The Brussels event, ‘Driving more sustainable consumption: today’s challenges and solutions’, was held on 9th November and was the second focused on sustainability this year. In January the club held a roundtable on sustainable food production.
Current global food consumption patterns are taking a great toll on the environment through greenhouse gas emissions, water use, water quality, land use and waste. The WWF has estimated that 1.5 planets are required to support current consumption patterns, and unsustainable food habits also have economic, social and health impacts.
The aim of the meeting, chaired by Kellogg Europe sustainability director Annalisa Fuccella, was to explore what would motivate consumers to adopt more sustainable consumption patterns.
The findings of a 2008 Greendex behavioural economics study were discussed, especially the main barriers to sustainable consumption identified as: lack of understanding (30 per cent), selfishness (15 per cent), costs and taxes (12 per cent), and influence of the behaviour of others (11 per cent).
Participants suggested several ways for overcoming these barriers, such as more education about local and sustainable consumption, endorsement from environmental groups, scientists and other consumers, initiatives tailored towards specific consumer groups, and clear and understandable labelling.
However the consensus was that political leadership is critical. Some participants suggested that food prices and compensation to farmers should reflect the true environmental and social costs and benefits of consumption – and where sustainable products are seen as more expensive policymakers were seen to have a role in explaining their value to consumers.
Roles for industry were identified as identifying brands with sustainability, using certified sustainable commodities, choice-editing (making only sustainable products available), information provision, advertising more sustainable products, and eco-innovation.
Civil society’s role was identified as engaging with industry and public authorities to build trust, and sustainable sourcing initiatives.