Analysis of Existing Concepts for Measuring Sustainable Consumption in Germany and Main Features of a Development Concept

  • Project no.2405
  • Duration 12/2004 - 06/2005

Aim: The aim of this project was to devise the basic features of a system for measuring and assessing sustainable consumption based on existing approaches and scientific and political developments.
Methods: The survey starts with an elaboration on the national and international debate regarding sustainable production and a discussion about the general functions of indicator based assessment systems. It continues with a review of literature, development of an analysis raster, status quo analysis, guide-based interviews, and an expert workshop. Finally, the results are summed up and main features of a development concept are drawn up.
Results: The analyzed approaches reveal how a measurement and assessment system (MAS) for S(P)C can be generated: it can be used for political agendas; the results can be transferred to the public, and it enables a practical application. Transparent, module-configured MAS are a well accepted solution for assessing complex developments in the socio-political environment. A MAS requires simple and comprehensible messages.
Therefore, specific objectives have to be defined and their achievements have to be evaluated. Corresponding concepts will be successful if the target group incorporates the results in decision-making processes. For this purpose, a stakeholder based process is a common procedure in order to determine objectives and indicators. Furthermore, it is necessary to specify demand patterns and target groups. Three target groups can be distinguished for the MAS: on the policy level, a macro economic monitoring system is required that describes the actual status quo and the performance of SPC related issues: On the consumer level, a decision-supporting tool is needed at the point of sale as well as a simple and user-friendly structure of how the information is transferred: On the company level, it is to the companies' interest to illustrate the realized contributions vis-à-vis the target groups as those will acknowledge the efforts. It is essential to assess entire supply chains.
Conclusion: A module-configured MAS has been suggested which differentiates the above mentioned target groups and which is based on five instruments: for consumers a Meta-Sustainability-Label TRIangel at the point of sale as well as a Sustainability check for households. In this context instruments of public promotion and payback systems are advantageous; for governments a Consumption-index I-CON which indicates the market share of the Meta-Sustainability-Label TRIangel; in the medium and long term perspective, the additional instrument GO 21, which indicates the performance of consumption patterns in relevant product categories and which is based on the basket of goods BALANCE. The latter illustrates a simplified statistical basket of goods and assesses specific product(-groups) via sustainability indicators. The required sustainability indicators for this type of instruments should be developed by a process based on a multi-stakeholder dialogue.