Sustainable Development Goal Twelve – An Australian Focus

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.

Sustainable Development Goal 12 – RESPONSIBLE CONSUMPTION

  • Achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resourcesE_SDG goals_icons-individual-rgb-12
  • 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
  • Achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health ans environment.
  • Substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse
  • Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle
  • Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities


The Issue

In Australia, many of us have an abundance of resources at our fingertips. We have a running tap, energy for our homes, supermarkets stocked with groceries – too much of which is thrown away (one in five of the grocery bags we bring home end up in the bin![1]) We must be good stewards of the resources God has given us, both in monitoring our own consumption and investing in practices which will be sustainable for our future. The consequences of ignoring this are dire – should the global population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of almost three planets would be required to provide the natural resources needed to sustain our current lifestyles[2].

Food waste management is a large part of Sustainable Development Goal 12. According to Foodwise Australia, “Each year, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – ends up rotting in the bins of consumers and retailers, or spoiling due to poor transportation and harvesting practices”[3]. It’s estimated that each year, Melbourne alone produces 900,000 tonnes of edible food waste – that’s 200kg per person, or enough to feed 2 million people for a year [4]. There are two issues here – the impact we are having on the environment by  constantly adding to landfill, and bad stewardship of our resources.

In the last year there have been steps forward in awareness and action. The documentary series ‘War on Waste’ was helpful in raising Australia’s consciousness about the waste we produce. In November last year, after consultation with industry, academics and NFPs, the Australian Government launched the National Food waste strategy. With Sustainable Development Goal 12 in mind, it established a commitment to halve Australia’s food waste by 2030.[5]

Clothing is also a large contributor to waste. Australians consume an average of 26kg of textiles per year, twice the global average of 13kg.[6] This fast fashion mindset is also evident in the rate at which we dispose of clothes. 75% of Australian adults confess to having thrown away clothes in the past year[7], and the environment is feeling the effects – 6000 kg of clothing is dumped into landfill every 10 minutes![8] The reality is much of what the community sends to landfill could be reused and resold. Thanks to Salvos stores, in 2016 30,000 tonnes of donated items were diverted from landfill[9] either sold in stores, or if not sold, mulched and reconfigured into new products, like stuffing for boxing gloves. The choices we make about how we buy and discard our clothes have tremendous influence.

As The Salvation Army’s International Positional Statement on Caring for the Environment states “The biblical command to humanity to ‘subdue’ and ‘rule’ should be interpreted as a requirement to be good stewards rather than understood as justifying abuse of the Earth’s resources (Genesis 1:28)” [10]The parable of the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-14 is a convicting reminder to be faithful with what we have been given to manage – ‘So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’ (Luke 16:11). It also reminds us of the people cost of our choices – like the shrewd manager, will we use others to account for what we have squandered? It is one thing to know we have dumped tonnes of textiles – often made of slow-degrading plastic materials – onto God’s creation, and another to think that those who worked – often in harsh conditions – to produce our clothes, could have laboured in vain. May we walk with God and be trustworthy with what we have been given.

What can we do?

  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle – You’ve heard the mantra before, but doing it consistently can be another matter. Take the time to actually rinse out and recycle your containers. Take your soft plastics to Redcycle bins when you do the groceries. Minimise what you use and be conscious about how you discard.
  • Look. Buy. Store. Cook – try this method to minimise your household’s food waste. Don’t overbuy and use up what you have in the fridge.
  • Buy imperfect fruit and veg, and you’ll not only minimise food waste, but support local farmers and save yourself some cash. (25% of farmer’s produce doesn’t make it to the shelves of most supermarkets because it doesn’t meet visual specifications).
  • Support or volunteer with organisations like Oz Harvest, which collect and redistribute food waste from shops.
  • Take your excess clothes to op-shops and be willing to buy second hand. Consider whether you really need an item of clothing before buying it.
  • Use the Good On You app to help you make clothing choices that are best for people and the environment, and keep companies accountable to this.
  • Commit SDG 12 to prayer both individually and as a Corps
     – Confess for when we have been ignorant or arrogant about our consumption and waste.
     – Pray that we may join with God in the restoration of the world, and use what we have been given for good.
     – Pray for tangible policy action in the recycling and waste sphere in Australia.
     – Pray for attitude and practice change in ourselves, our peers, our leaders and businesses, that we may lead the way in sustainability for the environment and future generations 

For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 12, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.

E_SDG_logo_No UN Emblem_horizontal_rgb

[1] Oz Harvest, 2018, Food Waste Facts,
[2] UN Development Program, 2018,
[4] Original:
[5] Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy, ‘Tackling Australia’s Food Waste’, 2018,
[6] ABS 2010 cited in Textile Beat 2016,
[7] YouGov, 2017,
[8] War on Waste, 2017, (5:20)
[9] Salvos Stores, 2017,
[10] The Salvation Army International Positional Statement, Caring for the Environment, p. 2,


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