ISBN 978-3-03897-872-5 (Hbk); ISBN 978-3-03897-873-2 (PDF) (registering DOI)

© 2020 by the authors; CC BY licence

Transitioning to Responsible Consumption and Production

Book Series: Transitioning to Sustainability
Sciprofile link Lisa McNeill
Pages: 205
Published: October 2020
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About this Volume

Responsible Consumption and Production, the twelfth UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 12), calls for significant change in how we view both production and consumption norms. It is predicted that, at the current rate of population growth and consumption, the natural resources needed to sustain current lifestyles would require the equivalent of almost three planets by 2050. It is clear that change is required, involving action from everyone from the producer to the final consumer. Since sustainable consumption aims for world citizens to ‘do better with less’, all aspects of this change must be carefully considered with regard to critical ecological and social models that transform all production and consumption practices that are recognised as negative. 

Transitioning to Responsible Consumption and Production focuses on the transition to responsible production and consumption, and models that aid that transition. It offers a multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder conversation on this issue, with a focus on the intersection between encouraging and enhancing sustainable production processes, and enacting behaviour change and socially oriented decision-making by consumers.

Transitioning to Responsible Consumption and Production is part of MDPI's new Open Access book series Transitioning to Sustainability. With this series, MDPI pursues environmentally and socially relevant research which contributes to efforts toward a sustainable world. Transitioning to Sustainability aims to add to the conversation about regional and global sustainable development according to the 17 SDGs. Set to be published in 2020, the book series is intended to reach beyond disciplinary, even academic boundaries. 

MDPI supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For use of the SDG logos and design, please see the according Guidelines for the use of the SDG logo, color wheel, and 17 icons.


  • Preface to Transitioning to Responsible Consumption and Production
    Sciprofile link Lisa McNeill
    View Abstract

    Developed in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were a call to change the world that we live in. The UN proposed a method of change that centred on global sustainability targets, reached through national actions, yet some would argue that the gap between sustainability goals and environmental reality is still growing within high consuming countries. Responsible Consumption and Production, the twelfth UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 12), calls for significant change in how we view both production and consumption norms—particularly among resource hungry nations. This special volume is focused on SDG 12, and highlights significant areas of change required in the transition toward responsible consumption and production worldwide. The volume offers seven perspectives on SDG 12, from around the world, and proposes methods for encouraging sustainability in both our consumption choices, and also in the production methods employed to service our consumption needs.

  • SDG 12, Sustainable Consumption and the UK’s Leading Retailers
    Sciprofile link Peter Jones,
    Sciprofile link Martin Wynn ORCID link and
    Sciprofile link Daphne Comfort
    View Abstract

    The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable future for all, but in many ways, the concept of sustainable consumption (part of SDG12) is fundamental to the transition to such a future. At the same time, there is a growing awareness that retailers have a vital role to play in promoting more sustainable patterns of consumption. This chapter provides an exploratory review of how the leading retailers in the UK are publicly addressing the issue of sustainable consumption, and the authors adopted a twin track method of enquiry. Firstly, two Internet searches were undertaken of the leading retailers’ corporate websites to identify how the retailers were publicly addressing sustainable consumption. Secondly, the authors undertook a basic observational survey of if, and how, the selected retailers looked to engage customers with sustainable consumption within their stores. The results revealed that while the majority of the selected retailers publicly emphasised their commitment to sustainable consumption on their corporate websites, there was little or no reference to the SDGs or, more specifically, to sustainable consumption within stores.

  • Towards More Sustainability in Clothing Production and Consumption: Options, Opportunities, and Constraints
    Sciprofile link Silke Kleinhückelkotten and
    Sciprofile link Horst-Peter Neitzke
    View Abstract

    Clothing represents an especially challenging field of action for achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 12 due to the large volume of the mass throughput, the globalized and highly branched production and trade chains, the strong dependence of national economies especially in least developed and threshold countries on the clothing production sector, and the serious social and environmental problems going along with the provision of raw materials for and the manufacturing of clothes. After some introductory remarks as to the importance of clothing in the context of the SDG 12 this chapter starts with an outline of the economic importance of the textile industry and their social and environmental impacts. Then, some results of a representative population survey are presented that allow the identification of drivers of clothing consumption and conclusions as regards the social acceptability of more sustainable alternatives. Subsequently, options for action to reach more sustainability in clothing production and consumption and the probabilities for their implementation are discussed on the basis of the results of an expert survey. The chapter ends with conclusions as regards opportunities and constraints for a shift towards more sustainability in clothing production and consumption.

