SDG 12 – Ensure sustainable consumption and production

The proposed SDG 12 on guaranteeing sustainable consumption and production patterns, despite highlighting a relatively modest concept, likely represents one of the most exemplary changes in the new SDGs. In an increasingly consumption-influenced world, where many admire the Western culture, producing and consuming less is a weighty paradox. This goal is also quite important because the planet cannot sustain the increasing demand for energy, food, water and other vital necessary for sustaining the rising global population, especially the middle class.

An Essential Development Goal

SDG 12 is quite important as it underpins every other Sustainable Development Goal, from Zero Poverty to Peace and Justice. Nevertheless, its idea creates lots of resistance since it poses a significant threat to the status quo, despite being a great social, environmental and economic opportunity. Humankind must now look for ways of doing better and more with less. It is vital to note that this particular SDG covers the consumers and business sectors, and also basic services, supply chains, better jobs and an improved life quality for all.

The world has unequal patterns of life quality and consumption. Examples of this disparity include daily food consumption per capita, the number of cars per person, and also greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Regardless of whichever indicator, it’s highly possible that the figures for people in the developed world will be considerably higher than in underdeveloped countries.

The food industry, specifically, accounts for approximately 30% of the total energy consumption in the world and also contributes 22% to greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, the 12th Sustainable Development Goal can only be achieved when every country makes sure that their production and consumption patterns are not undermining the environmental boundaries of the planet, and also the economic and social conditions in the other countries. It is high time we started rethinking our behavioural patterns towards a better sustainable world, especially the underdeveloped and developing nations.

A key proposal in this SDG is to reduce the inequality associated with the utilisation of essential natural resources. Developed nations are asked to lead the way in adopting sustainable consumption and production practices. In effect, it will be possible to enhance the livelihoods of underdeveloped countries and also to lower the resource demand by the affluent. For instance, reducing food waste may have an effect on lowering worldwide food prices, thus, benefitting the poor. Moreover, improving the purchasing power of poor people must ideally be aligned with increased sustainable consumption awareness.

A major requirement for successful adoption and implementation of this SDG is education. Business owners, policy makers, and consumers must know the benefits of demanding and practising sustainable consumption and production. Cooperation between these sectors is going to be very important.

Major targets of SDG 12

Shifting to the targets of SDG 12 will require essential changes in how the society operates, including our livelihoods. Such a large-scale transition is going to take substantial time; therefore given the magnitude and urgency of unsustainable development, and the key role of production and consumption, immediate and forceful action is necessary to start this transition. The SDGs that are projected to be used for 15 years, beginning from 2015, must serve as an effective catalyst for kick-starting this collective societal transformation.

Here are the proposed targets for SDG 12:

  • Successfully implement the proposed 10-year guideline of programs on sustainable production and consumption, with every country taking action to their best capacity.
  • Achieve the efficient use and sustainable management of all natural resources by 2030.
  • Reduce universal food waste in the consumer and retail levels and also lessen food losses in supply chains and production, including losses related to post-harvesting.
  • Achieve the eco-friendly management of chemical waste throughout its life cycle, based on determined global frameworks, and considerably reduce their pollution of soil, water, and air to reduce their negative effects on our environment and human health.
  • Profoundly lower the generation of waste through recycling, reuse, prevention and reduction.
  • Encourage companies, particularly large transnational organisations, to use sustainable practices like integrating sustainability data in their reports.
  • Promote sustainable public procurement policies, in line with national priorities and policies.
  • Ensure that everyone in the world has awareness and relevant knowledge of sustainable lifestyles as well as development in agreement with nature.
  • Support developing nations to increase their technological and scientific capacity so as to start moving towards sustainable production and consumption patterns.
  • Develop and adopt tools for monitoring effects of sustainable development for a more sustainable tourism, which creates employment opportunities and promotes the local products and culture.
  • Streamline inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels that promote wasteful consumption through eliminating market distortions, based on the national context, including through phasing out the harmful subsidies and restructuring taxation.

The full implementation of SDG 12 will require defining the major contributors of overconsumption and consumerism, and also unequal consumption in the modern society must be well addressed.

Dealing with only the symptoms, such as the politically and economically less challenging problems (the proverbial low hanging fruits) is not going to produce any significant changes needed to ensure sustainability. Thus, the indicators and implementation plans of this SDG ought to be developed from this viewpoint.

Moreover, SDG 12 as presented in the Sustainable Development Goals should be used in line with the ten-year framework so as to ensure synergies and complementarity. Together, both programs require a wide-ranging set of key indicators, which would consolidate social, economic and environmental elements into a shared framework for easy monitoring of progress.

In effect, a periodic intensive report would show the impact of consumption and production patterns to the health of people and how possibilities of attaining well-being by the future generations are being safeguarded or threatened by current consumption and production activities.

Final Note

Due to the interconnected nature of the planet, local collaborative actions are going to provide universal outcomes. SDG 12 seeks to open a new world to humankind, where not just a few people undertake sustainable consumption, but where reducing, reusing, preventing and recycling will be common for everyone. The effects of such a sustainable lifestyle go beyond preserving the earth’s natural resources, as it can help in reducing the increasingly widening gap between the rich and the poor.

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