Knowledge for better food systems

EU Sustainable Lifestyles Roadmap and Action Plan 2050 plus associated materials

Members may be interested in the various publications of the SPREAD project. This is an EU sponsored iniatiative that seeks to provide a social platform for research and engagement on sustainable consumption. 

Its goals have been to:

  • Create scenarios of sustainable lifestyles in 2050 through a social platform, focusing on sustainable living, moving, consuming and healthy life and by setting up a people’s forum and an online community in order to host an ongoing dialogue open to the public.
  • Adopt a back-casting approach that will aid the creation of a concrete action and research roadmap with a timeline on how to achieve sustainable lifestyles by 2050.
  • Engage European-wide communities to collectively scale up good practices where impact is needed.
  • To “build with hope, optimism, expertise, skills & creativity an easy accessible vision and concrete ideas, for more sustainable ways of living, that inspire and trigger action in the fields of practice, policy and research”

The roadmap uses the various outputs of the SPREAD project and extensive stakeholder input from 13 workshops to propose actions that will get Europe on track to more sustainable living in this decade - from social innovation, products, service and business model innovation, skills for jobs of the future, policy and governance recommendations. The document outlines the action strategies and opportunity spaces for policy makers towards more sustainable lifestyles.

As regards the scenarios, SPREAD has defined a material footprint target of 8000 kg per year for one person in 2050, to specify what is meant by ”sustainable lifestyles”. This forms the fundamental assumption on which each of the four scenarios is built upon – The scenarios proposed by the project describe what 8000 kg living can look like in four diverse future societies.

The scenarios present different options for sustainable living choices adapted to the diverse needs, desires and cultural considerations of citizens from across Europe. The aim is to bring the future to life, demonstrating that sustainable living delivers improved lifestyles with minimum impact and diverse choice for all households. The scenarios also consider the geographical, political and technological factors that determine lifestyle choices.

Two critical uncertainties, and main drivers of our lifestyle choices, were chosen for the axes of the scenario quadrants:

  • Technology is either pandemic (worldwide) or endemic (local)
  • Society’s governing principle is either human centric (values) or meritocratic (science)

Four Future Scenarios for New European Social Models are presented:

  • Singular Super Champions (pandemic technology /meritocratic)
  • Governing the commons (pandemic technology/human centred)
  • Empathic Communities (endemic technology /human-centred)
  • Local Loops (endemic technology/meritocratic)

The report and all associated documents are available here, while you can find video recordings here.

There are any number of ‘sustainable living’ scenarios available now – see for example a recent UK focused one by Forum for the Future and Which? – and of course, Shell has been running scenarios exercises for years.

These scenarios exercises are of course fascinating to read and intellectually engaging to participate in but it would be very interesting to know whether any policies are actually made (both within the government and the private sector) that are actually informed by them.

Of course it’s unlikely to be possible to pinpoint Action X that as being directly result of Scenario Y, but if anyone can give a general sense of how / if / whether they are worth doing, I’d be extremely keen to know.  Please do add your comments (or links to evidence either way) to this item – you need to be logged into the website to add comments! (Please get in touch if you’ve forgotten your details.)

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daviesa's picture
Submitted by daviesa (not verified) on

The question of whether scenario generating makes a differnce is a good one and one that we've been trying to examine following our recent work with CONSENSUS: Consumpion, Environment and Sustainability in Ireland. Our scenarios were co-created (by a combination of the research team, stakeholders from public, private and civil society as well as citizen-consumer groups) and transition framework documents were created to set out short-, medium- and long-term actions in policy, research and development and social norms (all available at for the household consumption practices of home heating, personal washing and eating. These documents have been widely circulated to key actors and organisations since their finalisation.

Evaluations of the process to date indicate that the process of scenario generating was a positive experience for those who participated. The process brought together people from sectors that were not normally engaged in constructive dialogue. The future-orientation permitted the suspension of entrenched vested intersts and positions, at least for the workshop. Participants also reported various levels of personal learning (See Davies et al., (2012) Spaces for sustainability learning? Future visioning as a geographical process for transforming production and consumption practices. Area 44(1):54-60).  It is too soon to evaluate whether this personal learning will become embedded in organisations or whether the networking capability of scenario generating will lead to enduring relationships and shifts in policy and household consumption practices. That said, the project has been positively received by policy makers (and advisors) and follow-on activities which move from vision to action are being planned.

The work of Jaco Quist and others in The Netherlands provides a more mature analysis of the impact of such scenario development in J.Quist et al., The impact and spin-off of participatory backcasting: from vision to niche, Technology Forecasting and Social Change (2011)




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