Sustainable consumption and production

Sustainable Development Goal 12

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Overview

The production and provision of all goods and services require the transformation of many natural resources, which in turn have a growing impact on biodiversity and the natural environment. Many environmental challenges result from unsustainable production and consumption patterns. These include the continuous and increasing conversion of natural ecosystems for agriculture, fragmentation of habitats, loss of biodiversity and degradation of various ecosystem services, overfishing, unsustainable agricultural practices and overexploitation of other renewable resources. In addition, damage from pollution is degrading ecosystems that provide key services underpinning human welfare, and often impact directly on human health and economic productivity.

Changing unsustainable and promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production is one of the essential requirements for sustainable development. Biodiversity is a vital asset in global and local economies and directly supports ma¬jor economic activity and jobs in such diverse sectors as agricul-ture, fisheries, forestry, pharma¬ceuticals, pulp and paper, cos¬metics, horticulture, tourism, construction and biotechnology. The unsustainable use or overexploitation of resources is one of the main threats facing biodiversity today. While many individuals, businesses and countries are making efforts to substantially reduce their use of fossil fuels, with a view to mitigating climate change, similar efforts are needed to ensure that the use of other natural resources is within sustainable limits. For example, making changes in our food consumption patterns will have a major impact on global water stress. Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns is an integral part of both the Sustainable Development Goals and of the vision of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Challenges

An important sustainable development challenge arises from unsustainable consumption and production patterns that have evolved in developed countries, a pattern that is increasingly being followed by developing countries. Economic growth will have to be decoupled from resource use and environmental degradation for inclusive socio-economic development to be sustained. The transition of developed countries to equitable and sustainable consumption will make it easier for developing countries to pursue their human development goals in a more environmentally sustainable way.

Environmental damage and natural resource scarcity are now more than ever recognized as threatening people’s health and livelihoods. More than 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty and income inequality within and among many countries is rising. Unsustainable consumption and production patterns have resulted in huge economic and social costs and may endanger life on the planet. Achieving sustainable development will require changing consumption and production patterns and strengthening environmental protection. This change needs to be inclusive, taking special care of the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

For example, it is estimated that 32% of the food produced globally is wasted. In order to substantially reduce the quantity of food lost and wasted, changes have to take place at different levels of the food chain: production, storage, transportation and consump¬tion. In developed countries, efforts are most needed at the retail and consumer end, owing in part to management practices and consumption habits. In developing coun¬tries, interventions are needed at the producer end, before food reaches the market, to address inadequate harvesting techniques and storage conditions.

Messages

  • While biodiversity is the basis for sus¬tainable livelihoods, the stability of the global environment is under threat from human activity, owing largely to unsustainable consumption patterns that reflect extreme inequalities.
  • Benefits of biodiversity are especially im¬portant to poor and vulnerable groups. To many, the goods and services derived from biodiversity directly constitute social safety nets and can mean the difference between misery and well-being.
  • Changing consumption and production patterns is vital for poverty and hunger eradication, and also for protecting and managing the natural resource base and ecosystems.
  • Countries will need to actively promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production, and ensure inclusive and greener economic growth.
  • To reorient food consumption towards diets that are less-resource intensive and more nutritious will be crucial for food sustainability.
  • Reducing food wast¬age may contribute significantly to the sustainability of the food system, as current estimates suggest that 32%of the total food produced globally is wasted.
  • Changing the production and consumption patterns of wealthier countries and consumers, including dietary habits, could make a remarkable contribution to en¬suring food and nutrition security For example, the livestock sector, which has grown rapidly to meet increasing demand for meat, is a prime contributor to water scarcity, pollution, land degradation and greenhouse gas emissions.