May 08th 2024

SDG: Goal 12 Sustainable consumption and production

SDG: Goal 12 Sustainable consumption and production: The demand for resources such as lignite, oil, wood, fruit, vegetables and grain has risen continuously in recent years, contributing to global economic progress. Since the year 2000, the amount of raw materials needed to manufacture our desired products has almost doubled.

What is so important in Goal 12?

Various measures are required to ensure the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources. These include the prevention of waste and the promotion of recycling, as well as the safe disposal of hazardous waste. In addition, food waste should be reduced by managing food better and using it effectively.

Businesses should be encouraged to minimize their social and environmental risks and implement sustainable practices. Consumers should be informed about sustainable consumption in order to make informed choices. Public authorities should give preference to sustainable products in procurement in order to achieve positive environmental and social impacts.

Environmentally sound management of chemicals is also crucial. This means ensuring that chemicals are produced, used and disposed of sustainably to minimize negative impacts on the environment and human health.

By implementing these measures and promoting sustainable resource management at all levels – from individual decisions to government policies – we can make a positive difference and create a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Facts and figures

. In 2021, 13% of food was lost after the harvest

. In 2021, countries supported the use of coal, oil and gas with subsidies amounting to 789 billion US dollars

. Members of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles are phasing out more than 160 hazardous chemicals from production

. In 2019, an average of more than 12 tons of raw materials per capita were used worldwide for production and consumption, in terms of material footprint

. Recycling aluminum saves about 95% energy compared to production

. Around 17% of the food produced is thrown away

Where are we right now?

Unfortunately, the global community is still a long way from achieving the goal of halving per capita food waste and losses by 2030.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on consumption and production patterns. Global supply chains have been disrupted and consumer behavior has changed. In light of these challenges, responsible consumption and sustainable production should be essential components of the post-pandemic recovery.

To achieve Goal 12 of the 2030 Agenda, policymakers must do more to promote sustainable business practices. The global economy must decouple its growth from resource consumption much more quickly. Although significantly more companies will have published sustainability reports in 2022 than in 2016, business reporting on its contributions to the SDGs still needs to improve considerably overall. The fact is that almost 50 percent of electronic waste is collected and safely disposed of in Europe, while less than two percent is collected and safely disposed of in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The situation in Germany

In industrialized countries such as Germany, per capita resource consumption is particularly high. The average plastic bag in Germany is only used for around 20 minutes. In 2022, each German resident produced an average of 593 kg of waste. To counteract the flood of plastic waste, a ban on single-use plastics such as straws and cotton buds came into force in the EU on July 3, 2021, but plastic packaging is still widely used.

Germany greatly exceeds the resources available in its own country. Every citizen in Germany has an ecological footprint of 4.7 global hectares, which is three times the amount of sustainably available natural resources. The increasing consumption of resources in Germany is also reflected on Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which the world has consumed more resources and generated more emissions than the global ecosystem can regenerate or compensate for in the course of a year. In 2024, Earth Overshoot Day for Germany already fell on May 2.

Consumers in industrialized countries have an above-average influence on global production chains through their decisions, for example by switching to regional, organic and fair trade food.

Information and transparency also play an important role: environmental labels on products such as the “Blue Angel” enable consumers to recognize whether a product has been manufactured sustainably or consumes little energy and emits few greenhouse gases. Over 12,000 products and services in Germany bear the Blue Angel label.

What is the international situation?

Global plastic production alone has risen from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 370 million tons in 2020. By 2017, more than 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste had been produced, almost 80% of which ended up in landfills or in the environment, while only 9% was recycled. Worldwide, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are bought every minute and 5 trillion plastic bags are still used and thrown away every year.

Global resource consumption continues to increase. In the last six years, over half a trillion tons of materials have been consumed, almost as much as in the entire 20th century. The Earth currently needs around 21 months to regenerate what humanity has consumed in a year. This excess of regenerative capacity has particularly serious consequences for future generations.

Despite the high level of consumption, there is also a positive trend: although the vast majority of extracted materials that enter the economy are used to produce new materials, the proportion of secondary raw materials has fallen from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.2% in 2023 within five years.

What now?

Given the alarming facts and trends regarding resource consumption, it is imperative that we take action to reduce our environmental impact and create a more sustainable future.

One important step is to reduce single-use plastic. We can reduce our plastic consumption by using reusable alternatives such as returnable bottles and containers and avoiding single-use plastic bags.

It is also crucial to promote recycling. By properly separating waste and ensuring that recyclable materials are correctly disposed of and recycled, we can help reduce waste and pollution.

Conscious and sustainable consumption also plays an important role. Choosing products with environmental and social labels such as the “Blue Angel” supports the demand for more environmentally friendly alternatives and promotes more sustainable production.

Furthermore, we should increase our resource efficiency by saving energy and water and rethinking our consumption habits to generate less waste.

It is also important to support policies that aim to regulate resource consumption, promote the use of sustainable technologies and encourage environmentally friendly practices.

Through joint efforts and collective action, we can help reduce our environmental impact and create a more sustainable future for all.

The overview of the 17 goals can be read here

Overview of the 17 goals


You can find information from the United Nations on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here:

Information from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development can be found here:

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