In the Social Europe Journal, Nat O’Connor looks at the challenge of sustainable consumption for social-democrat politicians and trade union leaders.  

He rightly questions "three ‘sacred cows’ of traditional social democratic economic policy that may need to be genetically modified to become sustainable":

“1. Achieving full employment through GDP growth is probably impossible in a resource-constrained world. Therefore, new mechanisms must be explored to make this possible, including properly rewarding work in the home by parents and carers, and using the voluntary sector as a source of meaningful, socially useful activity for people who are currently unemployed.

2. The role of trade unions in protecting workers and their jobs is vital, but they too need to accept that some forms of unsustainable employment have to come to an end. It will be very challenging for trade unions to explain this to their members; who are also often social democratic voters. Strong social welfare systems and state intervention to foster alternative sources of employment will be essential for this transition to occur.

3. The post-second world war consensus of a high level of material consumption by everyone in society is probably impossible in a resource-constrained world. Therefore promoting more efficient forms of consumption (e.g. digital goods versus material goods; collective consumption) should be a priority in a reorganised economy.”