Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Measuring progress in the Nordic countries

This page looks at the progress made by the Nordic countries towards Sustainable Development Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Each section starts by analysing global and regional trends, before looking at the latest data on the Nordic countries and their progress towards the 2030 targets. The data presented is gathered from the UN Sustainable Development Goals Global Database, unless otherwise noted.

The assessment of progress on the Nordic countries is based on a recent OECD report analysing progress made towards the SDGs in all OECD-countries. The report provides a unique methodology for comparing progress across OECD-countries, tracking recent trends as well as estimating each country’s likelihood of reaching the 2030 targets.

Overview of targets

SDG 12 consist of 11 targets. Click on the targets below to start exploring the data:

12.1Implement the 10-year sustainable consumption and production framework
12.2Sustainable management and use of natural resources
12.3Halve global per capita food waste
12.4Responsible management of chemicals and waste
12.5Substantially reduce waste generation
12.6Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting
12.7Promote sustainable public procurement practices
12.8Promote universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles
12.aSupport developing countries’ scientific and technological capacity for sustainable consumption and production
12.bDevelop and implement tools to monitor sustainable tourism
12.cRemove market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption

Target 12.1

Implement the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries


12.1.1Number of countries developing, adopting or implementing policy instruments aimed at supporting the shift to sustainable consumption and production

Global trends

As of 2021, only 26 countries worldwide had in place national action plans for sustainable consumption and production (SCP), or had mainstreamed SCP as a priority or target in national policies. Half of the countries were in Europe and Northern America, indicating that adoption of SCP policies is very uneven geographically. By looking at the total number of policies in place for SCP worldwide, the latest data from 2021 shows a total of 656 policies in place worlwide, with two-thirds of these within countries in Europe and Northern America.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follows the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Nordics

Along with other OECD-countries, all the Nordics have implemented policies and plans to promote sustainable consumption and production (SCP). However, the OECD does not make an assessement of progress on this target, as data on the quality or degree of implementation of such plans and policies is not possible to judge by this indicator.

Target 12.2

By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources


12.2.1Material footprint, material footprint per capita, and material footprint per GDP
12.2.2Domestic material consumption, domestic material consumption per capita, and domestic material consumption per GDP

Note that these indicators are identical to those under target 8.4.

Global trends

A. Global material footprint

The global material footprint is the total amount of raw materials extracted to meet final consumption demands. Over the past two decades it has increased by almost 40 billion tonnes, reaching close to 100 billion tonnes in 2019. A central challenge over the next decades is to achieve higher levels of resource efficiency. Since 2000, there has been only marginal improvements in the amount raw materials needed per unit of wealth produced. At the same time, material footprint per capita has increased by over 30% to 12,4 tonnes (global average) in 2019. As such, there at the moment no trend towards improved global resource efficiency.

B. Domestic material consumption

The above indicator on the global material footprint measures total material use, the second indicator looks only at domestic material use. It thus takes into account direct material use inside a countrys territory (as well as any direct material imports and exports).

While material productivity has improved (i.e. less domestic material consumption per unit of wealth produced), the global average domestic consumption per capita has increased over the past two decades.

The Nordics

Though the goal is to progressively improve global resource efficiency, there is currently no agreed target level set for 2030 on the indicators discussed above. The OECD has operationalised the target as the level of domestic material consumption of the top four performers in 2015: 0,143 kg per unit of GDP. None of the Nordic countries are at or below this level, with Iceland currently the closest.

No progress assessment is given as new data has been released after the OECD published its report.

Target 12.3

By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses


12.3.1(a) Food loss index and (b) food waste index

Global trends

An estimated 13% of food is lost worldwide between harvesting and reaching retial markets. The share is approximately the same as in 2016. The largest food losses occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, where over 20% of food was lost before reaching markets. Food loss can be impaced by inefficciencies at the farm-level, during transportation and storage, and during processing and wholesaling.

While "food loss" concerns what happens before food reaches consumers, "food waste" looks at how much food is discarded once after it has reached household, food service and retail level. Data on food waste is sparse, but the UN has estimated that around 17% of food is wasted, with the majority of the waste (60%) happening at the household level.

The Nordics

Available data is insufficient to make an assessment of progress in the Nordic countries.

Target 12.4

By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment


12.4.1Number of parties to international multilateral environmental agreements on hazardous waste, and other chemicals that meet their commitments and obligations in transmitting information as required by each relevant agreement
12.4.2(a) Hazardous waste generated per capita; and (b) proportion of hazardous waste treated, by type of treatment

Global trends

Five international environmental agreements are tracked in the global SDG indicator framework:

  1. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention);
  2. The Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent procedure for certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides in international trade (Rotterdam Convention);
  3. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm Convention);
  4. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal Protocol);
  5. Minamata Convention on Mercury (Minamata Convention),

The indcator measures the degree to which countries meet their commitments by transmitting data and information as required by each convention/protocol.

As per 2020, the Montreal protocol had the highest score of implementation (world average), followed by the Rotterdam convention (75%), Basel Convention (61%) and Stockholm Convention (50%). No data is available on the Minamata convetion at the world or regional level.

