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Ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns

SDG12 calls for sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources at all times, and a large-scale decrease in waste through prevention, reduction, recycling, reuse and repair.

The UN estimates that if the global population reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, the equivalent of nearly three planets will be needed to provide the natural resources to sustain current lifestyles. This underscores the need for more sustainable consumption and production which aims to ‘do more and better with less’. It involves increasing net gains from economic activities by reducing resource use, degradation and pollution along the whole lifecycle, while increasing peoples’ quality of life. It requires a systemic approach and cooperation across the value chain, from producer to final consumer. This shift from ‘linear’ to ‘circular’ thinking is going to be fundamental to achieving the SDGs.

How is this relevant to mining and metals?

While mining produces the materials essential for modern society and contained in the products we use every day, it also generates large quantities of waste.  Recovery and reuse of metals from products is on the increase for some metals (for example, 75 per cent of all aluminium ever produced is still in use), although concerted collaborative action is required to increase recycling rates. A move to a circular economy for metals is seen by many as the solution. It would involve collaboration with governments and all stakeholders in the value chain to optimise the application of metals, improve re-use and recycling rates and re-categorise ‘waste’ outputs as useful inputs into other processes (eg sulphuric acid produced from air emissions controls on many smelters has a number of applications). This presents opportunities for industrial innovation and job creation.

What companies need to know to manage impacts or make a positive contribution

The current and future status of policy regimes on the circular economy and resource efficiency within their areas of operation.


Greater information on material flows through the whole value chain.


Opportunities for establishing new business models in current areas of operation.

Minimising negative impacts

Enhancing positive contributions

Use energy, land, water, chemicals and raw materials more efficiently.

 


Minimise the production of waste, effluent and emissions and undertake audits to drive performance improvement.


Understand the value chain of the materials you produce to help prevent inappropriate use of metals by customers.
 


Apply responsible sourcing principles and practices in procurement and work with suppliers to ensure these principles are understood.

Provide training in the philosophy and practicalities of the circular economy for employees, suppliers and customers.


Work with suppliers and customers to identify opportunities to maximise recycling or shared economy applications.


Work with government and other industrial actors to reduce ‘waste’, utilise by-products and invest in capacity for metals recovery and recycling.


Build relationships with customers and work to understand the opportunity for improving metal use / product design to enable a circular economy.