How Swedish consumption impacts the international environment

Consumption in Sweden affects the environment both here and in numerous other countries around the world. However, it is now possible to estimate this environment impact and take steps towards more sustainable consumption and production.

Achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns is one of the global sustainability goals. We also now have new methods to estimate the environment impact of Swedish consumption. These have been developed in cooperation between researchers at SCB, KTH, Stockholm Environment Institute, Chalmers University of Technology and the universities of Trondheim and Leiden. Previous analyses have primarily focused on climate impact, but methods are now also available for other air pollutants, the use of hazardous chemical products, water, land and materials.

In the majority of these aspects, the environment impact of Swedish consumption is greater beyond Sweden’s borders than within the country. For example, 65 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from Swedish consumption occur in other countries.

Around 80 percent of hazardous chemical products usage linked to Swedish consumption occurs abroad. This also covers pesticides and antibiotics used in veterinary medicine that are far more prevalent outside Sweden. Emissions of a number of hazardous substances also arise to a greater extent in other countries. Important countries with regard to the use of pesticides include The Netherlands and Brazil, Germany and Spain for veterinary medicines and China and Russia for emissions.

There is a long list of possible measures available to reduce Swedish consumption related emissions. One such area that is also relevant to KTH as a public body is to use procurement as a tool to specify stricter requirements. Another is to reduce the use of fossil fuels as this will not only lead to lower emissions of greenhouse gases but also of a long list of other substances. The choice of building materials and food products also plays a role.

Tip of the week: Take the boat. I was in Helsinki the other week and went there and back by boat. It worked really well.