What brought us and the planet to the brink of climate disaster (and ecological in general) is, to a great extent, irresponsible consumerism. That is why, among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, goal 12 has been set: to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. There is no doubt that habits of both consumers’ and producers’ adjusting to the market pressure, must be modified. What has been considered by many to be a well-functioning system so far does not work in the light of a new, sustainable economy. However, this doesn’t mean restrictions, but rather new possibilities and opportunities in areas that haven’t been explored so far.
How does sustainable market look like?
Responsible – or sustainable – consumption and production consists in increasing resource efficiency and limiting their use as much as possible. Therefore, it is important to have energy efficiency driving production, as well as sustainable infrastructure for the production and distribution of goods. In addition, sustainable market also provides a social dimention – it strives to provide access to basic services, ecological and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all social groups. In principle, the implementation of sustainable consumption and production patterns is intended to help reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.
In short, a sustainable economy is aimed at “doing more and better for less”. Enthusiasts point out that profits may increase due to the reduction of resource consumption, degradation and pollution, while increasing the quality of services and, consequently, living.
Does the situation really require Sustainable Development Goal 12’s implementation?
For many years, the environment and nature were in the background in respect to economic profits. Because of lack of mindfulness for the good of the planet, we have led to a situation in which rivers are being polluted faster than ecosystems are able to mitigate it. This leads to a number of ecological consequences (eg dead zones on the seas and loss of biodiversity) and social (lack of access to drinking water and health consequences among the poorest people).
Of course, disastrous in its consequences is not only water management, but also energy and food management. The problem lies in their distribution – privileged countries use unnecessarily large amounts of them, while a huge part of the world does not have access to them at all. The issue of greenhouse gas emissions by these two branches – carbon dioxide in the case of coal-fired power plants and methane in the case of mass-rearing of cattle – is also disastrous.
If, according to estimates, the population will increase to the level of 9.6 billion by 2050 – to meet our demand for natural resources in a system we currently live in – we will need two additional planets. It sounds absurd, right? We don’t have any extra planets, so we need to properly take care of the one we do have – preferably not giving up the comfort to which we are accustomed and not taking it away from people who had no chance to experience it.
Sustainable Development Goal 12 main assumptions
At the UN meeting in 2015, over one hundred countries from all over the world signed the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. Therefore, they committed to achieving its goals.
As part of implementing responsible consumption and production, Member States should strive to:
- implement the 10-year framework for sustainable consumption and production programs, taking into account development level and opportunities of developing countries;
- achieve sustainable management and effective use of natural resources;
- halve globally wasted food per capita at retail and consumer level and reducing food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses;
- achieve environmentally friendly management of chemicals and all waste, and significantly reducing their release to air, water and soil;
- significant reduction of waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse;
- encourage companies, especially international ones, to adopt sustainable practices and integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle;
- promote sustainable public procurement practices;
- provide adequate information and awareness about sustainable development and living in harmony with nature;
- support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacities towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production;
- develop and implement tools to monitor the impact of sustainable development on sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products;
- rationalize inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels, including through taxation of restructuring and gradual withdrawal of such subsidies, taking full account of the special needs and conditions prevailing in developing countries.
New, sustainable trends on every level
Such postulates may look like restrictions at first glance. But make no mistake – nobody wants to inhibit development here. On the contrary – it sets adequate for our civilization’s development, environmentally and socially sustainable trends (like Loop). However, in order for such a modern economy to function, it is necessary to concentrate on all stages of production. Commitment must involve everyone – from the producer to the final consumer. This includes, to a large extent, educating about sustainable consumption and lifestyle. Without consumers’ pressure there’s no point of this all – after all, we create demand by making everyday choices.