Our recently published research, produced for Defra, is exploring options for measuring the global environmental impacts of UK consumption.
The consumption of products such as food and other commodities can have a huge global environmental impact and cause issues such as deforestation, water stress and pollution. For example, between 2001 and 2015, 27% of deforestation was the result of permanent land conversion to produce commodities.
The 25 Year Environment Plan recognises this problem, and calls for the UK to "avoid improving our domestic environment at the expense of the environment globally." In order to measure progress against this, we have been contracted by Defra to begin development of an indicator to measure the global environmental impacts of UK consumption. This week, our preliminary research, produced in the form of two reports which explore alternative strategies for taking this indicator forward, was published on Defra’s research platform. One was a proof of concept study undertaken by our contractors Route2, which explores the use of economic trade models. This gives a 'whole economy' picture of UK consumption impacts, which can be broken down by the country in which the impact takes place and the sector causing the impact. The second report explored the feasibility and effectiveness of using the proportion of imports that are certified as being sustainable in the context of this indicator. It was recommended that the first of these two approaches should be taken forward.
We are continuing the work in this important area and aim to release an experimental statistic based on a refined version of this methodology later this year, in collaboration with SEI York. The area of sustainable production and consumption is a growing policy area, both across the four countries within the UK and internationally.
If you’re interested in finding out more about it, you can also check out our Linking Environment to Trade Guide.