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Goal 12: Responsible consumption, production
December 20, 2015, 3:22 pm

Each year, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food, worth around US$1 trillion, ends up rotting with retailers and consumers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices.

There is growing realization that in order to achieve economic growth and sustainable development, we need to urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources.

Ensuring responsible consumption and sustainable production is Goal-12, of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) outlined by the UN Sustainable Summit’s 2030Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda acknowledges that the SDGs are not standalone goals, but that an integrated approach across multiple goals is crucial for achieving progress in each of them.

Goal-12 calls for promoting efficiency in resource and energy production and use. It encourages sustainable practices and aims at ‘doing more and better with less’ and urges reducing resource use, as well as its degradation and pollution. The implementation of the goal will help achieve overall development plans while reducing future economic, environmental and social costs, as well as strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.

However, achieving the goal involves the concerted effort of different stakeholders, from businesses and consumers, to government policy-makers, non-governmental organizations, researchers, media and the public among others. It also requires a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer. It involves engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement, among others.

Targets set for Goal-12 include implementing a 10-year framework of programs on consumption and production by all countries, so as to achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by 2030. It calls for halving, in the next 15 years, per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

A more near-term target is to achieve by 2020, efficient and effective management of chemicals and all wastes, so as to significantly reduce their release into the air, water and land, thereby minimizing their adverse impact on human health and environment.

Other aims of Goal-12 include, substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse by 2030; and, ensuring that people everywhere have relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and eco-friendly lifestyles; as well as supporting developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

Rationalizing inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out harmful subsidies, while taking into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries, so as to minimize the possible adverse impacts on their development and people, are other targets lined up for the goal.

While the efficient management of our shared natural resources, the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants and reduction of wasteful consumption, are all important targets to achieve with Goal-12, it bears remembering that a large share of the world population is still consuming far too little to meet even their basic needs. Implementing goal-12 is crucial to ensuring a more resource efficient economy.


  • Only about 2.5 percent of the world’s total water is fresh water; of this, 68, of which 2.5 percent is frozen in the Antarctica, Arctic and glaciers. Humanity must therefore rely on 0.5 percent for all of man’s ecosystems and fresh water needs.
  • Man is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify waters in rivers and lakes.
  • More than 1 billion people still do not have access to fresh water.
  • Excessive use of water contributes to the global water stress.
  • Water is free from nature but the infrastructure needed to deliver it is expensive.


  • Total global consumption of electricity in 2012 was 20,900 TWh (terawatt hour). Nearly 90 percent of this electricity was consumed by just 37 countries. Around 68 percent of this electricity came from fossil fuel, 11 percent from nuclear and 21 percent from renewable sources
  • In 2012, the per capita electricity consumption for the world was 3MWh (megawatt hour); in the US the per capita consumption was 13MWh, in Germany it was 7MWh, in Brazil 2.5MWh, China 3.6MWh and in India 0.8MWh per year.
  • The World Energy Council sees world electricity consumption increasing to more than 40,000 TWh per annum in 2040.
  • If the world continues on a ‘business as usual’ path of consumption, then by 2040, around 70 percent of electricity would be generated from fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions would reach 46 Gt (giga-tons) from the current 32Gt per year.
  • However, with a more climate-friendly approach, renewables could become the source for 45 percent of electricity production and carbon dioxide emissions would drop to 26 Gt per year.


  • The food sector accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s total energy consumption and accounts for around 22 percent of total Greenhouse Gas emissions.
  • While substantial environmental impacts from food occur in the production phase (agriculture, food processing), households influence these impacts through their dietary choices and habits. This consequently affects the environment through food-related energy consumption and waste generation. Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health and the environment.
  • Three billion tonnes of food, valued at over $1trillion are wasted every year in a world where almost 1 billion people go undernourished and another 1 billion go hungry.
  • In 2014, there were nearly 2 billion adults (aged 18 and over) who were either overweight or obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) equal or in excess of 25kg/m2. Of these, around half a billion adults were obese with a BMI of over 30kg/m2.


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