Statistics Explained

SDG 12 - Responsible consumption and production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns


Data extracted in April 2022.

Planned article update: June 2023.


EU trend of SDG 12 on responsible consumption and production

This article is a part of a set of statistical articles, which are based on the Eurostat publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context — 2022 edition’. This report is the sixth edition of Eurostat’s series of monitoring reports on sustainable development, which provide a quantitative assessment of progress of the EU towards the SDGs in an EU context.

SDG 12 calls for a comprehensive set of actions from businesses, policy-makers, researchers and consumers to adapt to sustainable practices. It envisions sustainable production and consumption based on advanced technological capacity, resource efficiency and reduced global waste.

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Context

Consumption and production patterns have wide environmental and social impacts. Sustainable production and consumption means using resources efficiently, respecting resource constraints and reducing pressures on natural capital to increase overall well-being, keep the environment clean and healthy, and safeguard the needs of future generations. The rise in living standards and quality of life in Europe since the end of World War II has been made possible through increases in income, production and consumption, which have tended to go hand in hand with more resource extraction and growing pressures on natural capital (air, water, land and biodiversity) and the climate. Since we live on a planet with finite and interconnected resources, the rate at which they are used has implications for today's prosperity and lasting effects on future generations. Thus, it is important for the EU to decouple economic growth and the improvement of living standards from resource use and its possible negative environmental impacts. This involves increasing the circularity of materials in the economy, thereby reducing both the need for resource extraction and the amount of waste ending up in landfills or incineration. It also means safe management of chemicals and a shift away from carbon-intensive energy carriers towards renewable energy sources. Such an approach would not only reduce environmental pressures, but also provide major economic and social benefits.

Responsible consumption and production in the EU: overview and key trends

Monitoring SDG 12 in an EU context focuses on developments in the areas of decoupling environmental impacts from economic growth, the green economy, and waste generation and management. As Table 1 shows, when it comes to decoupling environmental impacts from economic growth, the short-term trends have largely been unfavourable. Consumption of toxic chemicals and of raw materials has increased, and further progress will be necessary to meet the EU target for CO2 emissions from new cars despite significant reductions from 2019 to 2020. The picture is also mixed in the area of waste generation, where non-mineral waste generation is increasing despite improvements in the circular use of materials. On a positive note, the value added from the environmental goods and services sector has been growing.

Decoupling environmental impacts from economic growth

Economic growth improves people’s well-being but has long been associated with growing resource and energy consumption. Continuous growth in the consumption of finite resources both harms the environment and significantly contributes to climate change. To tackle this challenge, the EU has launched a new growth strategy — the European Green Deal [1] — which aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous climate-neutral society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. It focuses on improving resource- and energy-use efficiency by restructuring economies so they produce more from the same resource and energy inputs.

The EU’s material footprint has worsened in recent years, while energy productivity has improved

The material footprint, also referred to as raw material consumption (RMC), shows the amount of materials used along the supply chains of goods and services that are finally consumed in a country. RMC is based on modelling estimates of traded products — imports and exports — in raw material equivalents. Thus, as opposed to domestic material consumption (DMC), the indicator includes the extracted materials (both domestic and abroad) needed to produce goods and services consumed by final users inside country borders.

In 2019, final users in the EU consumed 6.52 billion tonnes of raw material, a 5.2 % increase from 2014. Over the period 2014 to 2019, imports measured in raw material equivalents are estimated to have been about two times higher than when measured in the weight of traded goods only. The main difference between RMC and DMC manifests in material input, which refers to imports plus domestic extraction. When measured in terms of RMC, the EU’s 2019 material input was about 24 % higher than for DMC and had grown at a slightly stronger rate between 2014 and 2019 [2]. However, the stark difference between the two consumption indicators is somewhat reduced when exports are also considered. As with imports, exports measured in raw materials are higher than when only the weight of traded goods is considered. Therefore, despite the disparities in material input, the EU’s RMC in 2019 was only about 3 % higher than its DMC. Nevertheless, the significant increase in the EU’s material consumption until 2019 suggests that further efforts might be required to meet the objectives of the European Green Deal, which calls for a reduction in environmental pressures alongside economic growth (also see the article on spillover effects).

