Sustainable development objective N°12: the decisive role of companies in optimising our modes of production/consumption

Who says “human activity” says “environmental impact”. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are there to bring us back to reason, pushing us to act before it is too late. It is in the interest of companies to take their share of responsibility in achieving these goals, notably through the famous “SDO 12”.


    1. Meeting tomorrow’s challenges
      17 objectives for a single planet
      ODD 12: optimizing our production/consumption modes
    2. Companies called to the rescue
      When large groups get involved
      And what about startups in all this?
    3. What have we learned?

1. Meeting the challenges of tomorrow

17 objectives for a single planet

The Sustainable Development Goals (or SDOs) emerged at the time of the United Nations Conference on sustainable development, held in Rio in 2012. These 17 new “challenges” thus take over from the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals). The MDGs aim to implement all possible actions on a global scale by 2030, in order to protect the environment, to establish a climate of peace and prosperity and to eradicate poverty. In short, to provide a safer world for new generations.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked and involve many areas: climate change, clean energy, aquatic life, gender equality, schooling for children around the world, etc. Above all, these objectives require a significant investment by mobilizing all the necessary resources: financial, technological, but also human. States, companies, associations and citizens are thus invited to participate in the achievement of all the SDOs.

Let’s take a look at the goal we are interested in today: ODD12.

ODD 12: optimizing our production/consumption modes

The numbers speak for themselves:

    • By 2050, we could reach 9.6 billion people on Earth. If we persist in not changing our modes of production/consumption, then it would take the equivalent of three planets to produce the resources deemed “necessary”.
    • We waste approximately 1.3 billion tons of food every year. Currently, nearly 2 billion people are hungry/malnourished.

The food sector and its activities account for nearly 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on this observation, SDO 12 (responsible consumption and production) invites us to change our habits and even to curb our ambitions. States, producers and consumers are thus invited to review their copy and reduce their ecological footprint. This includes optimizing the management of our natural resources and thinking about how to eliminate the pollutants and other toxic waste that clutter the Earth’s surface. Halving food waste, promoting recycling and waste reduction, helping developing countries… The objectives of SDO 12 remain ambitious.

The 11 targets of ODD 12 :

    • 12.1 – Launch of the 10-Year Framework of Programmes for Sustainable Production/Consumption Patterns.
    • Sustainable management and rational use of natural resources.
    • 12.3 – Fight against food waste.
    • 12.4 – More environmentally friendly management of chemicals and waste.
    • 12.5 – Significant decrease in the amount of waste.
    • 12.6 – Adoption by companies of sustainable practices related to corporate social responsibility.
    • 12.7 – Choice of sustainable practices for public procurement.
    • 12.8 – Enable each individual to access the full range of knowledge on sustainable development.
    • 12.a – Support developing countries to move towards sustainable production/consumption patterns.
    • 12.b – Encourage a sustainable tourism with jobs, which values both the culture and local products.
    • 12.c – Review energy subsidy policies for more rational operation.

And in France, where do we stand on ODD 12? Small point on the current situation, with some figures :

    • In 2020, 152 industrial and territorial ecology projects were launched in France. Source: Ademe and Insee, 2021.
    • In 2018, 12.10 million metric tons of hazardous waste were produced in France. This figure is up from previous years (10.8 million tons in 2014 and 11 million tons in 2016). Source: SDES-Ademe and Insee, 2021.
    • The circular economy represents nearly 545,000 jobs in France (source: Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, 2017).

In 2019, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and INSEE (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques) noted that France still needs to make further progress on the environmental front.

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2. Companies called to the rescue


When the big groups get into it

The objectives set by SDO 12 do not imply that member states or the associative world. More than ever before, companies also have a role to play. In France, some major groups have already taken the measure of the problem and have implemented a number of actions: waste reduction, product recycling, etc.

    • Crossroads. The French brand, which represents one of the major players in the retail sector, has implemented a Antigaspi plan. The group is thus committed to halving food waste in the retail sector. Carrefour seeks to reduce food losses at the level of production and supply chains. The group thus tries to meet the objectives set by target 12.3 of SDO 12 (food waste).
    • Orange. The French telecommunications company is involved in several Sustainable Development Objectives, in particular SDO 12 and 13 (measures relating to the fight against climate change). The company is thus acting on several fronts: energy efficiency of infrastructures, the use of renewable energies and the implementation of a circular economy (increasing the lifespan and recycling of products for a better use of resources).
    • BNP Paribas. The banking group has integrated the 17 Sustainable Development Objectives into its CSR strategy. For the past seven years, BNP Paribas has been contributing to the financing of green bond issues in the areas of recycling and waste management. In 2017, the Group issued a green bond to Helvetia Environnement, a Swiss company specializing in waste collection and management.
    • Sanofi. The health sector is also involved in the Sustainable Development Goals. The French company Sanofi has made certain commitments concerning SDO 12: the reuse/recovery or recycling of at least 90% of the waste produced by 2025, but also a landfill rate that would fall below 1%. With regard to pharmaceutical products present in the environment, Sanofi has set itself the objective of monitoring, managing and reducing emissions from each production site by 2025.

What about the startups in all this?

Large companies are not the only ones to make their contribution. In France, many startups are contributing to the national effort by proposing innovative projects to make companies more responsible and streamline production chains.

We propose you to discover some of these startups:

    • Umiami. The founders of Umiami started from a simple observation: meat is delicious, but the production is very expensive for the planet. So why not imagine alternatives that are just as delicious, but based on plants? Which are better for us, for the planet, for the animals? Umiami proposes to eat all the traditional dishes without compromise.
    • Phenix. This startup fights daily against food waste. The principle is simple : the unsold goods from supermarkets or restaurants are recovered by Phenix. They are then resold to individuals at a lower cost or are entrusted to the expert hands of charity leaders. The method would thus save nearly 120,000 meals per day (the equivalent of 50 tons of waste). An ambitious approach that has enabled the startup to obtain the B-Corp (Benefit corporation) label and the Esus (Socially responsible company of social utility) approval.
    • CleanCup. Disposable cups also have an impact on the environment. The Energy Transition Act prohibits the use of single-use plastic cups since January 2020. The CleanCup startup did not wait for this ultimatum to get into the fight. It offers companies a multifunctional terminal accompanied by reusable cups. The principle: once the coffee break is over, the user only has to put the glass back in the machine. The glass is then automatically cleaned before being put back into service.
    • Love Your Waste. This startup collects, sorts and recycles biowaste from the catering industry. This waste is collected by people in a situation of professional reintegration before being entrusted to farmers. It is then recovered as biogas/organic fertilizer. Love your waste does not stop there. The startup offers training to all the players in the sector in order to raise awareness (staff, customers…).
    • Lemon Tri. The startup has designed devices to collect metal cans, cups and other plastic bottles. The aim of the operation: to encourage users to dump this waste into the machine by offering them a small gift in return. This can take different forms: a lottery with token/ticket, a micro-donation of 2 euro cents, etc. The recovered waste is then compressed and packaged before being resold to a recycling center. Lemon Tri seems to be a success: the managers of the startup have been able to install their machines in many French companies (Axa, Auchan, Carrefour, Michelin, Décathlon, Crédit Foncier…).

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