Continuously increasing demand can be justified if the supply is infinite, but in the case of a continuous increase in demand, even at a point of a limited regeneration of resource supply, then that calls for action. The Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production has been initiated under the theme of ‘doing more and better with less’.
What are we doing wrong?
Currently, the altering socioeconomic and demographic changes impose a constraint on natural resources. We consume more resources than ever, exceeding the earth’s capacity to regenerate. While the wastage and pollution increase, the majority of the population consumes less than basic needs.
It is of general understanding that over the past years production patterns and consumption choices have turned out to be more sustainable. For example; replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and CRT televisions with flat screens. With all these innovations, the negative impact on the environment by human consumption patterns would ideally decrease, but the current situation is different. Despite our production and consumption patterns becoming more sustainable, it has resulted in a rebound effect. Which means that along with the increase in technological efficiency there has been a drive towards increased consumption. A rebound effect like this wipes out all of our gains in eco-efficiency.
What does the process in the long run look like?
Sustainable development must consider the environment, society, and economy all at the same time. SDG 12 specifically addresses and aims to ensure responsible consumption and production patterns with some of the targets concerning sustainable management. In addition to that, the use of natural resources, food waste reduction, waste management through reduction, recycling and reuse, environmentally sound management of chemicals, dissemination of information about company practices that supports sustainable procurement and consumption are taken into the course.
There are 11 targets for SDG 12, they range in purpose and scope in breaking down the main goal into its most basic parts. For example, one target aims to achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources like timber, oil, and water. Another target is directed more education to make sure that this is all possible. It reads, by 2030 to ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature. It involves engaging consumers through awareness-raising and education on sustainable consumption and lifestyles, providing consumers with adequate information through standards and labels and engaging in sustainable public procurement, among others.
The process of initiating this does not merely involve the consumers but also involves different stakeholders, including business, consumers, policy makers, researchers, scientists, retailers, media, and development cooperation agencies, among others. It also requires a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from the producer to the final consumer.
Some key conventions that help keep SDG 12 and others on track are the BASEL convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous waste and their disposal and the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants, but we need to make sure that more states are implementing actionable and more importantly committing to that.
Achieving sustainable consumption and production will be delivered not only through the mentioned SDG 12, but simultaneously contribute the achievements of almost all of the other SDGs, directly or indirectly.
– Rtr. Gethmi Adikari
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