By Lorraine Dixon

Business, Environment and Sustainability Specialist – KOEE

Source: UNEP

Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) refers to “the use of services and related products, which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle of the service or product so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations” (UNEP, 2010).

The global Travel & Tourismsector contributed $8.8 trillion and 319 million jobs to the world economy in 2018 (WTTC, 2019). However, the sectoraccounted for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by As the competitiveness of the tourism sector relies heavily on natural resources and the sector is forecasted to continue growing, the concept of SCP is highly relevant to ensure the sustainable development of tourism. Constant rethinking and optimization of performance of the tourism sector are of utmost importance to decouple tourism’s growth from the increasing use of natural resources. Moreover, advancing SCP in the tourism sector has the potential to achieve positive multiplier effects at all levels of its transversal value chain and can further position the sector as an agent of change.

Target 12.b of Sustainable Development Goal 12 on ensuring responsible consumption and production, sets out the need to develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism, which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products. The Sustainable Tourism Programme (STP) of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP) aims at developing such SCP practices, including resource efficient initiatives that result in enhanced economic, social and environmental outcomes. 

As a transversal economic sector, tourism has an extended and fragmented value chain which requires collaboration among a wide array of stakeholders (from different levels and branches of government, to the private sector and civil society) to deliver the tourism product and implies diverse linkages with other sectors. Furthermore, tourism, like no other sector, involves direct interaction between visitors (consumers) and host communities (producers) and thus can have a profound influence on the individual leading to more sustainable travel behaviour and demand (UNWTO and UNEP, 2019).

Source: UNWTO & UNEP

Areas of policy focus for improving the contribution of tourism towards SCP and sustainable development as a whole include:

  • Enhancing tourism’s environmental governance and institutional synergies 
  • Raising awareness of the potential of tourism to advance SDG 12
  • Enhancing the environmental components of tourism policies
  • Improving monitoring and disclosure of the sustainable development impacts of tourism for enhanced accountability


UNEP (2010). ABC of SCP Clarifying Concepts on Sustainable Consumption and Production.

WTTC (2019). Travel & Tourism continues strong growth above global GDP.

Lenzen, M. et al. (2018). The carbon footprint of global tourism. Nature Climate ChangeVolume 8, pages 522–528

UNWTO & UNEP (2019). Baseline Report on the Integration of Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns into Tourism Policies.

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