Sustainable Consumption and Production

Global consumption and production is the driving force for the global economy (United Nations, n.d.). The rate at which humans extract resources, as well as produce and consume goods continues to increase. This degrades the Earth and its natural resources which are vital for human survival (United Nations, n.d.). Given this issue of overconsumption, the Open Working Group of the General Assembly of the United Nations has proposed a solution which is the Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production (United Nations, n.d.).

Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, encompasses both the efficiency and management of natural resources. It includes environmental effects spanning from waste management to regulating chemicals that can be used in the production of goods (United Nations, n.d.).The goal encourages all key actors and stakeholders to contribute and act towards advancing sustainable practices, as well as educating themselves so they can incorporate these practices into their lifestyle, and also influence their communities to make sustainable conscious decisions (United Nations, n.d.).

The government in particular has a key role to play in the advancement of SDG 12, given its unique capacity to survey the depletion of natural resources and to set standards for regulations which can affect the production and consumption of goods. As aforementioned, the economy heavily relies on consumption and production; however, with our current consumption and production practices, society is experiencing firsthand the adverse effects of overconsumption. Some of the adverse effects to our high consumption patterns include issues such as deforestation, water scarcity, and carbon emissions which deteriorate the natural environment.

Achieving SDG 12 guarantees that responsible consumption and production practices are being implemented to reduce the negative impacts of human activities on the environment. This would ensure that resources are available for future generations and limit the chance of reaching a point of no return. But achieving SDG 12 would certainly not happen by itself, but demands the enforcement of strict guidelines if we want our society to continue to thrive (United Nations, n.d.). For example, the Canadian government has set a goal by 2030 to have a recycling target of 90% for plastic beverage materials, this is a standard rule that needs to be followed and enforced within Canada as a step towards achieving SDG 12 (Government of Canada, n.d.)

Decoupling for Sustainable Consumption and Production

Sustainable consumption and production (SCP) involves reducing the amount of material and energy needed to supply day-to-day activities. A key concept which can be implemented in order to achieve sustainable consumption and production is “decoupling”. The term “decoupling” describes the system of separating economic growth and environmental degradation. The goal is to have a strong and stable economy that increases while limiting any ecological pressures that may occur despite a growing economy. For example, instead of burning fossil fuels which boosts economic growth but negatively impacts the environment, we can replace fossil fuel energy sources with renewable energy sources that can sustain economic growth and prevent further environmental degradation. Decoupling guarantees a decrease in the amount of non-renewable resources extracted or consumed to generate economic growth, thus limiting any further impact on the environment ​​(Lago et al., 2019).

How can we address SDG 12?

“Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs, and a better quality of life for all” (United Nations, n.d.). The implementation and actions to achieve SDG 12 ensure that there is a reduction in future economic, environmental, and social negative expenses while ensuring economic prosperity and eradicating poverty. Achieving SDG 12 takes a systematic approach and a cooperation that includes the manufacturer and the consumer. A key element of addressing SDG 12 is to raise awareness and inform citizens on how to consume and produce goods sustainably. By providing goods that are sustainable and encouraging sustainable practices in the society it will entail a new global partnership between businesses, consumers, policymakers, researchers, scientists, realtors, the media, and the development of cooperation agencies to ensure that SDG 12 is achieved.

What actions have been taken to achieve SDG 12 globally?

In order to evaluate progress on SDG 12, the indicator 12.1.1: Sustainable consumption and production action plans can be used. This indicator includes the “number of countries with sustainable consumption and production (SCP) national action plans or SCP mainstreamed as a priority or target into national policies.” The goal is to implement a ten-year plan outlining what the country will do to achieve SDG 12 by 2030. Progress with this indicator has been observed over recent years among numerous countries. Figure 1 displays the increase in the number of countries that have committed to creating and implementing a ten year plan by 2030 that aims to achieve SDG 12 from the years 2017- 2021. While progress in this indicator can be seen in this figure, many countries are still lagging behind. Over time, countries who have taken the lead in advancing SDG 12 could act as models for other countries by raising awareness on SCP and educating surrounding countries about  SDG 12.

Figure 1. Depicts countries with a sustainable action and production national action plan from 2017-2021 SDG-Tracker

How can you start achieving SDG12 today? Adapted from Youmatter

  1. Buy better. This means when purchasing items ensure that it is durable and made with recycled materials
  2. Consume better. Learn how to regulate your own waste to avoid over-consumption. This could mean for example taking a reusable container to work rather than using foil paper or other disposable packaging materials.
  3. Dispose better! Before throwing away any garbage/ waste ensure that you are correctly disposing of it this will ensure that it will not end up in landfills or other places that could be harmful to the environment.

Learning about the importance of SDG 12 does not end here!

Are you looking for an impactful activity for your youths for this summer? Check out EKCEP! Our EnvironFocus Knowledge and Culture Exchange Program (EKCEP) is a transformative youth educational program that provides an avenue for teachers and children from developed and developing countries to work together to solve sustainability issues affecting continents. Summer EKCEP is our summer program for high school students aged 14-18. It will run for five weeks, starting July 26 and ending August 27, 2022. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 Responsible Consumption and Production will be the topic of this year’s summer program. Students will work together to create a project that targets an issue within their community that works toward responsible consumption and production so that SDG 12 can be achieved!

References

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – SDG Tracker. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://sdg-tracker.org/sustainable-consumption-production#targets

Goal 12—Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns: An Essential Requirement for Sustainable Development | United Nations. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/goal-12-ensuring-sustainable-consumption-and-production-patterns-essential-requirement-sustainable

Lago, C., Herrera, I., Caldés, N., & Lechón, Y. (2019). Nexus Bioenergy–Bioeconomy. The Role of Bioenergy in the Emerging Bioeconomy: Resources, Technologies, Sustainability and Policy, 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-813056-8.00001-7

Responsible consumption: definition and examples – Youmatter. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://youmatter.world/en/definition/definitions-responsible-consumption-examples/

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2022, from https://www.fsds-sfdd.ca/en/goals/responsible-consumption-and-production

SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption And Production. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://in.one.un.org/page/sustainable-development-goals/sdg-12/

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