skip to primary navigationskip to content

Centre for Sustainable Development

Est 2000 - home of the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

Studying at Cambridge


Sustainability of Consumer Products

The Sustainability Consortium (link: has recently launched its research in Europe, through the collaboration of its Systems Science Working Group and the University of Cambridge. The Sustainability Consortium is a group of global participants working on the sustainability of consumer products, through the development of simplified measuring tools for improved decision making. The Systems Working Group, collaborating with Cambridge, takes a systems approach to product sustainability, to improve our understanding of the environmental impacts of the consumer goods industry as a whole. The approach is adopted in order to consider the communalities in hotspots between different product categories, with the objective to provide data input to the product category-specific working groups. In line with these objectives, the team in Cambridge focuses on the environmental impacts arising during the use and post-use lifecycle phases of consumer products. These phases, which for many product categories are the dominant ones, generally suffer from a poor understanding and thereby act as a limitation in creating accurate baseline models for the full lifecycle impacts of products.

 In order to fulfill the aims of the project, the following streams of work are taken.
·    Literature review to consolidate existing research within lifecycle analyses and impact assessments of products considering the use and post-use phase impacts.
·         Data gathering and database population of historic data on:  Energy consumption by sector and source, energy use in appliances, GHG emissions per source and user, water consumption by sector and user, waste generation per sector, waste management, household statistics, product lifetimes and specifications. The database covers the geography territories of the UK and US.
·         Creation of a summary matrix with legislation related to consumer products, including monthly updates on initiatives related to sustainability of consumer products from industry, UK and EU government bodies, and NGOs.
·         Analysis of the data for gap identification, input into the creation of baseline models as well as a report and an academic article analysing the environmental impacts on UK households (to be submitted). 

Rainwater Harvesting in Kenya

Credit: SuSanA Secretariat via Flickr