Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDGs

The earth has gone through different phases of evolution so does the humans. From the basic shelter in caves to the complex world of artificial intelligence and space science, humans have evolved a lot. Human’s economic and social growth is completely dependent on the natural resources of mother nature. According to the UN reports it is estimated that by 2030, 70% of the population will be living in urban areas (UN.org). To meet the demands of the population the consumption of resources will be intense and jeopardizing the future of the coming generations. Intensive and irresponsible use of resources has disturbed the ecosystem and we are experiencing many adversaries as result.

Sustainable Development Goals

To address this issue, various member states of the United Nations worked for decades and ultimately signed “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” in 2015. This agenda is a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity which comprise 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs provide a comprehensive and integrated framework to focus, monitor and evaluate the progress against climate change to achieve sustainability in any sector of human life. At the heart of these 17 SDGs are the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, environmental, and social. Furthermore, there are 169 target areas associated with these 17 SDGs.

Focusing on Sustainable Development Goal 12

Construction industry is a big part of sustainable development goal 12
The core purpose of all the SDGs is to promote a lifestyle that is economically viable, environment friendly, and socially acceptable for all. Decarbonizing the economies and reducing the demand for the virgin material are specific focus areas of Sustainable Development Goal 12. According to the United Nation, Sustainable Development Goal 12 is all about

Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern

Consumption is just one phase of any product life cycle. The real success is to make the processes sustainable in their entirely and achieve sustainable supply chains for our production eco-system. To achieve the sustainable development targets of Sustainable Development Goal 12 it is imperative to understand the science behind the natural resources, production trade, transboundary environmental biological, and chemical interactions of the natural resources(Amos and Lydgate 2019, Arora and Mishra 2019). One of the interesting aspects of resources is that some are being replenished by nature like water, but what is the pace of our consumption?, Are we consuming our groundwater at an unprecedented rate and polluting it through industrial, agricultural, and construction activities.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 versus Construction

Achieving progress in one Sustainable Development Goal can affect the targets in other SDGs both positively and negatively. It is found that construction is one of the most resource-intensive sectors as almost 11 industries run in parallel to this industry in terms of consumption and production. So, in order to achieve the sustainable development goal 12, it is always better to adopt the synergic and integrated approach to achieve the targets and enhance the impact of efforts many folds. The construction industry has adopted the strategy to reduce the demand first which is the best approach on the upstream side of the production. The process of reducing the demand is generating a whole new industry based on innovative ideas to enhance the useability and life span of existing material options. The scope of this is immense that there are certification bodies that study the product’s lifecycles and issue certifications. Similarly, the concept of “Green Chemistry” emerged to produce materials that do not harm the health and well-being of the consumers.

While adopting new ideas and technology into the construction industry is great and much needed. It is only one part of the sustainable development goal 12. In order to truly achieve this, we need to all come together and do more to create a sustainable consumption and production system for sustainable development goal 12.

Sustainable Development Goal 12: Facts and Figures

Now let us check out some facts and numbers about sustainable development goal 12.

  • With the current population growth rate, by 2050 the population will be 9.6 Billion. We need three planets like Earth to fulfill the population demands.
  • Each year 1.6 billion tons of food is being wasted due to poor transportation, harvesting, and irresponsible consumption practices. The estimated waste of money is around 1 trillion USD.
  • Coal and oil are still the largest resources used for energy production.
  • Over 2 billion people are living in water stress countries.
  • If people worldwide switched to energy-efficient lightbulbs, the world would save US$120 billion annually.
  • Household Consume 29% of the global energy and contributes to 21% of the carbon emissions.
  • More than 1 billion people still do not have access to fresh drinking/drinkable water.

(Source: UN 2019)

What’s the Way forward?

Circular Economy and Ethical production is part of sustainable development goal 12
When it comes to the solution to any problem there is rarely a chance that there is only one option. There are several solutions, and you must choose one which is the right fit for you. The same goes for the complex system of production and consumption cycles. The best approach is to adopt the circular design and economies concept to achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 and Circular Economy

The concept of the circular economy is inextricably linked to the production and consumption domain, as it is beyond the limited scope of an individual or singular sustainability. It touches sustainability at all levels in the complete life cycle analysis of a product or business.

The definition of the circular economy is as follows:

A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

This concept of circular economy fits in achieving the Sustainable development goal 12 targets at the pre and post-consumer levels. It is a business model in which nothing goes to waste and a “waste” of one system becomes an “input” for another system and any items remain in the loop for a longer period. JD.com a Chinese company is introducing delivery boxes that can be re-used and are made from bio-degradable materials. Now refer to the SDGs and their overlap with this simple strategy.

The awareness campaign, responsible consumption patterns, donations, re-use, and recycling initiatives, design evaluations of products, certification programs, and corporate sustainability reporting initiatives can lead to sustainable consumption and pattern. Many companies are working with the United Nations Development Program to design products and evolve the business to reduce waste, make business more viable, and the longevity of programs. Minimalism is a volunteer campaign that urges people to adopt more environmentally friendly habits while shopping online and in-person.

Conclusion

The adoption of SDGs can lead to collective success and achieve sustainability. Sustainability is a way of life and to achieve it, one must assiduously put effort into it in all phases of life. It makes an individual beware of consequences that he/she does. Saving water while brushing to the responsible consumption and food choices we need to adapt to achieve sustainability. Succinctly stating the concept of sustainability does not lie in isolation and we must adopt innovative solutions to alleviate the situation. If we can build the foundation of sustainable consumption, we can build a better future. Starting with sustainable development goal 12 could be one option to tackle the overall SDGs. Similar to many brands and business who wants to contribute to SDGs, the sustainable development goal 12 is the one.

If you are curious to find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals, check out our other article!



Resources:
Amos, R. and E. Lydgate (2019). “Trade, transboundary impacts and the implementation of SDG 12.” Sustainability Science: 1-12.
Arora, N. K. and I. Mishra (2019). United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and environmental sustainability: race against time, Springer.
COUNET, Jerome. “Goal 12. Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.” 27 June 2017. Web. 29 Oct. 2020.
“SDG 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.” SDG Compass. Web. 29 Oct. 2020.
“Sustainable Consumption and Production – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations. United Nations. Web. 29 Oct. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
Director of Ethical Choice
I am passionate about finding amazing sustainable and eco-friendly products and sharing them with more people. Interesting in plastic-free, reduce waste, and DIY.