  • Socially Responsible Fashion Practice: Looking Good and Feeling Good
    Sciprofile link Elaine Ritch
    View Abstract

    Concerns for sustainability were prominent in 2019 amid fears that the impact from climate change on the planet would soon be irreversible. Despite the United Nations devising 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint to address global challenges, the fashion industry has made little progress in addressing current production processes. Given that the fashion industry is the second biggest global polluter, there exists the potential to make a significant difference to the future of the planet. In particular, this chapter addresses SDG 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. However, previous research has found that consumers face a number of barriers which restrict the advancement of sustainable fashion, mainly due to sustainable fashion not following fashion trends. Previous research has also found that this induces guilt for consumers, who fear that their consumption derives from exploitative sources. This research explores how consumers can purchase fashion that makes them look good because they are portraying clothes that reflect their constructed self-identity, as well as feel good because they know that their garments were produced sympathetically to the environment and production workers. Utilising social identity theory, the literature and data examine how fashion contributes to self-esteem and confidence, noting that similar feelings are experienced from sustainable production. This chapter concludes on how fashion producers and retailers could capitalise on creating new tenants of value through socially responsive production and supporting socially responsive consumption though educating and better use of labelling. 1. Introduction

  • Consumer Choice and Food Waste: A Demand-Side Perspective to Address the Challenge of Sustainable Consumption Models
    Sciprofile link Luca Secondi ORCID link and
    Sciprofile link Ludovica Principato
    View Abstract

    In recent years a growing number of studies and contributions have been developed on the analysis of food losses and waste along the entire Food Supply Chain. Due to the importance and seriousness, this phenomenon has reached international level. In industrialized countries, the largest share of waste occurs in the final phases of the food chain and especially in the consumption phase in which wastage of food is mainly related to behavioral issues, such as wasteful behavior and/or bad habits and practices at home and out-of-home. The purpose of this paper is to investigate—from the demand side—consumers’ choice in terms of wasted (edible and not consumed) food at domestic level. Through the data collected on a sample of consumers in Italy, the paper aims at: i) examining types of food most wasted at household level, according to socio-economic characteristics of families; ii) evaluating, by using the Working–Leser demand approach, if and to what extent propensity and responsiveness of wasting food vary according to both expenditure and price levels. The estimates of demand elasticities for commodity groups and household characteristics can help to plan interventions aimed at addressing initiatives to selected categories of consumers, thus contributing to minimize food waste, to implement sustainable consumption models and therefore to ultimately reduce food waste related impacts

  • From Open to Closed-Cycle Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Packaging Systems: An Overview of Potential Avenues for Progress
    Sciprofile link Robert Hamlin
    View Abstract

    This chapter examines the current situation with regard to closed-cycle packaging systems that are organised at a national rather than local or single product/business scale. A clear distinction is drawn between reuse and recycling where packaging is returned to its original function/value, and repurposing, where packaging is usually transformed into a lower value form. It is noted that repurposing cannot support a closed-cycle system, and that true recycling and reuse are only bases for such a system. The current situation with regard to FMCG packaging reuse and recycling are examined, and it is noted that the programmes that do exist are highly fragmented, and that true progress towards package waste reduction is not being achieved. Systems for reuse and recycling on a national scale are then examined, and the basic structures of such systems are identified. It is noted that when they are scaled up to a national level the distinction between systems that are based on FMCG package reuse or recycling become highly nuanced as the platforms converge. The only difference is whether a package completes a single or multiple reuse cycles before it is recycled (remanufactured). Finally the obstacles to such a system are examined. It is noted that such a system can only be established via aggressive government regulation and that some recent international trade treaties may be a major barrier to such regulation, and thus to the establishment of these systems.