On the second indicator on hazardous waste, data is mainly available for e-waste at the global and regional level. The latest data for 2019 shows that around only 23% of e-waste generated worldwide was collected and managed in an environmentally sound way. Regionally, the rate vary significally, with almost half of all e-waste in Europe and Northern America at at 47% collection rate compared to just 1% in Latin American and the Caribbean and 2% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Nordics

The latest data show a mixed picture for the Nordics with regards to the five multilateral enviromental agreements. While all countries have high scores on the Montreal Protocol, levels are lower on the other conventions and protocols. On the Minamata Convention, none of the Nordic countries report a 100% score.

Data on hazardous waste is insufficient for a cross-country comparison in the Nordics.

The OECD does not provide an assessment of progress on this target due to the lack of data.

Target 12.5

By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse


12.5.1National recycling rate, tons of material recycled

Global trends

Data is only assessed at the national level for this indicator.

The Nordics

To assess recycling at the national level, the OECD uses data on the material recovery rate which measures the share of municipal waste generated that is recovered through recycling and compostion. The 2030 target is set at 53%, which was the level of top OECD-performers in 2015.

As of 2020, Denmark is the only Nordic country that has reached the target level, with recent trends in the other countries indicating a mixed picture. Norway has improved in the past few years, but is back at the same level as achieved in 2003.

New data has been made available since the OECD report was published, therefore the OECD assessment is not discussed further.

Target 12.6

Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle


12.6.1Number of companies publishing sustainability reports

Global trends

Since 2016, the number of companies publishing sustainability report has more than doubled from around 2 600 to over 5 800. A recent survey by UNCTAD and UNEP of 10,000 public companies worldwide showed that 60% of large companies published sustainability reports in 2021, also more than double the share in 2016.

While an increase in absolute numbers should be interpreded as a positive development, there current indicator does not assess whether companies practices are actucally moving in a sustainable direction.

The Nordics

Given that the indicator only focuses on the number of reports published, the OECD states that it cannot be used as a measure of progress and that more refined data on companies practices is needed in order to do so. The chart below shows the number of companies per country that published a sustainability report in 2020.

Target 12.7

Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities


12.7.1Number of countries implementing sustainable public procurement policies and action plans

Global trends

No data available at the global or regional level.

The Nordics

The latest UN data from 2020 shows that all the Nordics, with the exception of Iceland, have implemented sustainable public procurement policies and action plans.

Target 12.8

By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature


12.8.1Extent to which (i) global citizenship education and (ii) education for sustainable development are mainstreamed in (a) national education policies; (b) curricula; (c) teacher education; and (d) student assessment

Note that the indicator is identical to the one under target 4.7.

Global trends

There is ongoing work to develop the indicator used to measure progress towards this target. Each of the four components of the indicator (policies, curricula, teacher education, and student assessment), are measured by a range of criteria which taken together are given a score between 0 and 1, where 1 entails full mainstreaming of the Global Citizenship Education (GCED) and Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). As of 2022, no data is currently available at global or regional level.

The Nordics

At a Nordic level, Denmark, Finland and Sweden took part in the first round of measuring this indicator (2017-2020). The data showed that as of now, only Sweden has fully mainstreamed GCED and ESD into their national education policies.

Given the lack of data over time, no trend assessment is given for this indicator. New data is set to be released during 2024.

Target 12.a

Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production


12.a.1Installed renewable energy-generating capacity in developing countries (in watts per capita)

Note that the indicator is identical to the one under target 7.b.

Global trends

Renewable capacity in developing countries reach close to 246 Watts per capita in 2020, reaching 36% of total energy-generating capacity in developing countries. Hydropower has been the dominant renewable over the past two decades, yet over the past years growth in hydropower capacity has stalled, with solar and wind accounting for most of the increase. Renewable capacity has expanded in all regions, with the highest increase since 2010 occurring in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

Target 12.b

Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products


12.b.1Implementation of standard accounting tools to monitor the economic and environmental aspects of tourism sustainability

To be expanded. Current data availability seems to be impacted by the pandemic, with a sharp decline in countries reporting data.

Target 12.c

Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities


12.c.1Amount of fossil-fuel subsidies (production and consumption) per unit of GDP

Global trends

Before the pandemic, governments spent $526 billion USD on subsidies and other support for fossil fuels, this amounted to around 0.62% of total world GDP. From 2019 to 2020 the amount declined sharply and the latest data shows total fossil fuel subsidies at $375 billion USD which is 0.46% of total world GDP. However, the UN notes in its SDG progress report that this decline should not be interpreded as decline in subsidy levels, but rather that:

This drop was mainly due to low oil prices and reduced demand during the pandemic rather than structural reforms. In 2021, commodity and energy prices rebounded sharply, and we are likely to see a jump in both consumption and production subsidies for fossil fuels.

The Nordics

The below chart shows the relative levels of fossil fuel subsidies in the Nordics. However, the OECD cautions against the use of this indicator for cross-country comparisons and does not provide an assessment of progress. This is largely related to that tax expenditur benefits are difficult to compare across countries.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

The assessment on the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

Note that the OECD methodology uses the current status on a target and calculates a likely trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. Thus, a country which is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country which is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".


  • Pilot release 27 August 2022

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