Impacts of the digital transformation on consumption and their implications for implementing the German Sustainable Development Strategy in, with and by Germany – Assessment Report

Polanía Giese, Jan Christian; Benno Keppner, Bianca Llerandi und Christa Liedtke 2019: Impacts of the digital transformation on consumption and their implications for implementing the German Sustainable Development Strategy in, with and by Germany. Assessment Report. Berlin/Wuppertal: adelphi/Wuppertal Institute.

Digitalisation is disrupting business practices worldwide and transforming consumption patterns. While a global increase in wealth is leading to higher consumption rates, consumption-related decisions are increasingly based on digital information and marketing; furthermore, shopping increasingly takes place online and products and services are more and more digitalized.

The transformative character of digitalisation calls for political action in order to ensure sustainable consumption in a new and dynamically changing context. Focusing on consumption is imperative in combatting many global challenges. Take climate change: consumption-based emissions (i.e. emissions from domestic final consumption and emissions caused by the production of imported goods) are rising more rapidly than production-based emissions in high-income countries. Meanwhile most political measures target production-based emissions (i.e. territorial emissions).

The German council for sustainable development (Rat für Nachhaltige Entwicklung) has called for the “principle of sustainable development [to] serve as the political framework for digital transformation” as “digitalisation has the potential to engender disruptive developments in the business world as well as society as a whole that carry both great opportunities and significant risks”. Thus, to implement the 2030 Agenda, in particular SDG 12, and the National Program Sustainable Consumption, it is key to seize the opportunities that digitalisation presents for sustainable consumption and tackle the challenges. This assessment report thus examines the following key question: “What are the implications of the digital transformation of consumption patterns for the implementation of the German sustainability strategy in, by and with Germany?”