Why SDG 12 is the best (IMO)

What are the UN SDGs?

Real quick, the United Nations Sustainable Development goals are 17 goals that are an urgent call to action for all, in order to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Which stems from the true sense and meaning of sustainability – a world that supports people, planet and prosperity.

I’m a bit tired of the dialogue that states ‘we’re running out of time to address climate change’, the truth is, we’re there. It’s time. There’s none left. Wild fires, floods, famine, war and … ahem…. pandemics are our reality, here and now.

It’s scary. But we can’t let the fear freeze us into not acting. The time to act is NOW. Which is why I always aim to bring attainable action steps to the table for you.

By the way, you can read about all 17 SDGs here.

What’s number 12?

Number 12 is called Responsible Consumption and Production.

I choose to make this my favoured goal because it is a foundational element of how we live more sustainably and how we run more sustainable businesses. As you may know, I work with businesses to help them take significant, sustainable action in how they operate. When SDG 12 is incorporated into the business model, it affects all parts of the impact a business makes.

My favourite type of businesses to work with are hotels. When we work together, things start to shift. We work with their suppliers to bring more sustainable and ethical businesses into their sphere. I’ve worked with some great organisations that have strict rules about this in order for suppliers to get their business.

Changes also occur in the team. Their awareness of and ability to be part of running a sustainable business means working together, understanding the impact their work places has and being invested in a better outcome. This also forges really strong connections within the workplace, making it more than just a job, making it somewhere to be proud to work, a team that is united for a greater purpose. It’s magic.

The guests of these hotels, if they haven’t sought them out for these principles in the first place, learn something and see something different and better!

Finally, and this one was initially a (pleasant) surprise to me. The impact trickles out to families and communities. What a gift. 

Upstream and downstream

I was recently leading a session on carbon footprints and carbon offsetting and pulled apart the terms upstream and downstream.

This seems to be exactly what SDG 12 is about. How can we choose wisely for everything we bring into our lives or workplaces. Now don’t freak out, you know I’m about doing your best and not feeling like you have to do it all. Do what you know. Learn more. Do better. It’s a process…

But choosing to purchase for sustainable and ethical businesses and bringing more of those into the way you live or run your business over time will have a dramatic positive impact. Start to notice your purchasing behaviours and ask if the business you’re giving money to has sustainability at their core. They also don’t have to be perfect, but to be making an effort and to me, transparency is essential.

Then thinking what happens ‘downstream’, so in the context of a hotel, which day excursion companies are your guests using? What do they take with them when they leave (water bottles, gifts), what about waste management from the hotel?

Where are the main touch points?

1. No Poverty – when we source from sustainable suppliers we’re supporting businesses that, amongst many things, pay their staff a fair, living wage. This helps to reduce poverty. When I lived in Cambodia, I saw many instances of organisations paying low wages just because that was the norm. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I certainly make every effort to ensure that the people who work for me (my freelance team in Cambodia) are paid with integrity.

2. Zero Hunger – these two are intertwined in the poverty and hunger are very connected. 

3. Good health and wellbeing – sustainable production, to me, means making products that don’t harm the planet or human health. A lot of everyday products we use and consume seem innocuous enough but when we look closely, I’ve certainly made some shocking discoveries. Food and cleaning products that contain harmful ingredients and chemicals are one of the first examples that comes to mind. Products we use on our skin and hair that aren’t as beneficial as their marketing campaigns would lead us to believe. And food packaged in plastic, leaving harmful residues that come directly into our bodies. Good health and wellbeing relies on sustainable and ethical products.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation – what we use in production and what becomes waste from our production process often and largely involves water. With only 1% of the planets precious water being suitable for humans to drink… this is a resource we need to use with the utmost respect.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy – in business we rely on electricity so having access to clean energy is critical to fulfilling SDG 12. Making it affordable is how it becomes something for everyone and so that being environmentally friendly isn’t a privilege only for the wealthy.

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth – as with number 1, paying people a fair and living wage is one part, making the work environment fulfilling, respectful, inclusive and rewarding is also part of what I consider necessary to achieve SDG 12. The make up of ‘sustainability’ is environment, economy and community. It doesn’t have to be economy OR environment, it can and should be both

9 and 11. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Sustainable Cities and Communities – SDG 12 relies upon and creates these two things. The way things have been going for the last 100 or so years has been pretty (very) destructive, it’s time to take a fresh approach to how we run this planet. Maybe taking a step back and realising that we actually don’t run it, but leaning in to nature and learning how this perfect planet of ours works and integrating that into how we build thriving sustainable places.

13. Climate Action – PFSEA began because of my desire to take action for a better climate future. The way I’ve approached it is through reducing single-use plastics and our consumption behaviour. Ultimately, my focus on SDG 12 feeds my desire to work on SDG 13.

17. Partnerships for the Goals – we need to do this together, it’s more fun, fulfilling and sustainable to do it together. When we connect, support each other, elevate our separate and combined achievements then we magnify our impact. To do it alone will tear you down and wear you out. It’s not sustainable. So make sure you bring in some partners to move these goals forward together.

So what can you do?


  • pick your goal
  • engage with your chosen goal, talk about it, try it on, work out how it embeds into what you do
  • find out what other businesses or people around you are aligned with this goal and connect with them
  • share about your goal and aspirations to integrate it with you team, as for their thoughts and ideas, carry on a discussion and learn more about it together
  • share your focus, your customers will love it

If you’ve got questions, want to chat over a coffee or book a workshop for your team, let me know.

UN SDG 12 Responsibls Consumption and Production

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