Sufficiency: from a consumer to a sufficient society

The concept of sufficiency has been receiving renewed attention as an effective, if not indispensable, climate change mitigation strategy. However, in many policy and business environments, it remains a misunderstood and often criticised concept. Can sufficiency become a powerful driver for innovative and equitable ways to deliver service needs and wellbeing for all, while utilising natural resources within planetary boundaries? This is what we’ll try to find out during WRF’23.

Why sufficiency

The current economic model, relying on ever-increasing demand as a driver of economic growth, is leading humanity to live beyond the limits for a safe operating space, exacerbating climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. The use of natural resources has more than tripled from 1970, and material demand per capita grew from 7.4 tons in 1970 to 12.2 tons in 2017. If current trends continue, global material consumption is predicted to doubly again by 2060 (IRP, Global Resource Outlook). Furthermore, consumption is unevenly distributed across the globe, creating asymmetric environmental impacts and large differences in wealth and wellbeing. It is estimated that the richest 7% of the Earth’s population emits 50% of the world’s carbon dioxide.

The latest IPCC Report defined sufficiency policies as “a set of measures and daily practices that avoid demand for energy, materials, land and water while delivering human wellbeing for all within planetary boundaries“. A sufficient and responsible use of natural resources, including restraining demand, is increasingly seen in the scientific community as a key enabler for sustainable resource use and for fair Global North-South relations in the global green transition. As a strategy setting clear consumption limits to ensure a fair access to space and resources, sufficiency might be the perfect bridge between sustainability and fairness in the use of natural resources.

However, sufficiency has often been understood in manifold ways, including a negative connotation associated with decrease in standards of living. If it is to play a positive, transformative role, it requires a common understanding of the concept and how it can be operationalised in policies, industry and community practices. Without a common ground, the risk is for the concept to be misunderstood, remain abstract and being incapable of converging interest and action across all the societal stakeholders.

Shaping the debate at WRF’23

During the conference programme, we’ll dive into the following thematic areas to explore the topic of sufficiency:

  • Understanding sufficiency: definitions, drivers & metrics
  • Sufficiency and justice
  • Macro-economic and sectoral perspectives
  • Sufficiency policies
  • Sufficiency in business
  • Sufficiency at individual and community level

Looking for diverse perspectives to a wide range of open questions, including:

  • What is sufficiency? How is it understood in different socio-economic and cultural contexts?
  • What kind of innovation can sufficiency requirements and principles give rise to, looking at policy, business and practice?
  • What is the relationship of sufficiency to circular economy and efficiency? How does it differ?
  • What sufficiency policies can be applied in key sectors, such as energy, built environment and urban planning? What benefits would they bring? What are the main obstacles on the way?
  • What concrete examples can we highlight as a source for inspiration?
  • What does sufficiency mean for businesses? How can this concept be applied to corporate and sustainability strategy? Is it fostering or hindering innovation?

Are you working on the topic of sufficiency and wish to partner up for the conference? Get in touch with us at!

About WRF’23

The World Resources Forum (WRF) is a world-leading conference in the field of sustainable natural resource management. We act as a multi-stakeholder platform to foster an open and solution-oriented dialogue among policy-makers, scientists, businesses and civil society organisations. Following previous conferences which engaged over 15,000 participants in Switzerland, Japan, China, Peru, Costa Rica, Australia and Ghana, WRF’23 ‘Rethinking Value – Resources for Planetary Wellbeing’ will take place in a hybrid format in Geneva (Switzerland) and online, on September 4-6 2023.

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