhance understanding how radical reductions of environmental impacts and at global level a more equitable growth can be realised. In April 2006, SCORE! organised a workshop in Copenhagen with support of the European Environment Agency, titled ‘Governance of change to Sustainable Consumption and Production’. This special issue contains 7 papers based on presentations during that workshop. It further contains a summary of the main conclusions drawn by the SCORE! project team on the basis of a broader review of radical change to SCP from a business, design, consumer and system innovation perspective. The conclusion is unambiguously that governments cannot ‘outsource politics’, but must form a ‘triangle of change’ with business and consumers. We have further to understand the systemic nature of the change required. Some policies are currently more viable than others, given existing mega-trends, mega-structures and mega-views, which cannot be changed easily in the short-term and usually cannot be tackled head-on. Such issues, like paradigms on the possibility of continuous exponential growth, the belief in free markets and trade, need a longer-term deliberative process before change is possible.
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Achieving sustainable development depends on comprehensive approaches which integrate consumption and production initiatives. At present, sustainable consumption is being overemphasized to the neglect of the more important production side. This paper examines the role of governments in promoting sustainable consumption and production to identify gaps in national schemes which reduce their overall effectiveness. Public policy tools promoting sustainable consumption and production are discussed in terms of whether they are aimed at correcting: 1) market failures (regulations, taxes, subsidies); or 2) systems failures (labels, communications, education, public procurement). The challenge for governments is to link sustainable consumption initiatives to policies aimed at increasing the sustainability of production in the private sector in both their national and international dimensions. In this way, governments can enlist the aid of consumers in pushing producers towards sustainability and to achieve the ultimate goal of sustainable development.
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Researchers use the policy Delphi method to explore a complex topic with little historical context that requires expert opinion to fully understand underlying issues. The benefit of this research technique is the use of experts who have more timely information than can be gleamed from extant literature. Additionally, those experts place researchers in a specific moment, thus increasing the possibility of capturing change over time. One limitation of the policy Delphi is the difficulty in developing an accurate initial questionnaire to start the process. The purpose of this article is to identify benefits and limitations of this research method.
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The ecological unsustainability of current consumption patterns is now well documented. One aspect of this problem which has not been sufficiently addressed is the growth of “excess consumption” driven by falling goods prices. The index of department store prices have fallen substantially since the early 1990s, in large part because global capital mobility and excess global labor supply has allowed firms to depress wages and avoid paying environmental costs. Consumers have responded by purchasing increasing numbers of these artificially cheap goods. The example of apparel is discussed in some detail, and data from other goods categories are presented. These trends suggest that achieving sustainable consumption in the US is not only a technical issue but will also involve fundamental changes in the global political economy to eliminate the artificially low prices of imported goods.
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The paper reviews some of the many initiatives and efforts to build networks and institute policies promoting sustainable production and consumption (SPAC) values and practices in North America since the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. It analyzes a selection of SPAC initiatives in Canada and USA from the NASCA/CEC database, drawing also on interviews with representatives from government, businesess, consumer and environmental organizations on their experience and efforts to “take the lead” in influencing public opinion and behavior as well as government and corporate policy towards SPAC.
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The concept of embeddedness has general applicability in the study of economic life and can alter theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of economic behaviors. Argues that in modern industrial societies, most economic action is embedded in structures of social relations. The author challenges the traditional economic theories that have both under- and oversocialized views of the conception of economic action and decisions that merge in their conception of economic actors atomized (separated) from their social context. Social relations are assumed to play on frictional and disruptive, not central, roles in market processes. There is, hence, a place and need for sociology in the study of economic life. Productive analysis of human action requires avoiding the atomization in the extremes of the over- and undersocialized concepts. Economic actors are neither atoms outside a social context nor slavish adherents to social scripts. The markets and hierarchies problem of Oliver Williamson (with a focus on the question of trust and malfeasance) is used to illustrate the use of embeddedness in explicating the proximate causes of patterns of macro-level interest. Answers to the problem of how economic life is not riddled with mistrust and malfeasance are linked to over- and undersocialized conceptions of human nature. The embeddedness argument, on the contrary, stresses the role of concrete personal relations and networks (or structures) in generating trust and discouraging malfeasance in economic life. It finds a middle way between the oversocialized (generalized morality) and undersocialized (impersonal institutional arrangements) approaches. The embeddedness approach opens the way for analysis of the influence of social structures on market behavior, specifically showing how business relations are intertwined with social and personal relations and networks. The approach can easily explain what looks otherwise like irrational behavior. (TNM)
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Green Public Procurement (GPP) has been considered as an important policy instrument in the context of sustainable consumption and production. The state and progress of GPP has earlier been measured by questionnaires and interviews, both methods being based on the assessment by the purchaser, and questionnaires having low response rates. Recently, a new method was developed, analyzing the existence of environmental criteria in the calls for tenders. However, the studies have dealt neither with the progress in GPP, nor the statistical evidence of differences between countries. Our aim was to analyze more thoroughly whether the differences in the proportions of 'green' calls for tenders between the three Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, in 2003 and 2005 were real, and whether there had occurred any progress between the years concerned. The paper also presents the 'GPP-record' method, which enables more valid measurement of the environmental soundness of public purchasing. The statistical analyses were done using logit models with country, year and product group as the explanatory factors. It proved to be relevant to take into account the variation that occurred from the random existence of product groups in the samples of calls for tender. There were less environmental criteria in the calls for tenders in Finland than in Denmark and Sweden in 2003, but in 2005 no significant difference between Finland and Denmark was observed. Both Finland and Sweden saw progress in this area between 2003 and 2005.
Article
Accepting a fixed trade-off between environmental regulation and competitiveness unnecessarily raises costs and slows down environmental progress. Studies finding high environmental compliance costs have traditionally focused on static cost impacts, ignoring any offsetting productivity benefits from innovation. They typically overestimated compliance costs, neglected innovation offsets, and disregarded the affected industry's initial competitiveness. Rather than simply adding to cost, properly crafted environmental standards can trigger innovation offsets, allowing companies to improve their resource productivity. Shifting the debate from pollution control to pollution prevention was a step forward. It is now necessary to make the next step and focus on resource productivity. Copyright 1995 by American Economic Association.
Políticas Ambientais e Construção Democrática. O Desafio da Sustentabilidade: Um Debate Socioambiental no Brasil
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Evolution of the global sustainable consumption and production policy and the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) supporting activities
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Character and ways of sustainable consumption. results from the focal point 'from knowledge to action-new paths towards sustainable consumption
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