Sustainable Development Goal 12

Responsible Consumption and Production (Sustainable Development Goal 12).

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Sustainable Development Goal 12


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Responsible Consumption and Production (Sustainable Development Goal 12).

Do you ever find yourself sitting at home thinking about all the items you've ever bought, or how much you've ever thrown away? This is your consumption. What about all the consumption and production that's ever occurred across the entire Earth? It's got to be a lot, right? Which is why we have Sustainable Development Goal 12. This target was set by the United Nations (UN), to meet the goal of sustainable consumption and production in 2030. Keep reading this explanation to learn all about Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 Overview

During the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, the UN set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to be met by the year 2030. The goals are to be implemented by every country and also aim to create a global partnership across all countries. The main aim of the Sustainable Development Goals is to improve the quality of life for all, as well as also conserving and protecting the natural environment, all whilst facing extreme issues such as climate change.

Each goal has a different focus, ranging from ending all hunger to protecting all ecosystems on earth. Together they aspire to improve the world, by making all resources sustainably, conserving the planet in every way, and ensuring everyone lives a high standard of life.

If you haven't already, take a look at our explanation of Sustainable Development Goals for further information on what the goals are.

The 12th Sustainable development Goal aims for all consumption and production patterns to be sustainable by 2030.1 This is because current patterns of consumption and production are unsustainable, which is contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.1 These are all important issues that need to be addressed and prevented.

Sustainable Development Goal 12, SDG 12 Logo, StudySmarterFig 1. SDG 12 Logo

Why is SDG 12 Important?

Our global population is on the rise, and this is placing increasing pressure on our natural resources.

The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050!

Additionally, in today's society, humans use a range of resources from oils, gas, and minerals, to energy, food, and water. The overuse of these resources contribute to unsustainable consumption and production. However, they are vital to societal development and economic development. It is therefore critical that in economic development, the environment is not harmed as a consequence. So, SDG 12 intends to urge sustainable economic growth, especially in developing countries (where it is most needed), whilst simultaneously preventing the degradation of ecosystems.

Developing countries suffer from a range of factors, from economic issues such as debt to political issues such as corruption and political instability.

Sustainable Development Goal 12, Map of the Countries With the Highest Amount of Material Consumption, StudySmarterFig 2. Map of the Countries With the Highest Amount of Material Consumption.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 Purpose

The main goal of SDG 12 is to "ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns".1

Sustainability is the key element of this objective. This means exercising sustainability in all aspects of consumption and production.

The UN's definition of sustainability is "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."2

Consequently, changes to the way society consumes and produces need to be made. This can be through learning how to manage our resources correctly and efficiently, enforcing policies, reducing waste, and utilizing technology. These are tackled through a series of targets within SDG 12 which will be discussed in more detail later.

Targets, Indicators and Progress

Although the main problem SDG 12 tackles are unsustainable consumption and unsustainable production, there are a series of different issues within consumption and production. These are land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing, marine environment degradation, and the contribution to Greenhouse Gas emissions. These issues all add to the major crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

So, let's take a look at how these difficulties are managed.

The Eleven Targets of SDG 12

Within SDG 12, there are 11 targets that each combat the different problems faced in combatting SDG 12. They include:

  • Encouraging All Countries to Act in Sustainable Consumption and Production
  • Efficient Use of Resources
  • Reducing Food Waste
  • Better Management of Chemical Waste
  • Reduction in Waste
  • Encouraging Companies to Become More Sustainable
  • Sustainable Policies
  • Education on Living a Sustainable Lifestyle
  • Using Technology to Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Occurs
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Fossil Fuel Subsidies

All the targets have different dates to be accomplished. One target has a 2020 goal, four have goals of 2030, and six do not have a date set.

Let's examine each of these targets in more detail: 3

Target NumberTarget TitleTarget Description
12.1Implement the 10-year sustainable consumption and production framework
  • This target encourages all countries to take part in sustainably consuming and producing.
  • Since there may be some difficulties for developing countries to do this, developed countries are to take authority with this target. This is done by introducing policies and a series of measures that will ensure sustainable consumption and production.


Sustainable management and use of natural resources
  • This is a target for 2030. It aims to reach sustainable management and use of natural resources.
12.3Halve global per capita food waste
  • Another 2030 target is the goal of halving retail, consumer, production, and supply chain food waste per capita across the Earth.
12.4Responsible management of chemicals and waste
  • This is the target for 2020. The objective responsibly aims to manage chemicals and waste so that they do not compromise the environment or human health.
  • Although there was progress made towards reaching this goal, it was not fully met in 2020.
12.5Substantially waste reduce generation
  • This focuses on lessening the amount of waste produced. This can be accomplished through recycling, reuse, reduction, and prevention.
12.6Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainably reporting
  • To urge companies to use sustainable methods. Private companies have to report data on how they are enforcing sustainable practices.
12.7Promoting sustainable public procurement practices
  • Sustainable public procurement practices. This target encourages sustainable behavior and therefore contributes to greener practices.

