Jennifer Ulloa

Achieving sustainable consumption and production: your guide to SDG 12

Your official guide to understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
5 min Read

Introduction to SDG 12  

Welcome! You’re here probably because you want to learn more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and probably in particular, SDG 12 (Sustainable Consumption & Production), and kudos to you for making it here. 

We have loads of SDG related facts and figures, mainly touching on what the SDGs are and why they are important for all of us to work towards. 

Our goal by the time you finish this article is that you’ll have a more holistic understanding of the SDGs and the role you play (yes, you!) in making sure the #globalgoals come to fruition by 2030.

Don’t worry if this sounds like quite the undertaking, we are all in this together! Now let’s get to it… 

What are the Global Goals?

The Global Goals, officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a set of 17 interconnected and ambitious objectives established by the United Nations in 2015. 

They aim to address a wide range of global challenges, such as poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, and injustice, by the year 2030. 

Think of the SDGs as an interconnected guide, or blueprint, to solving some of the world’s most pressing issues: poverty, hunger, climate change, and more. 

The reality is that we are off target in achieving any of the goals within that time frame, mainly because we have seen ourselves at at the junction of poly-crisis: a global pandemic, climate change, and conflict have all contributed to the progress lag on the SDGs. However, because of the myriad of obstacles we've encountered over the past few years, there is a great opportunity to pick up the slack and make meaningful change.

Why are the Global Goals important? 

In essence, the SDGs are a universal call to action, emphasising the need for countries, communities, and individuals to collaborate in shaping a more sustainable and equitable future. 

Organisations all over the world are working towards these goals, and the beauty of them lies within their accessibility. 

Everyone and anyone can take part and make a contribution—however big or small—towards ensuring we strive for a more sustainable, just, and equitable world. 

Did you know? The Paris Agreement alone has paved the way for $23 trillion in business opportunities in emerging-markets to put towards climate investment solutions. 

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of SDG 12, exploring what it means and the big and  small ways you can make a difference and do your part. 

What is SDG 12? 

Goal number 12 of the UN SDGs is: Responsible Consumption and Production. 

This goal is dedicated towards addressing the issue of unsustainable consumption and production patterns. 

At present, this goal acknowledges the global problem of overconsumption, which places immense pressure on the environment, depletes natural resources, and contributes to pollution and waste. 

SDG 12 promotes a holistic approach to sustainability, encouraging us to live and produce more responsibly. And you can learn more about SDG 12 here. 

Psst...check out our handy 1-pager fact sheet on SDG 12 with some facts and figures on where we stand on a macro level. 

Are we consuming too much?

The unequivocal answer is yes.

In many parts of the world, there is an evident trend of  consumption that is not sustainable in the long-term. 

Rapid urbanisation, a growing global middle class, and the proliferation of consumer culture have led to a surge in demand for goods and services. 

However, this growth has come at a substantial cost to the environment, including the overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, and waste generation. 

According to the organisation, Earth Overshoot Day, we  are currently consuming resources at a rate that is approximately 1.7 times the Earth's sustainable capacity

This pattern of consumption is pushing our planet beyond its ecological boundaries, leading to climate change, biodiversity loss, and a wide range of environmental issues.

Did you know? The day that we officially run out of our resources for the year is getting earlier and earlier? 

This day is called Earth Overshoot Day and right now it is sitting in August. Our aspiration is that with Pawprint you’ll be able to take day-to-day actions that, over time, accumulate to a significant positive impact.

Where do we stand with SDG 12? 

As it stands, we are all very far behind with fulfilling any of the UN SDGs by 2030.

Just hear it from coach Al Pacino himself. 

To put it in perspective: 

And did you know that should the world get to 9.6 billion by 2050, it would take nearly 3 planets to provide natural resources to sustain our current consumption lifestyles. 

Yet, amid these challenges, it's crucial to emphasise that it's not all pessimism. Continue reading to explore how each of us can actively contribute and play a part in addressing these pressing issues.