DMC is used to calculate resource productivity [3], which monitors how much output — in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) — an economy produces per unit of used materials. Between 2015 and 2020, the EU economy (in terms of GDP) grew by 2.5 %, while DMC fell by 0.7 %. This resulted in a 3.3 % increase in the EU’s resource productivity, from EUR 2.01 per kg of DMC in 2015 to EUR 2.08 per kg in 2020 [4].

Similar to resource productivity, energy productivity [5] measures economic output (in terms of GDP) per unit of energy used. Observed trends for energy productivity are stronger than for resource productivity, due to larger decreases in energy consumption than in material use. From 2015 to 2020, the EU increased its energy productivity by 10.6 %, from EUR 7.8 per kg of oil equivalent (kgoe) to 8.6 EUR per kgoe. The economic growth reported above was accompanied by reductions in the EU’s gross available energy (GAE) by 7.3 % from 2015 and 2020 [6].

Consumption of hazardous chemicals has stagnated in recent years

Most everyday products used by businesses and consumers are produced with the help of chemicals. This makes them a significant contributor to the EU economy, with chemical sales worth EUR 543 billion in 2019 [7]. The consumption of chemicals provides benefits to society, but can also entail risks to the environment and human health. Risk depends on both the hazard presented by the chemicals and the exposure to them. Tracking the consumption volumes of industrial (manufactured) chemicals that are hazardous to human and environmental health is, therefore, used as a proxy for human exposure [8].

In 2020, 217.9 million tonnes of hazardous chemicals were consumed in the EU. Since 2005, the total consumption of hazardous chemicals has fallen by 12.9 %. However, the short-term trend reveals a moderately negative development, as consumption increased slightly by 0.2 % between 2015 and 2020.

Average CO2 emissions from new car fleets have fallen significantly in 2020, but further progress is necessary to meet the EU target

In 2019, passenger cars were responsible for 14.9 % of total domestic EU emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas [9]. To reduce those emissions, the EU has set targets for the fleet-wide average emissions of new passenger cars. From 2020 onwards, a target of 95 grams of CO2 per kilometre (g/km) applies [10]. For each manufacturer’s new car fleet, a binding specific emission target is set according to the average mass of its new vehicles, in such a way that the overall target for the EU’s average fleet emissions should be met. For 2020, Regulation (EU) 2019/631 included a phase-in of the targets by considering only the 95 % lowest emitting cars of each manufacturer. Due to this phase-in and other flexible compliance mechanisms, most major manufacturers were able to meet their 2020 target [11].

Based on provisional data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA), average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars registered in the EU reached 108.2 g/km in 2020, which is a 9.2 % fall since 2015. This reduction is due to a steep 11.4 % drop from 2019 to 2020, reversing a somewhat increasing trend in average CO2 emissions experienced in the three preceding years. While this constitutes the largest emissions reduction yet, further progress will be necessary to meet the current EU target as well as the stricter targets that will apply from 2025 and 2030 onwards [12].

Replacing conventional cars with zero emission vehicles will be a crucial step towards achieving the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, as set out in the European Climate Law [13] and the EU’s 2030 Climate Target Plan [14], and towards climate neutrality by 2050. According to data from the European Alternative Fuels Observatory, the share of zero-emission vehicles, including both battery electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles, in newly registered passenger cars in the EU rose from 0.4 % in 2015 to 5.3 % in 2020. However, the share differs considerably between different European countries. Within the EU, the Netherlands reported the highest share with 20.2 % in 2020, followed by Sweden with 9.3 % and Denmark with 7.0 %. In contrast, zero-emission vehicles accounted for less than 1 % of newly registered passenger cars in Cyprus, Poland and Greece [15]. A comparison of Figures 6 and 7 reveals that countries with a high share of zero emission vehicles in newly registered passenger cars, such as the Netherlands, Denmark or France, are also among the best performers for car fleets’ CO2 emissions.

