Sustainable Consumption For Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Teufel, Jenny; Viviana Lopez, Jan Christian Polanía Giese, Ulrike Knörzer 2021: Sustainable Consumption For Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Berlin/Bonn: Bundesamt für Naturschutz/Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit.

Prevailing consumption patterns are coupled to a rapid destruction of natural and near-natural ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Currently, a comprehensive overview of existing policy recommendations and implementation measures to counteract the impacts of consumption on nature is not available. Likewise, an overview of effective formats (e.g. fact-based information, storytelling, using of social media, etc.) for the communication of the link between consumption and biodiversity are missing.

Yet, communication between producers, consumers and decision-makers seems to be crucial in this regard. This paper aims at filling this gap. It summarises the state of knowledge on the impacts of current consumption patterns on biodiversity and ecosystem services and gives an overview of recommendations for policy action and proposed measures. Good and best practice examples of communication on sustainable consumption including aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services are given.

To foster a change towards nature-friendly consumption, cooperation of key actors will be essential. Hence, this document also includes an overview of international networks, cooperations and initiatives of relevant stakeholders. It is based on a status quo analysis of the current state of findings, communication and cooperation related to consumption and its impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The following central statements can be made on the base of the results of the analysis:

  • The main causes for loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services are direct destruction of habitats, land use change, overuse and degradation of ecosystems, climate change and invasive species. The prevailing production patterns and the growing demand for consumer goods and services are directly related to the above-mentioned causes.
  • In relation to the entire life cycle of consumer products, the extraction of abiotic and biotic resources and the cultivation of biotic resources is generally associated with major losses on biodiversity and ecosystem services. 
  • Due to the globalisation of many value chains, the consumption patterns of industrialised countries are largely based on raw materials extracted or cultivated in countries of the Global South. As a result, these countries are experiencing serious losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services. This development is particularly alarming in view of the fact that the countries of the Global South are generally richer in biodiversity hot spots than other countries.
  • Sufficiency-oriented lifestyles play a central role in a transition to more sustainable consumption patterns and in achieving ambitious goals in the protection of biodiversity, ecosystem services and climate. Therefore, special efforts should be made to successfully promote sustainable consumption through sufficiency-oriented lifestyles explicitly in the developed countries. These need to be embedded into a broader debate on greening the economy. 
  • Several studies state that food consumption is one of the major causes of biodiversity loss at global level. Therefore, in terms of biodiversity conservation and the preservation of ecosystem services, the need for action in the area of food consumption has to be tackled with imperative action.
  • It should be noted too, that in other consumption areas such as mobility or information and communication technology there is a lack of knowledge about the links between consumption patterns and specific goods regarding the impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • People’s awareness on the value of biodiversity is rising, but most consumers are still not aware on how their individual consumption behaviour is connected to the causes contributing to the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide. 
  • In general, biodiversity conservation is not at the fore-front of communicating sustainable consumption. The main focus of sustainable consumption communication still lies on arguments related to climate change impacts. Other topics that are communicated relatively prominently in this context are the consumption of organic food and fair trade.
  • Most of the analysed media documents did not use the concept of ecosystem services. However, the value of nature and the dependence of human well-being on healthy and living ecosystems was emphasised more clearly in the last two years than in previous years. Especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders have increased their efforts to highlight the links between consumption, biodiversity and human health.