Ways to work towards SDG 12

Fear not, because there is good news to this and even more importantly, ways we can all harness collective action.

At present there are 11 targets and key performance indicators within SDG 12. 

Below we have integrated some common sustainable mantras to be mindful of when thinking about SDG 12 and where to begin. 

Let’s have a look at them below: 

  • Reduce, reuse and recycle: The classic mantra for sustainable living. Reduce your consumption of single-use items, and choose reusable alternatives. When you do need to dispose of items, recycle whenever possible.
  • Choose conscious consumerism: Make informed choices when purchasing products. Support companies that follow sustainable and ethical practices. Look for eco-friendly certifications and labels.
  • Minimise food waste where possible: Be mindful of the food you buy and consume. Reduce food waste by planning meals, using leftovers creatively, and composting organic waste.
  • Prioritise energy efficiency: Conserve energy by using energy-efficient appliances and turning off lights and devices when not in use. Consider renewable energy sources like solar or wind power.
  • Opt for sustainable transportation: Opt for public transportation, carpooling, biking, or walking when possible. If you drive, choose fuel-efficient or electric vehicles.
  • Promote a circular economy: Support businesses that adopt circular economy principles, aiming to extend product life cycles, reduce waste, and promote resource efficiency.
  • Advocate for policy changes: Engage with local and national governments to advocate for policies that promote sustainable consumption and production.

Actions you can take today

A great way you can get involved to reduce carbon impact and work towards Sustainable Consumption and Production is by signing up to Pawprint and having a browse through our eco-library of over 600 carbon-busting actions. If you're reading this and currently in a sprint.. well you'll want to hear us out.

Here are just a few ways you can work towards SDG 12 with Pawprint now.

  1. Meal plan to avoid food waste
  2. Cook multiple meals at once
  3. Create an atmospheric ambiance with candles
  4. Cosy up and read instead of scroll
  5. Buy food that is nearly out of date
  6. Try out low waste deodorant
  7. Eat locally grown fruit and veg
  8. Donate unwanted clothing, furniture, and more!
  9. Try compostable coffee pods and filters for a change
  10. Complete a zero waste food shop
  11. Use an e-ticket instead of travel for your next journey
  12. Opt out of junk mail (paper)
  13. Don’t pre-wash dishes for the dishwasher
  14. Bring your own shoppings bags
  15. Stay up to date with the latest information on SDG 12 by reading this blog and sharing it with a colleague.

P.S. track all these actions, and so much more on Pawprint

Key indicators for long-term involvement

In the quest for achieving SDG 12, the journey towards responsible consumption and production extends beyond immediate actions. Remember when we mentioned that there are 11 key indicators for SDG 12? These are a collection of diverse progress indicators spanning from managing waste properly to ensuring your organisation publishes a sustainability report.

Some of the key indicators most relevant to you and me include: 

Target 12.3.1 - The food loss index which aims to halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level.

Target 12.5 - Reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, and recycling.

Target 12.6 - Encourage companies, especially large and multinational enterprises, to adopt sustainable practices and and to embed sustainability information into their reporting cycle.

You can see more of the indicators on the SDG micro-site here.

As individuals, we hold the power to contribute meaningfully to these targets. A call to action involves letting our voices resonate in the realm of sustainable consumption and production. Joining or supporting organisations and initiatives that champion these values allows our collective voice to make a tangible difference.

Final Remarks

Ensuring Responsible Consumption and Production is a critical component of the broader Sustainable Development Goals. 

Our current consumption patterns are straining the Earth's resources and contributing to environmental degradation. 

The pursuit of this goal is not exclusive to governments and corporations; individuals, like yourself and me, also play a crucial role.

By adopting sustainable practices, advocating for change, and making conscientious choices, we can work towards a future where responsible consumption and production are the norm, ensuring a healthier planet for future generations. 

Remember, small actions can have a significant impact, and collectively, we can make a difference in achieving SDG 12 and a more sustainable world.

Interested in learning more about SDG 12? Have a listen to this podcast.

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