The pursuit of sustainability in particular places and sectors often founders at the edges. Efforts to tackle environmental problems in one place shift them somewhere else or are overwhelmed by external changes in drivers. Gains in energy efficiency of appliances used in houses are offset by greater total numbers or compensating changes in patterns of use. Analytical perspectives and practical initiatives which treat production and consumption jointly are needed to compliment experiences and efforts with sector-, place-, product- and consumer-oriented approaches.
There is now a growing body of scholarship exploring a diverse range of initiatives and experiments aimed at enabling sustainable production-consumption systems. From this body of work flow useful insights for others who would engage, for example, in re-designing relationships around and with technologies and resources in view as in product service systems or markets for the poor.
A systems view of production-consumption systems currently has some limitations related to complexity. For instance most analysts and practitioners struggle to cope with issues of both scale and network linkages simultaneously. Interdisciplinary challenges also increase when the two-way interactions between social institutions and human behavior are related to material flows and transformations. Research- and experienced-based knowledge plays a critical role in many initiatives, but it is rarely separable from issues of power.
This book brings together a set of designed case studies intended to provide a more in-depth understanding of challenges and opportunities in bringing knowledge and actions closer together for the sustainable management of specific production and consumption systems. The case study approach often enabled researchers to engage directly with some of the actors involved in the production, consumption or regulation of specific goods or services and other stakeholders impacted by those processes. Such engagement was particularly worthwhile when it helped mobilize actors to pursue linking knowledge with action in ways that improve the prospects for sustainability.