Green economy

Another way to help decouple environmental impacts from economic growth is to increase the share of the green economy. The environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) is the part of the economy engaged in producing goods and services that are used in environmental protection activities and resource management. Such goods and services can include, for example, products to prevent, measure, control, limit, minimise or correct environmental damage and resource depletion. Increasing the market share of green technologies in the EU can also have important socio-economic benefits in terms of value added and employment [16].

The value added of the environmental goods and services sector has shown strong growth over the past 15 years

The gross value added in the EGSS in the EU has grown by 66.4 % over the past 15 years, from EUR 176.2 billion in 2004 to EUR 293.2 billion in 2019. This can be attributed to growth in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, as well as an increase in spending on green infrastructure [17]. In relation to the whole economy, the EGSS grew, in gross value added terms, from 1.7 % of GDP in 2004 to 2.3 % in 2019. This indicates the sector grew disproportionally faster than other economic sectors. Most of this outperformance, however, took place in the period up to 2011, with the EGSS growing at about the same pace as GDP since then. Employment (in full-time equivalent) in the sector has also increased since 2004, by 35.8 %. In 2019, the sector employed around 4.5 million people throughout the EU [18].

Waste generation and management

Production and consumption patterns characterised by products being made, used and disposed of at an ever-faster rate are not sustainable. Reducing both the input of materials and the output of wastes by keeping resource flows within the economy is the essence of a circular economy. Preventing materials from turning into waste for as long as possible and reusing waste that cannot be avoided are central parts of this process. Because waste contains resources, recycling can put materials back into the economy and ensure they are used again to preserve the value embedded within them. Therefore, the EU aims to move towards a circular economy where materials and resources are kept in the economy for as long as possible (through repairing, recycling and reusing) and waste is minimised or even prevented.

Waste generation is on the rise in the EU, while the circular material use rate keeps improving

In 2018, 813 million tonnes of waste, excluding major mineral waste, were generated in the EU, corresponding to 1 820 kilograms (kg) of waste per inhabitant. Of this waste, 7.9 % was hazardous to health or the environment, corresponding to 143 kg per resident. Another 8.5 % was food waste generated in the production, distribution and consumption of food, amounting to 69 million tonnes in total or 154.6 kg per capita in 2018 [19]. Over the long-term period, the amount of non-mineral waste generated per capita in the EU increased by 1.1 % between 2004 and 2018. The short-term trend has been even less favourable, with the figure increasing by 4.9 % between 2014 and 2018.

Total waste generation, which includes the large fraction of mineral wastes, dredging spoils and contaminated soils that are mainly created in the mining and construction sectors, is almost three times higher than non-mineral waste generation. In 2018, total waste generation in the EU amounted to 2 338 million tonnes or 5 234 kg per inhabitant. The short-term trend in total waste generation was quite similar to non-mineral waste generation, showing an increase of 4.2 % between 2014 and 2018 [20].

When not managed sustainably, all of this waste has a huge impact on the environment, causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as significant losses of materials [21]. Recycling waste and feeding it back into the economy as secondary raw materials relies heavily on improved waste management and is crucial for reducing the EU’s demand for primary raw materials [22]. Between 2005 and 2020, the EU circular material use (CMU) rate — the share of used materials derived from collected waste — increased from 8.8 % to 12.8 % and has grown by 1.5 percentage points since 2015.

Data for the recycling of waste excluding major mineral wastes show that 55 % of EU waste was recycled in 2018 [23]. The difference between this relatively high end-of-life recycling rate and the CMU rate (12.8 % in 2020) may seem surprising at first. However, the comparatively low degree of circularity in the EU can be attributed to two structural barriers. First, a large fraction of the materials extracted, in particular minerals, is used to build and maintain buildings, infrastructure and other long-life goods and is not readily available for recycling. A second barrier is the large amount of materials used to generate energy. For these materials, in particular for fossil fuels, closing the loop is hardly possible and the high share of these materials keeps the degree of circularity low [24].

Presentation of the main indicators


Consumption of hazardous chemicals

Consumption of hazardous chemicals evaluation 2022.png

This indicator measures the volume of aggregated consumption of toxic chemicals, expressed in million tonnes. The consumption of chemicals is calculated as the sum of the production volumes and the net import volumes of the chemicals according to the equation: consumption = production + imports – exports.

