In an effort to create a shift in a more sustainable lifestyle in the UK, the UK Government, Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government and the Northern Ireland Administration have agreed upon a set of principles to provide a basis for sustainable development policy in the UK. These UK shared principles are: living within environmental limits, ensuring a strong, healthy and just society by achieving a sustainable economy, using sound science responsibility, and promoting good governance (Shared UK principles of sustainable development, 2006).
These are also helpful in assessing the sustainability of policy delivery. The UK Government also recognises that changing behaviour is a cross cutting theme closely linked to all of these priorities. If we want to succeed in our ‘one-planet’ goal, comprehensive approach in policy-making should be adopted. All the factors needed to change the present consumption behaviour should be considered to bring about the change. Also, all sectors (government, business and households) must partake in this challenge. The government has its vital role of leading the battle against unsustainable consumption.
In the report, ‘I will if you will’, cited four E’s as government strategy on their part to sustainable consumption. The four E’s are Exemplify, Enable, Encourage and Engage. Each component has its own policy implications on investment (Enabling), community (Engaging), fiscal incentives and regulations (Encouraging) and communication or persuasion (Engage). Moreover, the government crafted the ‘Sustainable Consumption Action Framework’ to guide policies on sustainable consumption. It recognises the possibility of consumer behaviour change.
Changes in consumer behaviour would drive changes in business practices. Behaviour change is complex and may seem difficult to achieve but possible and essential. For instance, persuading people to drive less or fly less is difficult but considered important and possible. Public policies on sustainable consumption should move all sectors forward to sustainable consumption. The framework is based on five elements- use the mandate for action, focus on behaviour, put products and services at the centre, and widens the mandate.
First, with a mandate, government can introduce policies that will help consumers to change their behaviour. The policies should be fair, positive, and tangible. Also, policy action should enable people to live sustainable lifestyles. Second, to change consumer behaviour, solutions should be symbolic and effective in everyday lives. Third, putting products and services at the centre, refers to collaborative partnership between government and business. Harnessing enterprise would be possible by setting long-term sustainability product roadmaps for key products and services.
Fourth, government should facilitate collective responses to collective problems which cannot be solved individually. It is hard for individual or business to deviate from collective norms. All should move forward together. Fifth, the mandate should be widen to incorporate the changes as the society moves forward. The changes will be necessary to address some issues met along the way. The said framework would ensure the public of coordinated network and better service delivery (source). It is also about what OECD governments are doing, or can do, to help households reduce these environmental impacts.
It reviews the framework and objectives of policies to promote sustainable consumption, examines the effectiveness of different types of policy instruments (regulatory, economic, social) to influence consumer decision-making, and identifies combinations of instruments for promoting more sustainable consumption in the five areas studied. It identifies some of the key challenges to developing policies to influence household consumption patterns, but also the opportunities and potential effective strategies to generate greater action by consumers.