Magazine article UN Chronicle

Goal 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Goal 12: Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns

Article excerpt

Goal 12 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) proposed by the Open Working Group (OWG) of the General Assembly of the United Nations is aiming at ensuring sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns. Why is this an imperative for sustainable development?


By 2050, the world population will reach 9.5 billion, (1) 70 per cent of which will live in resource-intensive urban areas. Three billion middle class consumers will join the global economy by 2040. While the global poverty line of US $1.25 a day in 2010 was less than half the 1990 rate, 1.2 billion people are still living in extreme poverty. (2) To respond to these challenges within the carrying capacity of the Earth system, the adoption of sustainable patterns of consumption and production is an imperative, as it conserves through resource efficiency the basis for future development.

This has been a consistent message from the international community since 2002. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI) of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and "The future we want" outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012, both recognized that "poverty eradication, changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are the overarching objectives of and essential requirements for sustainable development". (3)

Today, the inclusion of SDG 12 in the proposed SDGs recognizes the essential and cross-cutting role of SCP in sustainable development. Targets in 12 of the other SDGs are also oriented towards the achievement of SCP patterns.

The High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, commissioned by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 2013, designated SCP as one of the four key areas on which progress is needed to achieve their post-2015 vision: "to end extreme poverty in all its forms...and to have in place the building blocks of sustained prosperity for all". (4) The High-level Panel recognizes that transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth requires a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of consumption and production. (5) The Panel found that the world's consumption and production patterns need to be managed in a more sustainable and equitable way and that only by mobilizing economic, social and environmental action together, can we irreversibly reduce poverty. (6)

Indeed, SCP, by its cross cutting nature, addresses inter-linkages and adopts a holistic approach, taking into account the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development in a balanced and integrated manner. Consumption and production activities are the basis of the global economy, but current patterns are fast depleting natural capital, degrading ecosystem services and undermining the capacity of countries to meet their needs in a sustained way. The shift to SCP patterns implies increasing efficiency and productivity throughout the supply chain and the life cycle of the products, now and over the long-term.


SDG 12 covers both the efficiency in use and management of natural resources (target 12.2), environmental impacts such as waste management (target 12.5), and release of contaminants, especially chemical substances (target 12.4). The goal engages all actors to contribute to sustainable development, including the private sector (target 12.6). The importance of consumer information and education for sustainable development and lifestyles is highlighted (target 12.8). The role of the public sector through sustainable public procurement (target 12.7), as well as the shift towards SCP in the food system (target 12.3) and the tourism sector (target 12.b) are identified too. The need for policies for SCP is underlined through the implementation of the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (10YFP) (target 12. …

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