Figure 1: Consumption of hazardous chemicals, EU, 2004-2020 (million tonnes)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): – 0.9 % per year in the period 2005–2020; 0.04 % per year in the period 2015–2020.
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_10)

Material footprint

Raw material consumption evaluation 2022.png

The material footprint, also referred to as raw material consumption (RMC), represents the global demand for the extraction of materials (minerals, metal ore, biomass, fossil energy materials) induced by consumption of goods and services within a geographical reference area. Data for material footprints stem from material flow accounts, which model the flows of natural resources from the environment into the economy. They include domestic extraction of materials measured in tonnes of gross material (for example, gross ore or gross harvest) as well as imports and exports measured by estimates of the raw material equivalents of the products traded (domestic and abroad extraction required to produce the traded products). RMC thus shows the amount of extraction needed to produce the goods demanded by final users in the geographical reference area, irrespective of where in the world the material extraction took place.

Figure 2: Raw material consumption, by material, EU, 2000–2019 (billion tonnes)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): -0.9 % per year in the period 2004–2019; 1.0 % per year in the period 2014–2019.
Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (sdg_12_21) and (env_ac_rme))


Figure 3: Raw material consumption, by country, 2014 and 2019 (tonnes per inhabitant)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_21)

Average CO2 emissions from new passenger cars

Average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars evaluation 2022.png

This indicator is defined as the average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per km from new passenger cars in a given year. The reported emissions are based on type-approval and can deviate from the actual CO2 emissions of new cars. Data presented in this section are provided by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Climate Action and the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Figure 4: Average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars, EU, 2007-2020 (g CO2 per km)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): – 2.8 % per year (observed) and – 3.8 % per year (required to meet target) in the period 2007–2020; – 1.9 % per year (observed) and – 4.4 % per year (required to meet target) in the period 2015–2020.
Source: EEA, European Commission services, Eurostat (sdg_12_30)


Figure 5: Average CO2 emissions per km from new passenger cars, by country, 2015 and 2020 (g CO2 per km)
Source: EEA, European Commission services, Eurostat (sdg_12_30)


Figure 6: Share of zero emissions vehicles, by country, 2015 and 2020 (% of newly registered vehicles)
Source: European Alternative Fuels Observatory, European Commission services (online data code: (cli_act_noec))

Gross value added in the environmental goods and services sector

Gross value added in the environmental goods and services sector evaluation 2022.png

The environmental goods and services sector (EGSS) is defined as that part of a country’s economy that is engaged in producing the goods and services used in environmental protection and resource management activities either domestically or abroad. Gross value added in EGSS represents the contribution of the environmental goods and services sector to (GDP) and is defined as the difference between the value of the sector’s output and intermediate consumption.

Figure 7: Gross value added in the environmental goods and services sector, EU, 2000-2019 (chain-linked volumes, index 2010 = 100)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the EGSS gross value added: 3.5 % per year in the period 2004–2019; 3.7 % per year in the period 2014–2019.
Source: Eurostat (online data codes (sdg_12_61) and (nama_10_gdp)


Figure 8: Gross value added in the environmental goods and services sector, by country, 2014 and 2019 (% of GDP)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_61)

Circular material use rate

Circular material use rate evaluation 2022.png

The circular material use rate (CMU) measures the share of material recovered and fed back into the economy in overall material use. The CMU is defined as the ratio of the circular use of materials to the overall material use. The overall material use is measured by summing up the aggregate domestic material consumption (DMC) and the circular use of materials. DMC is defined in economy-wide material flow accounts. The circular use of materials is approximated by the amount of waste recycled in domestic recovery plants minus imported waste destined for recovery plus exported waste destined for recovery abroad. A higher CMU rate value means more secondary materials are being substituted for primary raw materials, thus reducing the environmental impacts of extracting primary material.

Figure 9: Circular material use rate, EU, 2004-2020 (% of material input for domestic use)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR): 2.5 % per year in the period 2005–2020; 2.5 % per year in the period 2015–2020.
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_41)


Figure 10: Circular material use rate, by country, 2015 and 2020 (% of material input for domestic use)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_41)

Generation of waste excluding major mineral wastes

Generation of waste excluding major mineral wastes evaluation 2022.png

This indicator is defined as all waste generated in a country, excluding major mineral wastes, dredging spoils and contaminated soils. This exclusion enhances comparability across countries as mineral waste accounts for high quantities in some countries with important economic activities such as mining and construction.

