History and Context of the Global Research Forum on SCP

The idea for a Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption ultimately goes back to the 1992 Earth Summit, which not only identified a range of objectives and activities involving governments, business and civil society, but also the need to support these efforts through research. Technologies were to be studied, databases created to collect information on production and consumption patterns, methodologies developed to analyze those patterns, and new concepts and measures developed to translate that knowledge into improved policies and practices.

Following Rio, various research initiatives were launched and new knowledge and ideas generated. However, when world leaders came together in Johannesburg to review their progress, they faced the fact that the improvements in technology, public awareness and behavior had been overridden by overall increases in consumption and production. A new topic was added to the research agenda – the nature of the “implementation gap” and how to overcome it.

In response to this challenge, the World Summit on Sustainable Development announced that Sustainable Consumption and Production was an overriding objective of sustainable development and called for a “10 year Framework of Programs in support of National and Regional initiatives.” However, the mandate did not specify the programs to be developed.

In 2005, a 3-day seminar on “Sustainable Consumption: The Contribution of Research,” hosted by the Norwegian University for Science and Technology, announced the need “to develop a common research agenda and proposal for a research infrastructure,” which resulted in the three-year EU-funded SCORE! project.

In 2007, at the 3rd International Experts Meeting on the 10 Year Framework held in Sweden, participants of the NGO Forum raised the question of the programs and proposed a number of potential programs that could usefully provide support to the various SCP initiatives and efforts around the world – including a program on research.

In 2008 the North-American organization SCORAI (www.scorai.org) was founded, the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action initiative. Since its origination it has been a tireless advocate for the creation of a similar global organization. In 2012 the first Transatlantic SCORAI workshop was organized in Bregenz, bringing together European and American researchers and practitioners. SCORAI-NA and SCORAI-Europe are regional nodes of the GRF-SCP.

In May 1st , 2012 the first Transatlantic SCORAI workshop has been organized in Bregenz, Austria, which brought together European and American researchers and practitioners.

In 2010 the idea of a Global Sustainable Production and Consumption Research Program was formally presented at the 18th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) as part of the ICSPAC report, Still Waiting for Delivery, which described “an international collaboration and exchange among SPC researchers and institutions.”

Later that year the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) called for submission of program proposals to be considered in the negotiations of the 10 Year Framework of Programs, scheduled for the upcoming year. A number of organizations agreed on a proposal for the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption, submitted in November by ICSPAC to DESA.

February 22nd and 23rd 2011 in Nairobi, Kenya during the UNEP Global Ministerial Environment Forum, two workshops introducing and promoting GRF were organized. The two workshops were “Knowledge Networking for Sustainable Production and Consumption” and “Mapping the Movement Towards Sustainable Production and Consumption.”

On May 3rd 2011 at the 19th Session of the CSD, the GRF proposal was showcased along with several other program proposals at the ICSPAC Partnership Fair. GRF was also presented and discussed in greater depth on May 5th 2011 in a Learning Center workshop, led by Philip Vergragt, Lewis Akenji and Jeffrey Barber. When the CSD session ended in a political stalemate, leaving the 10 Year Framework hanging in suspension, GRF partners agreed to move ahead independently, with plans to organize a 2.5-day workshop in Rio de Janeiro just before  the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

As a contribution to the Rio+20 process, GRF partners submitted an input statement which is now part of the zero draft compilation document. The GRF statement points out that one of the essential needs of national and regional SCP/green economy initiatives is meaningful and timely research and knowledge on the underlying consumption and production patterns driving worsening global social and environmental trends. Knowledge about these drivers and the assessment of policy instruments, practices and strategies is needed at the global, national and local levels.

Noting that the UN is in an excellent position to promote and coordinate research efforts and the flow of knowledge to, from and among regions and countries, the GRF comments pointed out that “an international research program on sustainable production and consumption is thus an essential element of any institutional structure on sustainable development.

Whether GRF will be accepted as a program of the 10 Year Framework, once this finally takes form, or will be an independent institution for collaboration among SPC researchers and practitioners, the need for knowledge networking at this point in time is critical.


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