Sustainability and the Media


What strategies are necessary to enable issues such as climate change, resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, unhealthy eating habits and poor social conditions to find their way into the mainstream media? How can a broader cross section of the population be educated on sustainable consumption and environmentally friendly and social lifestyles? What types of media are available at national and international levels that might strengthen public opinion and consumer behaviour in favour of sustainability? How can a wider public be reached? These are some of the questions that need to be answered to determine how to best integrate sustainability issues into mainstream media.


Best Practice Examples in the Media

On the basis of numerous best practice examples, a recently published study that was developed under the direction of the UNEP/Wuppertal Institute Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP) addresses these important questions. By way of a systematic analysis the study derives important criteria and necessary spheres of activity that offer opportunities to bring social and ecological issues into eye-catching media formats.


Media in the area of television, print and Web 2.0 were the focal points of the study. In the Netherlands the Reality-TV program “Echt Elly” has successfully reached a target group of mainstream consumers with lower income and education levels. This target group is not normally interested in sustainability issues. The core concept of the initiative was that the viewers would accompany a famous personality make changes to her everyday life to become more sustainable. Actions the received coverage included, for instance, consuming different products, taking steps to reduce energy consumption, or the separation of waste. The study introduced this example of good practice as well as other international cases and discusses key success factors.  


Concrete Actions for Sustainable Attitude Shifts

The core of the study provides recommendations for concrete actions that media organisations in cooperation with partners can take to support sustainable consumption. Profiled actions aim to facilitate a behaviour shift among audience members in favour of sustainable patterns of consumption. Partnerships to support media organizations in promoting sustainability were also profiled, including  partnerships with public institutions, consumer groups, civil society organisations or companies. A key recommendation in the study is to inspire the exchange of information on sustainability issues in form of web based competence centres.


Promoting the results: Expert- and Mainstreaming Workshops

The central questions and potential answers that were derived through the study were discussed in an expert workshop. The workshop brought together experts from the media, science, non-profit-organisations (NPO/NGO) and the policy/executive arena. The purpose of the workshop was to validate the results of the study and to ensure the usefulness and practicability of the findings. In 2010 a workshop on "SCP in Mainstream Media" was also held in cooperation with the Grimme Institut.



The project was implemented by the CSCP, the Messagepool- Agency for Sustainable Consumption, the Institute for Communication Science at the University of Duisburg-Essen and the research group „Sustainable Consumption and Production“ at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy.

For more information please contact:

Susanne Müller • Project Manager

+49 (202) 459 58 13 •