Figure 11: Generation of waste excluding major mineral wastes, by hazardousness, EU, 2004-2018 (kg per capita)
Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the total: 0.1 % per year in the period 2004–2018; 1.2 % per year in the period 2014–2018.
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_50)


Figure 12: Generation of waste excluding major mineral wastes, by country, 2014 and 2018 (kg per capita)
Source: Eurostat (sdg_12_50)

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More detailed information on EU SDG indicators for monitoring of progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as indicator relevance, definitions, methodological notes, background and potential linkages, can be found in the introduction of the publication ’Sustainable development in the European Union — Monitoring report on progress towards the SDGs in an EU context — 2022 edition’.

Further reading on responsible consumption and production

Notes

  1. European Commission (2019), The European Green Deal, COM(2019) 640 final, Brussels.
  2. Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (env_ac_rme) and (env_ac_mfa)).
  3. Resource productivity is defined as GDP per unit of domestic material consumption (DMC), measured in EUR per kilogram. Part of these materials is directly consumed by households, which means they are not used as an input to production activities. Thus, resource productivity is not directly comparable to concepts such as labour or capital productivity.
  4. Source: Eurostat (online data codes: (sdg_12_20) and (nama_10_gdp)).
  5. Energy productivity is defined as GDP per unit of gross inland energy consumption, measured in EUR per kg of oil equivalent. Part of the energy considered is consumed by households, which means it is not used as an input to production activities. Thus, energy productivity is not directly comparable to concepts such as labour or capital productivity. Note that the indicator's inverse is energy intensity.
  6. Source: Eurostat: (nrg_bal_s).
  7. The European Chemical Industry Council (2020), CEFIC Facts and Figures 2021, p. 12.
  8. European Environment Agency (2019), Consumption of hazardous chemicals.
  9. European Commission (2021), EU Transport in figures — Statistical pocketbook 2021, p. 154. The total value refers to total CO2 emissions excluding LULUCF (land use, land-use change and forestry).
  10. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2019), Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/2011, OJ L 111.
  11. Tietge, U., Mock, P., Díaz, S., Dornoff, J. (2021), CO2 emissions from new passenger cars in Europe: car manufacturers’ performance in 2020, The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), Washington DC.
  12. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2019), Regulation (EU) 2019/631 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 setting CO2 emission performance standards for new passenger cars and for new light commercial vehicles, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 443/2009 and (EU) No 510/2011, OJ L 111.
  13. European Parliament and Council of the European Union (2021), Regulation (EU) 2021/1119 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 2021 establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulations (EC) No 401/2009 and (EU) 2018/1999 (‘European Climate Law’), Official Journal of the European Union.
  14. European Commission (2020), Stepping up Europe’s 2030 climate ambition Investing in a climate-neutral future for the benefit of our people, COM(2020) 562 final, Brussels.
  15. Source: European Alternative Fuels Observatory, European Commission services (online data code: (cli_act_noec)).
  16. European Environment Agency (2019), Environmental Goods and Services Sector: employment and value added.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Source: Eurostat (env_ac_egss1).
  19. Source: Eurostat; estimates based on generation of waste by waste category, hazardousness and NACE Rev. 2 activity (online data code: (env_wasgen)) collected on the basis of the Waste Statistics Regulation; see: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/circular-economy/indicators/monitoring-framework.
  20. Source: Eurostat (env_wasgen).
  21. European Commission (2010), Being wise with waste: the EU’s approach to waste management, Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
  22. European Commission (2021), Green growth: Raw materials.
  23. Source: Eurostat (env_wasoper)
  24. Haas, W., Krausmann, F., Wiedenhofer, D., Heinz, M. (2015), How Circular is the Global Economy?: An Assessment of Material Flows, Waste Production, and Recycling in the European Union and the World in 2005, Journal of Industrial Ecology, October 2015, Vol.19(5), 765-777.