Goal 12 aims to fundamentally change the way that we produce and consume goods and services. The Goal acknowledges that production and consumption of goods and services drives economic growth and improved quality of life, but that we must do so with fewer natural resources and resulting environmental impact across the life cycle.
Some progress is evident – the overall material footprint declined in developed regions between 2000 and 2010 as a result of greater efficiency in industrial processes. The material footprint of developing regions grew over this period but it is still substantially lower than that of developing regions. Roughly one-third (1.3 billion tons) of all food produced for human consumption is wasted – this represents $1 trillion at retail prices and 3.3 gigatons of CO2 emissions annually. The world generates two million metric tonnes of electronic waste per year. According to the EPA, as of 2014 only 41% of electronics are recycled in the US, even with legislation in place.
Technology in action
Financial Innovation Platform
The UN Global Compact’s Financial Innovation for the Global Goals Action Platform aims to explore innovative financial instruments with the …
Breakthrough Innovation Platform
The UN Global Compact Breakthrough Innovation for the Global Goals Action Platform aims to drive breakthrough impact on the SDGs through …
Opportunities & Challenges
Doing more with less, and improving the quality of lives around the world, presents a number of opportunities and challenges:
Circular economy: According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy aims to move beyond the current “take, make, waste” economic paradigm to one in that is restorative and regenerative by design – where waste is designed out and products and materials are kept at their highest utility and value at all times. Making this shift requires a fundamental rethink of our economic system, along with new models of design, manufacturing, logistics and consumer engagement.
New business models: A shift from selling products to services, including sharing and leasing models, will enable businesses to grow revenue with lower material intensity and maintain control over the materials in use (which facilitates reuse, repair and recyclability).
Smarter shipping and distribution: Smarter distribution systems can streamline shipping channels and bring more efficiency and cost savings. These systems are expected to improve safety and environmental impact of shipping and port activities.
Recycling and recovery: One of the more pressing challenges in addressing waste and shifting to a more circular economy is the increasing complexity of products. For example, electronics are getting smaller and more sophisticated, making recovery and reuse of materials more challenging. Product designers need to consider how to create products with end of life in mind (e.g. fewer components), and we need to develop the infrastructure, policies and systems to support repair, reuse and recycling.
Technology has a lot of potential, from helping to inform product design to enabling open data and sharing for greater innovation.John Gardner, Novelis