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Policies to promote sustainable consumption: Innovative approaches in Europe


  • Frieder Rubik is at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), Heidelberg, Germany.
    Harri Kalimo, Katja Biedenkopf and Ólöf Söebech are at the Institute for European Studies (IES), Brussels, Belgium.

Gerd Scholl is at the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), Potsdamer Berlin, Germany. E-mail.


Policy-makers are increasingly recognising that the promotion of more sustainable consumption patterns is an indispensable prerequisite for achieving sustainable development in the long term. Policy documents and action plans have been published, and a wide array of policy instruments has been implemented with the aim of reducing the environmental and social burdens of consuming goods and services. But what are the latest trends and innovative approaches in sustainable consumption (SC) policies? What could be learnt for future policy-making? Based on an overview of European policy instruments and several case studies, the paper discusses instructive examples of SC policy instruments, in particular the Danish information campaign “One Tonne Less”, the Dutch tax incentive scheme “Green Funds”, the British “Red/Green calculator”, and the pan-European internet platform “TopTen”. Important features of novel policies — such as adaptability and collective action — are identified, and recommendations for future policies are presented. The recommendations refer to the foundation of SC policies, to the specific approach taken, to the applied instruments, and to the proper documentation of the implemented policies.

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