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Trends in Sustainable Development Reports

Trends SD CoverTrends in Sustainable Development – Towards Sustainable Consumption and Production
:: 2010-2011

This report highlights trends in resource extraction and use as well as key stresses on the world's ecosystems and life-support systems to which human activities are contributing.

It shows trends in the key drivers of such stresses including

  • population growth
  • urbanization
  • globalization
  • rising affluence

It then highlights major policy and voluntary initiatives which have been designed to move economies and societies towards sustainable patterns of consumption and production, illustrating with cases from around the world.

Finally, it examines trends in technology and finance and what their contribution can be to putting economies on a more sustainable path.


  • Resource extraction continues to track global economic activity, with steep growth over the past several decades. The resource intensity of economic activities has declined but the sheer increase in scale has overwhelmed the positive effects of technological and structural change.
  • Developed countries’ ecological footprints continue to expand, suggesting little tendency so far for delinking of economic activity from environmental degradation.
  • Countries exceeding their biocapacity went from none in 1960 to 24 countries at present.


  • Many policy and voluntary initiatives exist at different levels to move producers and consumers towards more sustainable practices and behaviors.
  • Governments
  • Several governments are leading by example by putting in place sustainable procurement policies, both in developed and developing countries.
  • The French government has set a goal to reduce the energy consumption of existing buildings by at least 38 percent by 2020.
  • The government of India has announced that all government buildings must be at a minimum 3-star “Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment” compliant.
  • Business
  • The number of enterprises certified to ISO 14001, an environmental management standard, has been rising steadily, from under 40,000 in 2001 to almost 160,000 in 2007.
  • The estimated retail value of Fairtrade stands at around € 2.9 billion and has continued to grow despite the global recession.
  • Consumers/citizens/investors
  • A National Geographic and GlobeScan survey finds that environmentally friendly consumer behavior has increased in 13 of the 14 countries surveyed in both 2008 and 2009.

Technologies and finance:

  • The ecological footprints of some new and emerging technologies are still uncertain: nanomaterials and technologies hold considerable promise for energy and material saving and renewable energy applications. At the same time, exposure risk assessments are still at an early stage.
  • Developing countries’ share of total global financial investment in clean energy has reached almost one-third.