9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Consumerism and Environment Building I, 1E6

The Making of Finland's Programme on Sustainable Consumption and Production - Rethinking deliberative policy processes for transitions

Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) is an emerging field of environmental governance that has been on the international agenda particularly since Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002). Today, more than 30 counties from all over the world have developed or are developing national SCP programmes. This paper analyzes one of the pioneering processes, the making of FinlandĀ“s national programme to promote sustainable consumption and production.

The programme "Getting more and better from less" (2005) was negotiated among a consensus-oriented committee with representatives both from and beyond the government. It has been analysed by interviewing 20 of its members. As a framework, I have used deliberative policy process analysis. In the approach, concepts such as access, exchange and learning play central roles.

Preliminary results show that in FinlandĀ“s deliberative SCP process, access was open and inclusive. While learning seemed to be commonplace, committing to the process turned out to be rather loose. Moreover, interest conflicts watered down some of the more controversial proposals of the programme. In the end, however, a consensus was reached. Several proposals of the committee have been implemented but, so far, it has not lead to major structural adjustments.

The article discusses the bearings of the case for the design of deliberative processes to promote SCP, a field where radical transitions would be needed. It proposes that functions and target groups of programme work in this area would deserve more serious attention. As sustainable consumption and production is still a rather recent approach in mainstream environmental policy, the value of learning should not be underestimated.

Still, this article ponders whether broadly-based committee work is the most efficient way of policy learning. Would a different kind of approach have enhanced the innovation potential of the process? It notes that while concrete goals and policy proposals are certainly needed, the success of a programme may also depend on the faith, public attention and legitimacy it succeeds to establish.