Environmental Inequalities
An ESRC/NERC Transdisciplinary Seminar Series


Seminar Programme
Series Summary
Cross Cutting Themes
Environmental Justice Resources

Seminar Resources

Seminar 2 - Inequality and sustainable consumption
Seminar Series Quick links

Seminar 1
Environmental Inequalities: meanings, themes and implications

Seminar 2
Inequality and Sustainable Consumption

Seminar 3
Inequalities, Flooding and Water Resources

Seminar 4
Inequalities, Pollution and Health

Seminar 5
Sustainable Communities and Environmental Inequalities

Seminar 6
Inequalities, Green Space and the Natural Environment

Seminar 7
Environmental Inequalities Summit


 July 4th and 5th, 2006 University of East Anglia,
Norwich, UK
Local organisers: Gill Seyfang and Jouni Paavola

This second seminar in the Environmental Inequalities series seeks to: i) promote information exchange and awareness of current research; ii) improve the conceptual, theoretical and methodological basis for future work; and, iii) identify opportunities for strengthening interdisciplinary collaboration and research, with respect to the links between environmental inequality and sustainable consumption in both a UK and global context. 

Themes and Context
In recent years, particularly following the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, researchers, politicians, policymakers, environmental campaigners and the media alike have begun to pay increasing attention to the challenges of sustainable consumption, within the broader debate on sustainable consumption and production (SCP): i.e.: socio-technical innovation to improve resource efficiency, respect environmental limits and carrying capacity of planet earth. As part of this debate questions concerning the ‘ecological footprint’ of the developed nations, trade and global justice have been placed firmly on the international agenda.

At the same time sustainable consumption has increasingly come to be seen as an ‘environmental justice’ issue within the UK. For example the SDRN Environment and Social Justice Rapid Research and Evidence Review, undertaken for the 2004 review of the UK Sustainable Development Strategy, took a broad view of inequality and the consumption of environmental goods and services across a range of issues, including: access to environmental services (waste, recycling etc); local transport services; access to fresh healthy food; fuel poverty; community legal services for environmental issues; local environmental information; and, access to environmentally sound consumer products / options (e.g. utilities, retail).

Questions of inequality and injustice interface with issues of sustainable consumption in a number of ways. For the purposes of this seminar we will focus on the following dimensions

Distributive inequalities of 'under-consumption'
In distributive terms there are inequalities in patterns of consumption which may lead to poor, marginalized and excluded groups having insufficient access to environmental resources, information and services. Even in the developed world context this may result in their being unable to fully meet their basic needs (e.g. for affordable warmth), as well their being less able to participate in sustainable patterns of consumption than others in society. (e.g. to buy locally produced organic food).

Distributive inequalities of 'over-consumption'
Second there are inequalities in consumption arising from the fact that some groups consume a far greater share of environmental resources, and contribute far more to their degradation than others. Such as contributions to climate change at an international level and associated 'fair shares' debates. What evidence do we have of such forms of inequality, how substantial, differentiated and reliable is it, and how might this evidence be evaluated and incorporated into justice claims?

Procedural and participatory inequalities of consumption
Here issues relate to the social profiles of those involved in decision-making and in activities intended to promote sustainable consumption and how these can be made more inclusive and appropriate for different cultural, social and demographic groups. Policies for influencing consumption patterns also need to be carefully evaluated in respect of their potential distributive and regressive implications, such as those which might be associated with ecological taxes on waste, water or energy. How can inclusive and progressive policies to promote more sustainable consumption be developed and implemented?

**Presentations are not available for this seminar. Extended abstracts are collected together in one document for downloading  [Word 239KB]

Changing Behaviour and Low Income Communities
Jacquie Burgess, University of East Anglia

Human Nature, Expanding Eco-Footprints and Environmental Justice
William Rees, School of Community and Regional Planning, UBC

Environmental Impacts of UK Consumption – Exploring Links to Wealth, Inequality and Lifestyle
John Barrett, Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York

Transport, Accessibility and Social Exclusion
Karen Lucas, CfSD, University of Westminster

Food and Health Inequalities
Elizabeth Dowler, University of Warwick

Market-environmentalism, inequalities and domestic water consumption
Will Medd, Lancaster University

Inequality, Consumption and Sustainable Development; Where Next for Policy
Sue Dibb, National Consumer Council

Where is the ‘Wellbeing Dividend’? Nature, Structure and Consumption Inequalities
Tim Jackson, University of Surrey


(c) Lancaster University Geography Department 2007 - Contact Professor Gordon Walker