UN/DESA Policy Brief #109

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Author +
Andrew Allimadi, Hanyang Ge, Wenyan Yang

Year: 2021

Accelerate action to revamp production and consumption patterns: the circular economy, cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy

In his report to the 59th Commission for Social Development on the priority theme of socially just transition towards sustainable development (E/CN.5/2021/3), the Secretary-General pointed out that “By adopting the 2030 Agenda, world leaders recognized that the current trajectory of economic development has not led to shared prosperity for all, but to high and rising inequalities in many countries, the climate crisis, and unsustainable consumption and production patterns. These consequences have taken a toll on social development and people’s well-being, especially among the most vulnerable.” The Report further analyzed the link between high inequality, consumerism and environmental degradation and climate change. It makes the argument that a re-vamping of the patterns of production and consumption, namely achieving Sustainable Development Goal 12, is an imperative for the realization of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development for people and the planet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed extreme vulnerability of people and the current economic system and has undermined progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). COVID-19 and measures to curtail the spread of the virus have reduced demand for many goods and services while changing some aspects of production patterns and consumer behavior. This largely forced change in consumption and production reduced environmental pollution and degradation with visible results in many places around the world, albeit most likely a temporary pause. In this pause, the connection between human activity underpinned by our current production and consumption patterns and climate change as well as other environmental challenges we face collectively is laid clear. A better recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and its multifaceted impacts must promote changes in these patterns, if we are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda. Such changes at an accelerated pace must be embedded in a strategy for a better recovery. In fact, recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic with inclusion and resilience offers an opportunity to implement such changes by building on positive developments thus far.