Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Producing and consuming as much as possible without a thought for the consequences – that is no longer appropriate in the 21st century. It is too wasteful.

How we produce goods and what we buy, use and eat has far-reaching impacts around the world. The energy we consume impacts on the climate, and natural resources are destroyed in order to produce many articles and foods. Goods are often manufactured in other countries, under poor working conditions. We consume fossil fuels, over-exploit natural water resources and in rich countries, huge quantities of food are simply thrown away. If more and more people manage to escape poverty in future, they too will use more energy and consume more. If we retain today’s consumption and production patterns, the consequences for our planet will be dire.

What must be done?

“Less is more” must be the motto. Industry, consumers, politicians, scientists and many more are going to have to rethink old certainties, and make more responsible use of natural resources. A great deal of education will be needed, to explain recycling and ways of reducing the use of plastic packaging, for instance. Consumers have power here. If they buy more clothing that is produced in an environmentally sound way under acceptable working conditions, industry will respond, and will produce more sustainably. But politicians too are called on to do their bit. They must gradually phase out subsidies for fossil fuels and ensure that their own public procurement is put on a sustainable footing.

Facts and figures

  • Every year about one third of all food produced is thrown away, goes bad during transport, or is lost as a result of inappropriate harvest techniques.
  • If the world’s population continues to grow at the same rate, by 2050 we will need almost three planets comparable to the Earth to produce enough resources to uphold our current lifestyle.
  • In 2020, there will be more than 30 per cent more cars and trucks on our roads. Air traffic is expected to triple over this period.

12.1 Sustainable consumption and production

Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries

12.2 Natural resource conservation

By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources

12.3 Less food waste

By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses

12.4 Responsible waste disposal

By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

12.5 Avoid and recycle waste

By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

12.6 Responsible companies

Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle

12.7 Sustainable procurement practices

Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities

12.8 Awareness-raising

By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

12.a Support developing countries

Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production

12.b Enhance sustainable tourism

Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

12.c Abolish subsidies of fossil fuels

Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities

“I try to avoid buying things I don't really need. Furthermore, it's important for me to know where the things I buy come from and whether they were produced in an environmentally friendly way and have been traded fairly. With food, I try to buy local produce wherever possible. What's more I don't have a car and I use public transport as much as possible.”

Source: Alumni interview

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