Skip navigation
Oresund Bridge, Sealand, Denmark with ships sailing in the foreground on a sunny day.

Course set for sustainable consumption in Sweden

Start reading

Course set for sustainable consumption in Sweden

SEI’s tool for measuring household consumption – the Consumption Compass – is taken up by municipalities throughout Sweden to help meet climate goals.

Published on 24 April 2024

Unsustainable consumption is one of the main drivers of greenhouse gas emissions globally. The overall trend for consumption emissions in Sweden has been decreasing slowly for several years but is still a long way from aligning with the 1.5 degree goal of the Paris Agreement.

For nearly 25 years SEI has been doing research on the climate impact of consumption, and a core focus has been on methods to estimate consumption-based impacts and on understanding how to promote changes in consumption patterns.

What is the Consumption Compass?

Municipalities play a vital role in the transition to a sustainable society both in their own operations and by promoting and creating incentives for sustainable consumption among households. Many Swedish municipalities have been working to reduce the climate impact of consumption but have lacked the tools to analyse local consumption patterns in detail and follow up on their efforts.

In 2022, SEI launched the Consumption Compass (Konsumtionskompassen), an innovative tool for estimating households’ climate footprint for all of Sweden’s municipalities down to the postcode level. The tool helps decision-makers at different levels to better understand the impact that different policy instruments will have on reducing consumption- based emissions.

In the future we will be able to assess the effect of our local measures for climate-smart consumption. Without local statistics from the Consumption Compass, it will be more difficult to explain and evaluate local work on consumption emissions.

Louise Bonnevier, Malmö Municipality

The tool estimates direct and indirect emissions from household consumption for more than 110 different consumption categories, such as transport, food and accommodation. Direct emissions mean, for example, a car’s emissions during driving, while indirect emissions are those that occur as the car is produced, and along its whole supply chain. For Sweden, most indirect emissions are generated elsewhere in the world and can be said to be imported into Sweden.

Roadmaps to sustainable consumption in Malmö and Dalarna

SEI is now developing version 2.0 of the tool and, in the autumn of 2023, carried out a targeted survey to gain a better understanding of how the tool is used by Swedish municipalities.

In Dalarna County a regional initiative has developed a roadmap for sustainable consumption as part of its overarching energy and climate strategy. The strategy aims to reduce individuals’ consumption-based emissions to a maximum of 1 ton of CO2 equivalent per year by 2045. The initiative is using the Consumption Compass as a core tool to calculate emissions, set targets, and identify where the most effective action can be taken.

Elsewhere in Dalarna, Avesta Municipality is applying the Consumption Compass to understand how it can help to reduce households’ climate footprint while also improving well-being. According to sustainability strategist Mirjam Nykvist, “The most important thing is that we also see and can show the big differences in emissions between different residential areas. From the more affluent residential areas with higher emissions to the residential areas that have major socio-economic challenges and significantly lower emissions. This is important so that the measures we design are fair, efficient and provide a real reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

The Consumption Compass is also being used by the city of Malmö as a key part of its roadmap to define a baseline for consumption, set sustainability targets, prioritize measures, and visualize consumption data across the city.

Louise Bonnevier, an analyst with the city of Malmö, said that the statistics that the compass provides “mean that in the future we will be able to assess the effect of our local measures for climate-smart consumption. Without the local statistics from Consumption Compass, it will be more difficult to explain and evaluate local work on consumption emissions.”

Long-term engagement drives results

SEI’s long experience in understanding the role of local government in low-carbon transitions and in creating innovative methods for estimating consumption- based impacts has been pivotal in the success of the Consumption Compass. Close collaboration with municipalities over time to understand and frame their needs has also been vital.

At least 40 Swedish municipalities have communicated that they actively use Consumption Compass data in their work, not only to illustrate the differences in consumption footprints in different geographic areas, but also in communication campaigns and dialogues with citizens, politicians and other local actors, and as input to socio-demographic analyses and their climate and energy action plants. Several municipalities reported they have formulated consumption-based targets based on the tool’s data and that it has helped them to develop measures focused on different groups of citizens.

Scaling out

The Consumption Compass is inspiring similar initiatives outside Sweden. SEI is developing a tool to explore scenarios related to changes in household consumption in Copenhagen, which is using the tool both to help set emissions goals and to identify and communicate changes needed to meet them. Recently the C40 network reached out to SEI for input to support their plans to replicate the Consumption Compass tool for all of Denmark, and SEI is in discussions with Finnish partners about exchanging lessons learned on how to downscale consumption-based emissions from the national to the local level.

This change story is part of broader efforts detailed in our annual report 2023, highlighting SEI’s strategic commitments and impact over the past year.

Design and development by Soapbox.