88 New Sustainable Statistics and Facts that will Shock You (2022)

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: May 24, 2022
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Sustainability is a very large topic and covers many areas that affect our daily lives. Whether you care about climate change, recycling, sustainable fashion or water conservation, all topics are important when taking actions to create a better world.  

By understanding key facts and figures, we can look for places to improve. 

Are you curious about the state of affairs when it comes to certain topics within the field of sustainability? We’ve compiled a list of statistics to help you understand the current state of affairs. 

Click to jump to a category, or keep reading for our top sustainability statistics[1] .

Sustainable Development Goals Statistics and Facts

  • There are 17 sustainable development goals for the world agreed upon by 83 nations and as a result of a three-year process engaging over 7 million people[1]
  • The share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty is 10.0% in 2015. The global poverty rate in 2019 was estimated to be at 8.2%[2]
  • Because of COVID-19, the poverty rate is projected to increase to 8.8% in 2020[3]
  • The United States and China account for over 40% of global GDP and are also the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases[4]
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Sustainable Fashion Statistics and Facts

  • Doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years reduces emissions over the year by 24%[5]
  • Over 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the apparel/footwear industry[6]
  • 150 billion new garments are produced annually[7]
  • Paying sweatshop workers in apparel supply chains a living wage would result in only a small price increase for consumers (2-7%)[8]
  • Over the past three months, searches for “upcycled fashion” have grown 42% (2020). Over the past 12 months, the term “slow fashion” has been responsible for over 90 million social impressions, suggesting the beginning of a shift in shopping behaviours[9]

Sustainable Agriculture Statistics and Facts

  • Aid to agriculture from all donors fell from nearly 25% in the mid-1980s to only 5% in 2018[10]
  • Average per capita food availability is projected to reach about 3 000 kcal and 85 g of protein per day by 2029, fats and staples accounting for about 60% of the additional calories[11]
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that 7,398 farms in the United States sold products directly to consumers through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement[12]
  • United States CSA’s accounted for $226 million (or 7 %) of the $3 billion in direct-to-consumer sales by farms (2015)[13]
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that 12,617 farms in the United States reported marketing products through a community supported agriculture (CSA) arrangement (2012 Census Data)[14]
  • The organic marketplace has more than doubled in size, growing from $24.9 billion in sales in 2010 to $55.1 billion across all retail channels in 2019[15]
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Sustainable Energy Statistics and Facts

  • Roughly 1 billion people (13% of the world’s population) live without electricity with around 118 million people gaining access to electricity each year[16]
  • 314,000 wind turbines supplied nearly 4 percent of global electricity (2017)[17]
  • Energy from renewable sources reached 17% in the European Union (2016), double the share in 2004 (8.5%)[18]
  • The world produced approximately 5.9 TWh of modern renewable energy (2016) a 5 to 6-fold increase since the 1960s[19]
  • In 2019, around 11% of global primary energy came from renewable technologies[20]
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Environmental Sustainability Statistics and Facts

  • Approximately one-sixth of all known species on Earth are on the verge of extinction[21]
  • Approximately 70% of deforestation is connected to agricultural commodity production, and deforestation alone accounts for approximately 20% of global GHG emissions[22]
  • Catastrophic fires in Australia have burnt more than 32,400 square miles, an area more than 80 times larger than the 2019 California wildfires. The fires increased Australia’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by 50%[23]
  • The top three risks to business in 2020 are the interrelated challenges of failure of climate mitigation and adaptation, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss[24]
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  • From 2008 to 2016, over 20 million people a year have been forced from their homes by extreme weather such as floods, storms, wildfires and hotter temperatures[25]

Sustainable Business Statistics and Facts

  • Altogether, more than 100 billion tons of resources flow into the economy every year, and more than 60% ends up as waste or greenhouse gas emissions[26]
  • Creating a circular economy for five key sectors — cement, aluminum, steel, plastics and food — could cut CO2 emissions by 3.7 billion tons in 2050[27]
  • Research shows that creating a circular economy offers a $4.5 trillion economic opportunity by avoiding waste, while also creating business growth and employment opportunities[28]
  • 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today, and another 22% think it will be in the future[29]
  • 44% of investors say that they divest from companies with poor sustainability performance[30]

