This workshop had three objectives:
(1) To deepen the knowledge base of how systemic changes toward a more sustainable society can take place;
(2) To assemble the empirical findings from local practices in sustainable well-being that are being demonstrated in localities across North America and internationally;
(3) To examine the above findings through the lenses of critical theory, policy making, business strategy, technology assessment, sustainability education, and others, with an eye toward identifying those that have potential for mainstreaming and promoting systemic change.
Click here for the final report of the workshop.
More details, including the agenda, the list of participants, and presentations, are available on the workshop website: http://scorai2012.wordpress.com/
KEY INSIGHTS FROM THE CONFERENCE INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
- Sustainable consumption is a political issue. Is it appropriate / useful as a term?
- Sustainable consumption and production are one system – they cannot be disconnected.
- Norms, emotions and structures (e.g., trust, social context, social practices and identities, policies, choice architecture, land use & transportation planning, macroeconomic and development paradigms, business models) are critically important in determining individual behaviour.
- Individuals are citizens not just consumers. We need to support building citizenship.
- Individual actions become deeper changes when an individual is embedded within a group that reinforces virtuous behaviour.
- Collaboration and sharing are key approaches to shifting production and consumption systems – these are encouraged by, for example, creating the culture and architecture for sharing.
- Institutional consumers are powerful in shifting demand and influencing supply chains, for example, through their procurement / purchasing policies.
- Transparency along the supply chain is important.
- We need to move towards building a movement beyond our silos to identify strategic leverage points for interventions, to scale up our efforts, and to achieve big-picture systemic change.
- A balance between organic / emergent approachesandstrategic approaches is necessary.
- It is important to look for unexpected allies in building a movement / creating a coalition of the unexpected (marketers, multicultural).
- There is no strong evidence that initiatives / projects in alternative lifestyles and systems of provisioning significantly reduce material consumption and ecological footprints; however, some emergent evidence supports the idea that such projects have other important effects that would be relevant to a transition toward a post-consumer sustainable society.
- Some ways to increase the power of grassroots and other local initiatives is for activists to break down the sectors and project silos and to engage in hybrid projects that include multiple activist organizations, local businesses, policy makers, politicians and others.
- Food is a powerful entry point for engaging people on sustainable consumption & production.
- A positive approach and vision is necessary for motivating and spurring social change (regenerative vs. limits, ‘more of what matters’, mindfulness, satiability, value). This requires proper framing, new narratives, stories and making a business case for change – how can we support the transition to sustainable consumption? What frames and messages work?
- Empirical evidence shows that we, in affluent countries and at the global scale, are overconsuming; there are US survey results that support our work in shifting from overconsumption – a majority of US survey respondents agree that the country would be better off if they consumed less.
- Keeping in mind that profound social changes have long latency periods, it would seem that relatively little has been accomplished in North America over the past decade in terms of reducing personal consumption, lifestyles changes, and institutional and political shifts.
- We need to focus on the quantity of how much we consume (monitoring for absolute reductions in footprints) to complement the current focus on quality (eco-labeling, certification).