Policy Report

The Role of Governments in Education for Sustainable Consumption II: Strengthening Capacity for Effective Implementation in Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand


The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) has carried out policy research on strengthening capacities for effective implementation of Education for Sustainable Consumption (ESC) and identifying pathways to facilitate mainstreaming of ESC with a specific focus on the roles governments can play in promoting sustainable consumption. An analysis of governmental capacities for initiating ESC programmes and integrating these efforts into the wider policies and structures for sustainable development in three Northeast Asian countries – China, Japan and Republic of Korea – was conducted in 2010-2011. This report builds on this work by presenting a similar analysis of three Southeast Asian countries -- Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand – in order to strengthen the overall understanding of effective ESC mainstreaming and implementation, based on research conducted in 2013-2014.

The first part of this report explains the concept of ESC within the wider policy frameworks of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Both of these policies generally respond to the national context for sustainable development in a given country. However, SCP is usually viewed as an environmental policy aimed at shifting production and consumption practices, while ESD is viewed as an educational policy aimed at providing knowledge-based, skill-based, and value-based learning on or about sustainable development. SCP’s link to ESC is strongest in the area of non-formal education where promoting sustainable consumption and consumer behaviour change is central. ESD’s link to ESC is strongest for its inclusion as a topical subject to be addressed under ESD, as well as its ability to directly address some of the important skill-based learning such as “experiential learning” and “active problem solving” that allow individuals to engage with sustainability in their daily lives. Thus, this report argues that ESC is a practical approach for linking these two parallel policy streams of SCP and ESD.

Second, this report presents three country case studies, from Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand, on the current status of ESC implementation in each country and the roles governments currently play in promoting and facilitating its implementation. The research focused on the current governmental capacities and institutional frameworks for implementing effective ESC and aimed to identify opportunities to improve the overall strategies and approaches taken towards ESC by highlighting the potential for strengthening implementation capacities. From these cases, we find many unique good practices in ESC implementation, and identify a number of common strengths and weaknesses across the implementation of ESC in general. The individual country case studies were conducted by national-level experts through interviews with relevant government officials and civil society members in their respective countries.

The research found that each country has a slightly different policy trajectory. However, in all three countries there is growing interest in the inclusion of ESC into formal and non-formal education. In Malaysia, SCP and Green Growth have been the main drivers in recent sustainable development policies, while in the Philippines, sustainable development has continued to be influenced by the country’s strong uptake of Agenda 21 and the Philippine Strategy of Sustainable Development. For Thailand, the national path to sustainable development is expressed under the country’s unique Philosophy for Sufficiency Economy which has also framed the country’s approach to ESD and education for sufficiency economy within the formal curriculum. Although each country has emphasised slightly different components of sustainable development, all three do prioritise education as an important means of implementation, and in each country there is clear recognition that ESC should be a component of formal education, as well as implemented through non-formal education.

Then, a comparative capacity analysis of these three countries was conducted to identify both the common and unique circumstances for the implementation of ESC, using the United Nations Development Programme’s capacity development approach and its four levers of change (institutional arrangements, leadership, knowledge, and accountability). The analysis showed that leadership was the strongest area of capacity for ESC in all three countries, due to their clear visions and strategies. These visions now need to be actualised through practice and implementation. Knowledge capacity was ranked the next highest capacity in each country. Knowledge sharing innovations should be up-scaled. Regarding institutional arrangements capacity, multi-stakeholder collaboration and recognition were noted as the crucial points. Accountability, was the weakest capacity in all three countries, so countries should try to find quantitative and qualitative tools to more clearly identify ESC impacts.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations on how ESC implementation may be further strengthened. Recommendations are organised in relation UNDP’s four levers of change. For leadership capacities, recommendations focus on how to improve the translation of each country’s vision for sustainable development into practical action and that citizens should be meaningfully engaged in this process. Key to this effort would be the enhancement of communication standards and outreach mechanisms for ESC promotion. Under the knowledge capacity, this report recommends stronger efforts to support innovation and upscaling of good practices for sustainable consumption. Knowledge sharing mechanisms on sustainable consumption and lifestyles should be strengthened. Multi-stakeholder collaboration and recognition are recommended as the strategy to improve institutional arrangements. The recommended approaches for strengthening ESC in formal and non-formal education differ, but they both rely on clear coordination with well-defined roles/responsibilities and through use of merit-based appraisal mechanisms. For accountability, there is a systematic need for developing better tools to both quantify and qualify the outcomes and achievements of ESC which considers both the immediate influences on behaviour as well as the more subtle influence it has on life-long learning and a values-based approach to sustainable practices. The report concludes by acknowledging a unique trend that is emerging in this field that is shifting the language from solely focusing on sustainable consumption to one that focusses on a broader array of individual actions and behaviours through sustainable lifestyles.

Page Information:
128 pages