The North American region, which is comprised of the United States of America and Canada, represents nearly 25 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP). Many opportunities exist to transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns and a range of efforts have been undertaken in the region, such as voluntary labeling programs, regulatory policies, and consumer information campaigns.
Furthermore, a growing movement of civil society organizations (CSOs), including public-interest organizations, academic researchers, and community groups, are working to advance sustainability at the local, regional, national, and global levels.
A number of labeling programs have been developed in North America covering a range of commercial products. Canada’s Ecologo, for example, covers more than 150 product categories, including cleansers, building supplies, and office supplies. Green Seal, another North American eco-labeling system that is based in the U.S., meets the internationally recognized ISO 14024 requirements. The U.S. Organic Foods Production Act certifies organic farming for than 40 private organizations and state agencies and continues to develop and implement standards for agricultural products to assure consumer products meet consistent standards. Other successful programs in the region include Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), which provides information to consumers on the energy efficiency of a range of appliances, and Walmart’s Sustainable Product Index, which aims to accelerate the adoption of best practices among Walmart’s suppliers as well as provide customers with the information they need to assess products’ sustainability.
North America is notable for its use of partnerships to promote sustainable consumption and production efforts. The U.S. Green Building Council, for example, developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program for buildings through an open, consensus-based process that engaged multiple stakeholders. The resulting LEED certification program provides a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. The North American Sustainable Consumption Alliance (NASCA) is another example of a strategic partnership of people and organizations that are working to promote more sustainable consumption patterns in North America. NASCA members share the common goal of encouraging individuals, businesses, institutions and governments to reduce their impact on the environment and society by changing how they consume materials and resources. Other notable initiatives that aim to facilitate collaborative efforts on sustainable consumption and production include the Citizens’ Network for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Consumption Research and Action Initiative (SCORAI).
Launched in 2003, the Marrakech Process is a global and informal multi-stakeholder platform that supports the implementation of projects and strategies on sustainable consumption and production and the elaboration of a Global Framework for Action on SCP, commonly known as the 10-Year Framework on Programmes on SCP (10 YFP). To provide regional contributions to this global process, two regional workshops have been organized since 2008. The first North American Workshop on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) was held in 2008 in Washington, D.C. with the support of the UNEP’s Regional Office for North America (RONA) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). The second regional workshop, which was held in Ottawa in 2011, focused on green buildings.
The workshops served to facilitate a multi‐stakeholder dialogue on sustainable consumption and production initiatives in North America. The first workshop set out to define a vision on concepts and principles for SCP in North America, and allowed for open and constructive discussions on objectives, values, benefits, and means for achieving action in this region. The second workshop focused on green building as a high‐leverage option to help transform production and consumption patterns for sustainability. The meeting provided a useful forum through which to engage the green building communities in both Canada and the United States and foster collaboration and knowledge sharing on building design. The meeting also helped initiate discussions with the American and the Canadian governments on the importance of managing and assessing data on life cycle emissions and energy usage. The final report for the first workshop can be found here, and the final report for the second workshop can be located here.