Focus on the future: trend analyses for environmental policy and research

Meat sample in open laboratory Petri dish. Animal cell cultured clean meat concept

What kinds of effects do trends like 3D printing, Consumption 4.0 and meat substitutes have on the environment? adelphi answers these questions through three different trend analyses for the Federal Ministry of Environment.


New technologies may exacerbate or reduce environmental issues. Technological developments not only have grave ramifications for our way of life, but also on the environment. The history and development of mobile phones highlights this. Indeed, the production of smart phones entails a serious burden for the environment: While a smartphone weighs only 80 grams, 75.3 kilograms of resources are needed to produce it. At the same time, using a smartphone may also provide some sort of relief for the environment, for instance through promoting the ‘sharing economy’. Estimating the ramifications of such trends is therefore a critical task for environmental policy, as is addressing those environmental issues that have already been identified.

Comprehensive trend analyses may yield valuable insights through showing possible developments and consequences of these newly-developed technologies. We are examining the consequences of 3D printing, Consumption 4.0 and meat substitutes for the Federal Ministry of Environment. We are providing insight into the development and environmental consequences of these three trends through detailed analyses, and are formulating concrete courses of action for political decision-makers.

Use of 3D Printing

3D printing is already referred to as the starting point of a new industrial revolution. From an environmental perspective, there are high hopes for this new technology. It may, for instance, allow for the construction of lighter components used to build vehicles or airplanes. This could decrease fuel needs and, therefore, cut greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, the printing of spare parts, which are no longer available on the market, may extend the service life of appliances and other products. At the same time, new ways of production are emerging that are not addressed by ordinary environmental standards. In our report, produced jointly with the Institute for Innovation and Technology for the Ministry, we describe the development, process chain, procedure, and materials required for 3D printing, the 3D printing market, as well as central actors and application domains. From this, we deduce recommended actions for environmental policy.

Find the report here

Young Couple Shopping Online On Laptop With Multi Colored Shopping Bags On Sofa

Digitalisation of consumption (Consumption 4.0)

What kind of consequences does the increasing digitalisation of consumption have on the environment? This is one of the questions we examine in our recent study. Special consideration was placed on the sub-aspects including Instant Shopping, influencing consumers, digitally-active consumers, green mobile apps, Augmented / Mixed and Virtual Reality, as well as digitalised payment. In sum, it may be argued that the increasing use of resources through ICT-technologies and generally-increasing levels of consumption, which are likely to rise as a result of new digital technologies, have negative consequences for the environment. However, they may also have positive effects on the environment. For instance, virtual reality may partially replace some products and services and sharing platforms may allow for their more efficient and longer use. The report has been produced jointly by adelphi and the Institute for Innovation and Technology.

Find the report here

Meat of the future: In vitro meat production, insects, and plant-based meat substitutes

Meat consumption is increasing globally, with significant consequences for the environment and animal protection as well as adverse health consequences for humans. Meat consumption in Germany remains high. Frequent demands are made, for instance by the German Advisory Council for the Environment, to reduce this consumption and increase the use of alternative sources of protein. Meat substitutes represent an alternative to meat consumption, and the market for these substitutes is currently growing significantly. In conjunction with the Institute for Innovation and Technology and the Ecologic Institute, adelphi is analysing this trend and examining the positive and negative consequences for the environment, as well as the health consequences of meat substitution products. Based on this, possible courses of action and political recommendations are formulated.

This trend report forthcoming and is being drafted.