Sustainable growth and development requires minimizing the natural resources and toxic materials used, and the waste and pollutants generated, throughout the entire production and consumption process. Sustainable Development Goal 12 encourages more sustainable consumption and production patterns through various measures, including specific policies and international agreements on the management of materials that are toxic to the environment. A third of the world’s energy is consumed by the food sector, but a third of food that is produced is lost or wasted.
Managing natural resources efficiently
Adjusted net savings is an indicator of efficient use of natural resources. It measures the difference between national production and consumption — the change in a country’s wealth. Adjusted net savings takes into account investment in human capital, depreciation of fixed capital, depletion of natural resources, and pollution damage. Positive savings form the basis for building wealth and future growth. Negative savings rates suggest declining wealth and unsustainable development. Adjusted net savings is especially useful for gauging whether countries that depend heavily on natural resources are balancing the depletion of their natural resources by investing rents in other forms of productive capital, such as through education. Low- and lower middle-income countries with the highest level of resource dependence also tend to have lower savings rates (figure 12a).
Minimizing the impact of chemical waste
Per capita generation of hazardous waste nearly doubled worldwide between the late 1990s and the late 2000s. In middle-income countries per capita hazardous waste generation rose from 17 kilograms between 1996 and 2000 to 42 kilograms between 2006 and 2011.4 However, high-income non–Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries continue to generate the most hazardous waste, 981 kilograms per capita between 2006 and 2011 (figure 12b). Hazardous waste generation by low-income countries was 7 kilograms per capita over the same period.