Public procurement is when governments acquire goods, works, or services from companies through purchasing.

12.8Promote universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles
  • By 2030 everyone has access to knowledge on how to be sustainable in their ways of life.
12.9Supporting developing countries' scientific and technological capacity for sustainable consumption and production
  • Helping developing countries to develop whilst remaining sustainable simultaneously.
12.ADevelop and implement tools to monitor sustainable tourism
  • Apply methods of sustainable tourism, whilst also benefitting the culture of the location.
12.BRemove market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption
  • Prevent wasteful consumption by eliminating any market distortions that would otherwise encourage wasteful consumption. Includes eradicating subsidies for fossil fuels.

SDG 12 Waste Management

Food and energy are two major resources that produce waste and are inefficient. Let's take a look at these significant issues and how SDG 12 attempts to improve them.


Food is imperative to human survival. Despite this, there are multiple challenges in food production regarding waste and the environment.

There are many stages of food production, from harvesting to transportation, production, and consumerism. At each of these stages, there is food waste. The UN has estimated that 1/3 of food is wasted each year.3

Additionally, during the process of food production, from harvesting to consumption, there are many opportunities for environmental damage. SDG 12 is attempting to prevent these issues by ensuring food system efficiency and sustainability, which will also lower production costs. This means less food is made initially and therefore, costs would be lower.

Sustainable Development Goal 12, Waste Can Occur During Food Production Stages, StudySmarterFig 3. Waste Can Occur During Food Production Stages.


Energy is another resource that is important to our present society. Therefore, energy usage is on the rise. However, energy is still wasted and used inefficiently. This largely contributes to Greenhouse Gas emissions.

A solution to this issue is the use of green energy. Renewables such as solar or wind-powered energy are classed as green energy. This type of energy is much better for the environment than fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

The management of electronic waste is also essential, and a problem SDG 12 is trying to tackle. This waste is toxic and causes huge environmental harm. By managing this concern through correctly storing electronic waste, this issue can be tackled.

Responsible Consumption and Production

Consumption and production are at the core of the global economy. This means that for economic development to occur, responsible consumption and production need to take place. However, responsible is the keyword here. To guarantee that environmental degradation does not occur during the processes of consumption and production, but also to ensure waste is dramatically reduced and prevented where necessary during these processes.

Heavily relied-upon resources are being over-exploited and are therefore becoming increasingly damaged. Furthermore, the vast majority of these resources are finite, which means they will eventually run out.

The global material footprint measures the environmental damage to economic development. According to the UN: "The global material footprint (…) grew by 17.4% to 85.9 billion metric tons in 2017 as compared to 2010".4 This shows how much environmental harm is happening as a consequence of economic development, and why consumption and production must occur responsibly.

Everyone is responsible for consumption and production. This ranges from consumers who can reduce the amount of waste they produce and make responsible and informed decisions regarding purchases that could contribute to waste. To more major players such as manufacturing industries.

So, what are manufacturing industries?

Manufacturing industries convert resources into goods.

These types of industries are vital in achieving SDG 12 because they are historically one of the main culprits of over-consumption and over-production. Through education and new sustainable solutions that contribute positively to the environment and society, businesses can add to the ambition of SDG 12 to make considerable improvements to unsustainable consumption and production.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 - Key takeaways

  • Sustainable Development Goal 12 aims for sustainable consumption and production by 2030.
  • The main goal of SDG 12 is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
  • 11 targets within SDG 12 help to meet the aim of the goal.
  • It is important to be responsible for consumption and production due to the increased pressure unsustainable consumption and production is placing on the environment.
  • Manufacturing industries are major contributors to unsustainable consumption and production; therefore, they play a major role in helping to achieve SDG 12 by creating solutions that benefit society and the environment.


  1. “Goal 12 Department of Social and Economic Affairs”. https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal12 (No Date).
  2. “Sustainability United Nations”. https://www.un.org/en/academic-impact/sustainability (No Date).
  3. “Sustainable consumption and production”. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-consumption-production/ (No Date).
  4. "12 Why It Matters 2020". https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/12_Why-It-Matters-2020.pdf (No Date).
  5. Fig 2. Map of the countries with the highest amount of material consumption. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Domestic-material-consumption-per-capita.png), By SDGs Tracker, Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en).

Frequently Asked Questions about Sustainable Development Goal 12

Sustainable Development Goal 12 is Responsible Consumption and Production.

The main goal of SDG 12 is the aim that all consumption and production patterns are sustainable by 2030.

SDG 12 tackles problems of unsustainable consumption and production, land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing, marine environment degradation and the contribution to Greenhouse Gas emissions.

Manufacturing industries are major contributors of waste; therefore it is important they are responsible to reduce this waste and become sustainable in manufacturing.  

It is important to become responsible for consumption and production because resources are finite and are over-exploited. Therefore, responsibility in consumption and production can reduce waste and allow for sustainable methods of consumption and production in order to meet SDG 12.

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