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The challenge

People are currently using more resources than the planet can sustain

Our research examines how and why consumers use essential resources, such as energy.

Much of the global economy is currently founded on production systems which use natural resources at a rate that cannot be sustained.

This is also fuelled by consumption behaviour, with a sense of personal well-being and prosperity in many societies often tied to resource consumption. These unsustainable patterns play out most significantly in the context of our built environment, where greater densities of people create very large stocks and flows of resources. The challenge to balance consumption and production sustainably may only be accelerating, with increasing urbanisation transforming the planet.

Of course, urban areas thus also represent the key opportunity to reshape society’s relationship with resources. The key challenge then becomes how to create rapid innovation and change at large scales, particularly when urban and other built environments are shaped by many disparate, disconnected processes and decisions.

Our response

Decoupling prosperity from increasing resource use

One Central Park in Sydney holds a 5-star Green Star for ‘Multi-Unit Residential Design’ by the Green Building Council of Australia. ©  One Central Park

We work at multiple scales to create a new balance between global consumption and production – one which decouples societal well-being and economic prosperity from ever-increasing resource use.

At global to national scales, we develop databases and metrics that allow policy-makers to track total stocks and flows of materials and their contribution to economies, thus providing the foundation for assessing progress toward sustainability and reporting against the Sustainable Development Goals. 

We explore major scenarios of change across whole economies, including the impacts of population and settlement patterns, and identify key policy and strategy levers that could drive prosperity independent of resource use.

At national to precinct scales, we work to break the policy and governance barriers associated with harnessing new urban and circular economy innovations at significant enough scales, including through trialling new collaborative governance models that accelerate innovation.

And at precinct to household scales, we develop novel tools to both understand and shift consumption behaviour.  It is only by working across all these scales that we can set a new type of equilibrium between consumption and production – one which transcends current economic models and ensures a sustainable, prosperous future.

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