Rio+20 Conference Overview

Global and Regional Research on Sustainable Consumption & Production: Achievements, Challenges and Dialogues
June 13-15, 2012, Rio de Janeiro

Venue: ESPM – Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing – Rio De Janeiro
Rua do Rosário, 90 Centro, 20041-002 – Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

The Global Research Forum on Sustainable Production and Consumption brings together individuals and organizations engaged in research and its applications on the transition towards sustainable production/consumption systems from various regions of the world.

The inaugural two and a half-day workshop was divided between a focus on the production of sustainable consumption and production research and its communication and application in practice. The workshop was by invitation only and engaged 70 participants (bios), researchers and practitioners drawn from various global regions. Read the full call for papers and expressions of interest here, see the full agenda here and download the papers and powerpoints here.

GRF on SPC builds on a 20+ year research tradition on SCP by numerous researchers, institutes, and networks around the world, and on many successful attempts to apply research findings into policy, civil society, and business. The workshop was followed by a side event at the UN Rio+20 conference (Tues 19 June – 13:15 – 14:45 – Room UN 6, Arena de Barra) to share some of the key outcomes of the GRF on SPC workshop with this wider audience. The revised papers of the workshop, together with outcomes of discussions, will also be published as Proceedings. In addition, a workshop report will be produced, and a selection of the research papers will be published in a special Journal issue.

The theme of the workshop was “Global and Regional research on SCP: achievements, challenges, and dialogues”, and began the process of addressing the following issues:

  • Looking for answers. During the past two decades an enormous amount of research has been carried out on a wide spectrum of issues concerning SCP. The workshop will try to take stock of this research by asking the question: what have we learned about creating sustainable production and consumption patterns? What works? Where does it work? When does it work?
  • Trends, crises and research needs. The present global system of consumption and production is resulting in major crises in the global environment, economy and people’s lives. Solutions and strategies are needed – which require appropriate knowledge and research.
  • Integrative methodologies. Production/consumption systems are multidimensional and their study includes sociology, anthropology and cultural studies, technologies, economics, psychology, communications, education, and politics. We need to explore interdisciplinary strategies and methodologies.
  • Replication mechanisms. A wide range of tools and guidelines has been developed for businesses and policy-makers in the field of SCP. How to take these from the shelf and get them mainstreamed? How to scale-up niche successes and make them business as usual? Lessons learned from various regions are welcome.
  • Beyond behavioral incentives. Behavioral incentives for change through technology, policies and educational programs are important, but generally not sufficient to bring about systemic changes. We need to consider wider frameworks including social movements and historical transitions.
  • Alternative systems. Experiments and experiences with alternative systems of provisioning, economics and lifestyles need to be evaluated and possibly be mainstreamed.
  • Translation gap. A lot of research has been done in the last years, but not all of it is available and applicable. How to bridge the “translation gap” between research and action?
  • Growth model. How do different regions and stakeholders view the dominant economic growth paradigm? How are alternatives as steady state economy and degrowth framed in various regions? What are some of the key insights with regard to developed and developing countries?
  • Well-being, lifestyles, and livelihoods. Issues of well-being, lifestyles and livelihoods have entered the research agenda next to sustainable consumption and production.
  • Transitions. What have we learned from the growing body of knowledge about transitions, both socio-technical and socio-cultural?
  • Global and national sustainability goals. How can rethinking global and national goals for sustainable development, such as the Millennium Consumption Goals (MCGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contribute to systemic changes in consumption patterns of the richest 20% of the world population, and how could they contribute to the MDGs, poverty alleviation, equity, and sustainable development paths for the world’s poor.  What are the implications for research?

Much of this research is scattered across various academic journals, reports, and grey literature as well as across geographic regions. This workshop brought this literature and experience together through review papers from various perspectives, made this available to practitioners and the wider public, including RIO+20 participants, and promoted support for new research based on practitioners’ research needs.

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