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How can we shape future demand?

Technology and new business models make it possible to do much more with much less, thereby reducing demand for resources. Governments and companies must seize the opportunity to shape future consumption trends towards more sustainable practices.

How we meet future needs will be shaped by a variety of factors – population figures, resource availability, income levels, regulatory pressures, policy interventions, relative prices, cultural preferences and technological breakthroughs. But technological innovations are bridging the gap between producers and consumers with novel products and services, whether through car-sharing, holiday accommodation, smart meters or diets. At the same time, governments and companies are exploring new ways, through ‘nudging’, for example, to support more sustainable purchasing decisions. These developments, in turn, are bringing more concrete opportunities to rethink future resource use.

Typically, forecasts of future demand are simple extrapolations of the historical relationships between per capita demand for a specific product and per capita income. The assumption is that, as people get richer, they consume and waste more food, materials or energy, following historical patterns of consumption and business-as-usual trajectories. It is time to revisit these assumptions.

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Related events

  • Strategic Dialogue on Shaping the Demand Revolution

    Dialogue by Hoffmann Centre

    18 May 2017, 10:00–18:00 BST  •  Chatham House, London, United Kingdom

  • The Chatham House London Conference 2017

    Conference by Chatham House

    23–24 October 2017  •  London, United Kingdom

  • A Sustainable Food Future: Technology, Resource Use and Resilience

    Conference by Chatham House

    27–28 November 2017  •  Chatham House, London, United Kingdom