  • Smell and Sustainability: Can Odour Shorten the Life Span of Clothing?
    Sciprofile link Rachel McQueen ORCID link,
    Sciprofile link Jennifer Kowton and
    Sciprofile link Lauren Degenstein
    View Abstract

    Scholars investigating the longevity of clothing have examined clothing attributes that enhance garment attachment. Deepening consumer satisfaction with clothing items is paramount in order to extend the life span of clothes. Kirsi Niinimäki and colleagues argue that a positive or pleasurable use experience deepens attachment to clothing items making it less likely that desirable clothing items will be discarded, thereby decreasing the likelihood of such clothing items ending up in landfills or incinerated. As part of the multi-sensorial experience of wearing clothing, odour can play a significant role, although it is more likely to mar the experience resulting in a negative-use experience and consumer dissatisfaction. The impact odour has on sustainable behaviour, particularly as it relates to when and how a consumer chooses to dispose of their clothing has not been previously examined. As such, this article draws upon focus-group and survey data from Canadian consumers exploring the impact that the development of unpleasant odours within clothing has on their satisfaction with clothing. The results indicate how odour perception impacts consumer behaviour relating to future clothing purchases as well as post-purchase practices as it pertains to the end of a garment’s life cycle. More specifically, a negative use experience typically culminated in premature disposal of the clothing item, ultimately with the odorous clothing item being designated to the trash, impeding sustainability efforts.

  • Repairing Fashion Cultures: From Disposable to Repairable
    Sciprofile link Kirsi Niinimäki ORCID link and
    Sciprofile link Marium Durrani
    View Abstract

    It is time to change the unsustainable fashion culture and build a new paradigm. In the last 20 years we have experienced the emergence of a fast fashion culture, which has succeeded exponentially from a business point of view but has caused ever increasing environmental impacts. The increase in fashion consumption and increase in textile waste streams are part of this phenomenon. This text presents the current unsustainable practices in the fashion field, but it also shows that some evidence of change is happening through the aspect of repair. The change in repair culture can be approached from two angles: from consumer and from business point of view. Through this approach, a new paradigm can be constructed in consumption–production, and the current unsustainable fashion cultures could be challenged.

  • The Role of Young Consumers in Moving to a Sustainable Consumption Future
    Sciprofile link Leah Watkins and
    Sciprofile link Robert Aitken
    View Abstract

    This chapter presents the results of three different research studies that address the changes necessary to move towards a more sustainable consumption future. Each study focusses on young consumers as those most receptive to the need for change and the ones mostly likely to enact them. The first study presents results from a pilot project designed to increase young consumers’ sustainable consumption literacy. Results suggest that providing young learners with the frameworks and language for understanding sustainable consumption issues can be successful in guiding future behaviour. The second study looks at young people’s exposure to advertising and the relationship between the pervasive promotion of pro-consumption messages, the formation of materialistic attitudes and unsustainable consumption patterns. The study concludes by suggesting that the normalisation of consumption communicated through advertising should be subject to greater scrutiny and closer regulatory control. The final study asked young people to describe their visions of a sustainable consumption future to provide a blueprint from which to work backwards for its achievement. The project identified a number of practical elements such as shared provisioning systems and alternative forms of production and an emphasis on more holistic, integrated and communal approaches to living. Overall, each study provides support and encouragement for further work in these areas and the belief that young people will play an increasingly active role in leading and advocating for sustainable consumption change.

  • Justice Concerns in SDG 12: The Problem of Missing Consumption Limits
    Sciprofile link Katia Vladimirova
    View Abstract

    As part of Agenda 2030, SDG 12 aims to offer a long-term vision for transforming existing unsustainable consumption and production patterns. These changes are bound to affect the lifestyles and livelihoods of billions of people and give rise to a multitude of morally relevant questions and trade-offs concerning matters of intra- and intergenerational (re)distribution. Among these moral dilemmas is the problem of setting consumption limits, especially at the upper tail of wealth distribution. This position piece argues that failure to translate scientific consensus on the biophysical limits of Earth into upper consumption limits, and the absence of references to consumption limits in Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, which can be explained in terms of moral corruption, leads to difficult moral choices being passed onto future generations.

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