Ludger Heidbrink and Guli-Sanam Karimova Joined National Conference on Sustainable Consumption in Berlin
National Conference on Sustainable Consumption initiated by the German Federal Government took place on March 23rd in Berlin. The Conference aimed at encouraging public discussions among key stakeholders and experts from academia, NGOs, business and politics to collect valuable feedback and suggestions for the newly adopted National Program on Sustainable Consumption in Germany. Ludger Heidbrink and Guli-Sanam Karimova joined the conference to gain more insights into the topic of sustainable consumption that is relevant for a current KCG research project.
Consumption of goods and services is a crucial economic activity that fulfils diverse social and individual functions. One of them is to enable consumers all over the world to satisfy their needs as well as to develop individual lifestyles. A large part of consumption of global resources has been done by private households. Their consumption preferences and behaviours may determine the goods and services they prefer to consume, resulting in certain social and environmental impacts. In other words, if private households may have more sustainable consumption behaviours, there may be a great potential for, on the one hand, reducing negative environmental impacts with respect to global warming, climate pollution, and biodiversity loss etc. and, on the other hand, mitigating negative social impacts with respect to, for example, unfair working conditions. Some of the unfavourable environmental and social developments were argued to become more and more severe over time with intensifying globalization reflected in increasing cross-border production and consumption activities. For this reason, sustainable consumption has been considered by many governments in the world, incl. the German Government as a key focus area for policy actions.
One of such key policy actions was initiated by the Federal Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) within the framework of the G7. The initiative aimed at encouraging the development of sustainable global value chains with focus on developing economies. Potential measures should be implemented to help promote better working conditions, prevent risks and strengthen the complaining mechanisms along the global supply chains. The entrepreneurial responsibility for workers and employment should be strengthened, following social standards and rules of relevant international agreements such as those from International Labour Organization (ILO) and from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Since more and more related policy actions have been or will be initiated over time, the German Federal Government established a Competence Centre (https://www.k-n-k.de/Kompetenzzentrum) to better coordinate the resources invested in encouraging sustainable consumption in Germany and beyond. The Competence Centre should also help keep the public aware of the issue of sustainable consumption and support professional exchange among stakeholders and experts with different backgrounds. However, providing relevant information and raising awareness would probably be a necessary but not a sufficient step towards sustainable consumption. Some experts from academia and business argue that pricing strategies for goods and services need to be substantially adjusted as well. In so doing, product prices can reflect not only the narrowly defined production costs but also the external costs inflicted on the environment and societies during production, distribution, and utilization processes of the products consumed.
The issue of sustainable consumption is also a key research topic of one of the KCG research projects “Cross-cultural differences in the perception of corporate social responsibility and consumer social responsibility along global supply chains”. While analysing consumer social responsibility, differences in cultural backgrounds and their potential impacts are going to be considered as well. This is expected to provide insightful inputs to support further policy design for countries with different cultural backgrounds.