Development and Globalization: Facts and Figures2016 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

We live on a planet with finite resources. How we manage and consume those resources will have real and lasting implications for prosperity and equity today and for future generations. Goal 12 addresses some of the key challenges regarding sustainable consumption and production patterns, such as environmentally sound sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources, decreasing global food waste, the treatment and impacts of general and hazardous waste, recycling and reuse, the promotion of corporate sustainable reporting, monitoring the impacts of sustainable tourism, strengthening the scientific and technological contribution to sustainable consumptionThe use of goods and services that respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life, while minimizing the use of natural resources, toxic materials and emissions of waste and pollutants over the life cycle, so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations.
and the need to reduce inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption.

Anyone who believes in indefinite growth on a physically finite planet is either mad, or an economist.Boulding K (1973)

Food waste

Roughly one third of all food produced in the world for human consumption every year - approximately 1.3 billion tones - gets lost or wasted.

Food lossDecrease in edible food mass available for human consumption throughout the different segments of the supply chain.
and wasteFood losses resulting from decisions to discard food that still has value.
is of central importance in the fight to combat hunger and improve global food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stresses that if only one quarter of the food currently wasted were saved, it would be sufficient to feed 870 million people (FAO: Key facts on food loss and waste you should know!). Meanwhile, almost 800 million people are estimated to be undernourished, including more than 90 million children under the age of five who are still undernourished and underweight (see goal 2). Food securityWhen all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.
(see goal 2) is also a major concern in many parts of the developing world. Food production must clearly increase significantly to meet the future demands of a growing world population. Yet food is wasted at every stage along the food supply chain, from initial agricultural production to final household consumption. This is true for both developed and developing countries (figure 12.1). In a world of finite and scarce natural resources and where solutions are needed to provide safe and nutritious food for a projected 9.7 billion people in 2050 (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015), reducing food waste must be a priority. FAO estimates that approximately one third of all food produced for human consumption was wasted, equating to about 1.3 billion tons per year (FAO, 2011).

Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons).

Apart from the shame of wasting food while people starve, there are also broader economic and environmental impacts as resources used in food production (land, water, energy, labour) are also wasted and needless greenhouse gas emissions result. It is against this background that FAO launched a Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, also known as “Save Food” (FAO, 2015).

The causes of food loss vary throughout the world. They are dependent on the specific conditions and local situation in a given country. In broad terms, food losses are influenced by crop production choices and patterns, internal infrastructure and capacity, marketing chains and distribution channels, and consumer purchasing and food use practices.

Figure 12.1. Per-capita food losses and waste at consumption and pre-consumption stages in different regions (Kilograms per year) Download data

Food waste in medium and high-income countries occurs largely at the consumption stage, arising from consumer behaviour. In other words, food is discarded even when it is still suitable for human consumption, resulting from, for example, poor purchase planning and not consuming food before expiration or “best before” dates. Significant losses also occur early in food supply chains in industrialized regions owing to coordination failure between different actors. For instance, food is wasted due to quality standards, which reject perfectly good food items that are not faultlessly shaped or aesthetically pleasing.

In low-income countries, food is lost mainly within the food supply chain before it reaches the consumer. These losses are due to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, as well as poor storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions. Inadequate infrastructure, transportation, packaging and marketing systems also contribute.

Figure 12.1 illustrates clearly that the majority of food is lost and wasted within the supply chain during harvesting, production, transportation and storage. However, in industrialized Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania, a very significant proportion of food is lost during household consumption.