Catalysing science-based policy action on Sustainable Consumption and Production: The Value-Chain Approach & its application to food, construction and textiles
8 February 2021

In advance of the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly, the Task Group of the One Planet network and International Resource Panel (IRP) has released its final report showcasing the ‘Value-Chain Approach,’ a methodology for science-based policy action on Sustainable Consumption and Production.

The Value-Chain Approach is the product of the IRP and the One Planet network Task Group, an 18-month collaboration that formed in response to the resolution on sustainable consumption and production at the 4th UN Environment Assembly (UNEA4), composed of experts on natural-resource use from the IRP, and practitioners on sustainable consumption and production from across the One Planet network.

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Launch Event

On 19 February, at a digital event on the sidelines of the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly, members of the IRP-One Planet network Task Group presented the Value-Chain Approach and discussed how it can strengthen the science policy-interface on sustainable consumption and production, in response to UNEP/EA.4/Res.1. You can watch it here:

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Turning science into action

While the science is clear on the need to decouple social-economic development from natural-resource use, and the positive impacts this would have on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity, and reducing pollution, this evidence does not always reach key decisions makers in a way that is relevant and actionable.

Ligia Noronha, Director of the UN Environment Programme Economy Division, says that stakeholders, whether governments or businesses, need comprehensive and tailored information to help identify priorities, implement strategies, and monitor impacts around the sustainable management of natural resources.

“It’s not enough just to know that natural-resource use and environmental impacts related to economic activity are increasing,” said Ms Noronha. “To drive action on sustainable consumption and production, decision-makers need to know where the key points of intervention are.”

In order to ‘translate’ the technical information in IRP reports into actionable, science-based recommendations on sustainable consumption and production for governments and businesses, the Task Group developed the ‘Value-Chain Approach’ and applied it to three critical sectors: construction, food and textiles.

The final report of the Task Group, entitled ‘Catalysing science-based policy action on Sustainable Consumption and Production: The Value-Chain Approach & its application to food, construction and textiles,’ explains the ‘Value-Chain Approach’ methodology and shares findings from the three sectoral analyses.

Identifying key points of intervention for sustainable consumption and production

The Value-Chain Approach is a methodology for catalysing science-based policy action on sustainable consumption and production. Its purpose is to identify key points of intervention within economic systems to reduce natural-resource use and environmental impacts caused by production and consumption, and to define a common agenda for action.

The Value-Chain Approach anchors natural-resource use and environmental impacts within the socio-economic reality of production and consumption by drawing on diverse bodies of knowledge. It applies the natural sciences to map resource use and environmental impacts along the value chains of high-impact economic sectors. Then integrates a range of social sciences such as political economy, sociology and anthropology to understand the socio-economic systems within which resource use takes place.

By applying a systems analysis, the Value-Chain Approach identifies the socio-economic drivers and barriers that cause the value chains of different sectors to operate as they do. This takes into account the complex feedback loops that determine and influence the operations and behaviours of actors along different stages of the value chain.

Critically, the Value-Chain Approach goes beyond an understanding of where resource use and environmental impacts occur, to understand why this is happening and what the key points of intervention are for science-based policy action.

Consolidating existing action & defining a common agenda for systems transformation

Through consultation and collaboration, the Value-Chain Approach identifies where solutions already exist at key intervention points, and where there are gaps and opportunities, and defines a common agenda for concerted actions that can transform the system. This participatory approach taps into the bodies of lay and practical knowledge that are collectively held among SCP practitioners, as well as ensuring their crucial buy-in for the implementation of this common agenda.

The Value-Chain Approach organises information and data to shape impactful action, making it a practical interface between science on natural resources and action on sustainable consumption and production. By being specific (naming the type of resource, type of impact, stage of the value chain) and by engaging all stakeholders, the approach generates solutions that are actionable at different levels by different actors.

The in-depth findings of the Value-Chain Approach applied to the sectors of food, construction and textiles are available in the report, and will be explored in upcoming articles.

Explore the Value-Chain Approach

*To open in full screen, click the Prezi icon at the bottom right


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Agriculture and Fishery, International Resource Panel, Textiles, Value chain