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Sustainable products and consumers

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When you consider all the products we import and consume in the UK, the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 19% since 1990. And across Europe people currently consume 30% more natural resources than the Earth can replenish.

The impacts from our businesses, lifestyles and homes are not sustainable.  75% of consumers’ carbon emissions are from products and services and we must find more efficient ways of producing and consuming goods in order to reduce our impacts on the environment including the natural environment.

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What can you do?

Consumers can help reduce their impact and make a difference by the choices they make about the goods and services they buy and how they use them. Find out more information on how to be more sustainable at home, including how to pick greener products and understand labels, by visiting Directgov guides on the Environment and Greener Living.

Businesses can make a difference by reducing the impact of their products and services on the environment from the processes of: design, materials use, packaging, delivery, marketing, disposal and reuse.  Free business advice and support (including grant schemes that may be available) to secure environment and efficiency gains by businesses and improve sustainability and green credentials is available from the Business Link website.

What is Defra doing for businesses and consumers?

Defra is working with partners (including Business and Consumer groups) and is supporting the following projects that encourage sustainable consumption and production:

  • Defra leads on the development of policies to encourage sustainable public purchasing, in particular Government Buying Standards.
  • Carbon footprinting product impacts – (the PAS2050 methodology) - “PAS 2050” is the first published methodology to enable business to measure their carbon footprint of the products and services in a standard and consistent way.
  • Energy Using Products  – standards, requirements and initiatives - minimum EU energy and environmental performance standards are in the process of being set for over twenty products (eg ICT, white goods, boilers and lighting). The technical requirements are set out in the regulations, and the Market Transformation Programme (MTP) provides more information and the evidence underpinning the standards. The National Measurement Office (NMO) is responsible for enforcement of Eco-Design of Energy Using Products and European Energy Labels requirements.
  • Product roadmaps – improving produce and producers’ sustainability – Defra with industry partners is piloting product roadmaps to improve the sustainability of ten high impact product groups.  The Product roadmap has details of the products, action plans developed (or in development), targets and progress on targets.
  • Environmental claims and Labels – working with business to help customers choose sustainable products – Providing clear, straightforward information on the environmental performance of products has benefits for both consumers and business alike.  Defra works with business to help them comply with mandatory labelling requirements (like the EU energy label), encourage robust voluntary labeling schemes (like the EU Ecolabel), and to encourage environmental claims that are clear, accurate and substantiated.
  • Influencing sustainable behaviours amongst consumers and businesses - through a dedicated Centre of Expertise on Influencing Behaviours, Defra is developing research and related actions to help encourage more sustainable consumer lifestyles. The research is underpinned by the Framework for Pro-environmental Behaviours (2008) which identifies attitudes, behaviours and potential for change by consumers.
  • Wider Sustainable Consumption Production (SCP) Research - named SCP research can be found by searching the Defra research and development database.

Page last modified: 9 March 2011