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Consumer Empowerment & Responsible Business Approaches. Cheryl Hicks, WBCSD OECD CR Roundtable, 15 June 2009. WBCSD membership & workstream on Sustainable Consumption & Consumers. Where we started… Key questions for business: What is sustainable and responsible consumption?

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Consumer Empowerment & Responsible Business Approaches

Cheryl Hicks, WBCSD

OECD CR Roundtable, 15 June 2009


WBCSD membership & workstream on

Sustainable Consumption & Consumers


Where we started…

Key questions for business:

  • What is sustainable and responsible consumption?
  • Are consumption pattern issues core business issues? What is the business case?
  • What is the role of the consumer?
  • What is the role of business going forward?

A WOOLY topic


What are the



from a business perspective?


Increased consumer awareness & concern

  • 96% of Europeans say that protecting the environment is important for them personally. Two-thirds of this group say that it is “very important”
  • • Nearly ¼ US adults now subscribes to a new set of values that typically includes “environmentalism, feminism, global issues and spiritual searching”. These “cultural creatives” are well educated, relatively affluent, and typical of the kind of consumer responsible for the success of hybrid cars.

Increased consumer willingness

“I would be more likely to purchase products or services from a company with good reputation for environmental responsibility”


Attitudes vs. behavior

There is a large gap between consumer attitudes and willingness and ACTUAL BEHAVIOUR CHANGE


Barriers to behavior change – Why is it so difficult?

The consumer will not compromise on performance, convenience or price


Facts & Trends on Sustainable Consumption

  • December 2008
  • efficiency gains and technological advances alone will not be sufficient to bring consumption patterns to a sustainable level
  • changes will also be required to consumer lifestyles and the ways in which consumers use and choose products and services…
  • business needs to play a leadership role in fostering more sustainable consumer choices …to achieve more sustainable lifestyles.

A business perspective on

sustainable consumption

more sustainable consumption business approaches11
More Sustainable Consumption: Business Approaches

Innovation:development of new and improved products, services and business modelsincorporating provisions for delivering maximum societal value at minimum environmental cost

Choice-Influencing: the use of marketing communications and awareness-raising campaigns to enable and encourage consumersto choose and use products more efficiently and sustainably

Choice-Editing:the removal of “unsustainable” products, product components and services from the marketplace. In partnership with other actors in society such as policy makers and retailers


The business case:

Products and services have to perform better, have a competitive price, AND be more sustainable

They must minimize environmental impacts and deliver value to society


The business case:

Business needs to create the market for sustainable products by working in partnership with the consumer

…and by using marketing and communications to influence consumer choice and behaviour


Decisions that directly control the impacts of consumption.

  • The business case:
    • Businesses choice-edit by controlling elements of their supply chain or by eliminating product components.
    • Policymakers choice-edit by banning a product or substance.
    • Retailers choice-edit by deciding to eliminate products from their shelves or by demanding certain standards of their supply chains.
  • Key learnings:

Choices to edit the availability of certain products are often in conflict

…business, governments and society must work together to define sustainable products and lifestyles


Business cannot do it alone…

Sustainable consumption is a systemic challenge that requires all actors in society to work together.

sustainable consumption wbcsd 2009 action plan
Sustainable Consumption WBCSD 2009 Action Plan
  • 1. Advocate Facts & Trends on SC
  • Policy-makers, retailers, marketers
  • 2. More sustainable products & consumption
  • Develop principles & criteria from a business perspective
  • 3. Sustainable lifestyles
  • Develop business view on lifestyles that support the vision of a sustainable world