Consumption, innovation and the environment

Household Consumption (EPIC)



Environmental pressures from households are significant, and without continued policy efforts their impacts are likely to intensify over the coming years. The analysis of environmental policy from the demand side is thus receiving increasing attention from governments but developing growth strategies that promote greener lifestyles and consumption patterns remains a challenge.

Each survey allows for the refinement of policy lessons learned, building on the experience gained from comparison across environmental domains and countries and over time. More information in our flyer (pdf).

Main phases

A ground-breaking OECD Survey offers new insight to policy-makers into what really works and what factors influence household behaviour towards the environment. It provides answers to one key question: How to improve the impact of policies encouraging greener behaviour by better understanding responses to measures and how these may differ across households?

The survey on Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) is run periodically with a sample of more than 10 000 respondents across a number of countries and areas (energy, food, transport, waste and water). It provides a unique common framework to gather evidence on what affects household decisions-making. The analysis of the survey response is use to support the design of more effective and efficient policies targeting household greener behaviour while taking social aspects into account. Policy impact can be evaluated at the country-level and compared across countries.

The 2013 publication Greening Household Behaviour: Overview from the 2011 Survey presents responses to the 2nd round of the survey implemented in 2011 in eleven countries: Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, and offers new insight into what policy measures really work, looking at what factors affect people’s behaviour towards the environment in five areas: energy, food, transport, waste, and water.

 Cover publication Greening Household Behaviour 2011

The main findings and policy lessons from the 2008 first EPIC survey implemented in ten OECD countries are published in Greening Household Behaviour: The Role of Public Policy (2011). It is based on the analysis of responses from over 10 000 households in ten countries: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Italy, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The book offers new insight into what policy measures really work, looking at what factors affect people’s behaviour towards the environment in the five areas: residential energy use, water consumption, personal transport choices, organic food consumption, and waste generation and recycling. Executive summaries are available in 12 languages: Czech, Dutch, French, German, English, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.

Thematic reports prepared by research teams were presented and discussed at an OECD Conference held in Paris in 2009. OECD Observer articles related to environmental policy and household behavioural change on energy, transport and water.

Previous work of the Environment Directorate on Household Consumption

The project on Household Behaviour and Environmental Policy was initiated with a review of existing empirical evidence on the main factors affecting people's behaviour towards the environment (Household Behaviour and the Environment: Reviewing the Evidence, 2008)

This project builds on previous OECD work on sustainable consumption developed since 1994. The activity was initiated with a comprehensive programme combining the development of a conceptual framework for the analysis of the effects of household consumption on the environment, sector case studies documenting trends, environmental impacts, and policy response in five areas of household consumption (food, tourism-related travel, energy, water and waste generation), and policy recommendations to influence household consumption. The results of this work were released as a publication "Towards Sustainable Household Consumption? Trends and Policies in OECD Countries" and a series of free documents.

In addition, work focussing on energy-consuming consumer durables such as motor vehicles or household appliances was undertaken addressing key issues to reduce impacts from durable design, production, use and disposal. A report on the environmental and policy implications of household decisions with respect to consumer durable purchases is available. This reviews some of the challenges facing policy makers as they seek to design environmentally effective and economically efficient environmental policies in this area.



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