More people globally are expected to join the middle class over the next two decades. These socioeconomic and demographic changes are good for individual prosperity but will increase demand for already constrained natural resources. Societies need to find just and equitable ways to meet individual needs and aspirations within the ecological limits of the planet. Sustainable practices in the production phase of products and services will not provide sufficient responses to meet science-based emissions reduction targets, natural resource constraints or the growing demand for basic needs such as food, water and sanitation, and access to energy. Furthermore, demand for materials will likely outpace efficiency gains in supply chains as well as overwhelm already stretched ecosystem services. Consumption patterns need to be made sustainable, particularly lifestyles in industrialized societies, and reduce their ecological footprint to allow for the regeneration of natural resources on which human life and biodiversity depend.
It is in the interest of business to find new solutions that enable sustainable consumption and production patterns. A better understanding of environmental and social impacts of products and services is needed, both of product life cycles and how these are affected by use within lifestyles. Identifying “hot spots” within the value chain where interventions have the greatest potential to improve the environmental and social impact of the system as a whole is a crucial first step. Business can use its innovative power to then design appropriate solutions that can both enable and inspire individuals to lead more sustainable lifestyles, reducing impacts and improving well-being.