In Focus: UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production

In this artice for our ‘Work for the UN Sustainable Development Goals’ campaign, we will take a closer look at Goal 12 Responsible Consumption and Production, why it is important and showcase some employers on a mission to help.

Responsible Consumption and Production is Goal No.12 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and perhaps one of the most challenging to achieve. The reckless use of our natural resources, and consequent uneven restoration of our biodiverse ecosystems, has had a devastating impact on the environment and communities alike, driving the climate further into crisis. 

The United Nations states that Responsible 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. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.” 

The goal comprises of 11 targets and 13 indicators that underpin the UN’s statement, with some of the most notable examples being:

  • to half per capita global food waste by 2030 (12.3), 
  • encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability into their reporting cycles (12.6), 
  • achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources (12.2). 

Unfortunately at present, achieving these targets by 2030 doesn’t look too promising. Between 2000 and 2017, the global material footprint increased by 70%, a rate of increase which is totally unsustainable and will drive the planet further into crisis. Here are just some of the other statistics raised by the 2021 UN Sustainable Development report: 

  • In 2021, each person generated approximately 7.3 kilograms of electronic waste every year, where only 1.7 kilograms was recycled.
  • Around 10 million tonnes of food waste is generated annually (approximately a third of total food production).
  • 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. 

On top of this, fossil fuel subsidies continue to threaten the environment despite marginal progress in their reduction, and developing countries still have significantly reduced capabilities and resources available to them to tap into renewable and clean energy (UN Sustainable Development Report, 2021). 

It sounds bleak, but there are signs of positive change too. 
Solar, Wind and Battery technologies are advancing at increasingly high rates, suggesting that we could half electricity emissions by 2030 (WWF, 2021). Meanwhile, the 2021 IEA Global Electric Vehicle Outlook Report shows a dramatic growth of 41% in the electric vehicle market in 2020 (IEA, 2021) driving the reduction of carbon emissions.
In the retail world, consumers are increasingly opting to shop from local businesses, with the sharing economy encouraging more and more to rent or share rather than buy their commodities that result in high levels of waste. While this localisation trend was initially catalysed by the events of COVID-19, a recent SalesForce report finds that 47% of consumers will now go ‘out of their way’ to shop locally, with no intent to change these newly found habits anytime soon (SalesForce, 2020), paving the way for a profound redirection of the global impact of retail on climate change. 

This reality is why we, as a planet, should think carefully about our own consumption habits, and why we need businesses and employers to do the same. Many of the organizations we at Ethical Jobseeker work with and promote are at the frontline of this fight for responsible production. 
- B-Corp Certified Too Good To Go aims to create impact in four key areas: Household, Business, Schools and Public Affairs and so far has already succeeded in impacting government policies in over five countries and partnering with over 75,000 businesses in the fight to end systemic food waste, with future ambitions to revolutionize the food supply chain from production to consumption (Too Good To Go, 2021).
- Ethical Consumer is a not-for-profit co-operative – For over 30 years they have been at the heart of the ethical consumer movement, helping consumers to shop ethically, campaigners to challenge corporate power and businesses to improve their supply chains.
Their mission is to make global businesses more sustainable through consumer pressure. Ethical Consumer’s website and magazines are jam packed with information about ethical consumption and production issues and is a great resource to fact check ethical production claims.