Sustainable Schools Statistics and Facts

  • 98% of studies that examined whether students gained knowledge from environmental education saw a positive impact[31]
  • 92% of school-based environmental education curriculum development is initiated by teachers[32]
  • 79% of environmental education takes place outside the classroom in outdoor education settings[33]
  • 73% service-learning projects incorporate environmental education content in schools[34]
  • 70% of schools report using their campus as a hands-on learning laboratory for environmental education[35]
  • The Eco-Schools programme extends from kindergartens to universities and is implemented in 67 countries, involving 51,000 schools and institutions, and over 19,000,000 students[36]

Sustainable Shoppers Statistics and Facts

  • 81% of people make purchasing decisions based upon “I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right”[37]
  • 71% of consumers who have had a positive experience with a brand on social media are likely to recommend the brand to their friends and family- growing your customer base even further[38]
  • 53% of consumers agree that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business[39]
  • Only 21% say they know from personal experience that the brands they use keep the best interests of society in mind[40]
  • 56% say that too many brands are using societal issues as a marketing ploy[41]
  • 41% of consumers now agree that brands have better ideas for solving problems than the government[42]

Sustainable Tourism

  • Tourism as an economic powerhouse is the third highest world category in export earnings in 2015, representing 10% of world GDP, 30% of services exports and 1 out of every 10 jobs in the world[43]
  • Coral reefs generate billions of dollars—and millions of jobs—in more than 100 countries around the world[44]
  • The value of coral reefs at $10 billion, with direct economic benefits of $360 million per year[45]
  • Over thirty years, and for a net cost of $830-850 billion, 6.3-9.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions can be avoided through upgrades to airplanes, saving $2.5-3.6 trillion on lifetime jet-fuel and operating costs[46]
  • A 140-room hotel can easily through 23,000 mini bottles a year[47]
  • 84% of millennials said that they would travel abroad to participate in volunteer activities[48]

Sustainable Investing Statistics and Facts

  • Of the world’s 50 largest private-sector banks, only 23 of them had a sustainable finance target (July 2019)[49]
  • Enthusiasm for sustainable investing is surging. Already, more than $8.7 trillion of investment capital is managed using environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in U.S. markets alone, according to the U.S. SIF Foundation. That’s a 184% increase since 2010[50]
  • The number of sustainable investment funds in the United States alone grew 50% between 2017 and 2018[51]
  • 130 banks signed onto the new UN-backed  Principles for Responsible Banking[52]
  • More than 100 financial institutions have pledged to phase out or restrict coal financing[53]

Sustainable Education Statistics and Facts

  • only 60 per cent of young people would complete upper secondary education in 2030[54]
  • Before the coronavirus crisis, the proportion of children and youth out of primary and secondary school was declining: 26% (2000), 19% (2010) to 17% (2018)[55]
  • Due to COVID related school closures,  90% of all students (1.57 billion) were out of school[56]
  •  Girls face more barriers than boys at the primary level where globally, 5.5 million more girls than boys were out of school (2018)[57]
  • 87% of households in Europe had Internet access at home, compared with only 18% in Africa[58]

Sustainable Packaging Statistics and Facts

  •  The world produces more than 400 million tonnes of plastic every year[59]
  • Up to 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80-120bn annually, is lost from the economy and businesses can reap economic gains by focusing on the resource revolution while reducing the amount of raw materials extracted from nature[60]
  • 10.5 million tonnes of packaging is used in the UK annually. Of the 4.7 million tonnes used for consumer goods, between 40-45% is recycled[61]
  • Plastics account for 12% of McDonald’s packaging in Europe. McDonald’s has a target in place to recycle consumer packaging in 100% of its restaurants globally by 2025[62]
  • The entire food and beverage sphere accounted for 92% of retail packaging volume in 2016[63]

Water sustainability Statistics and Facts

  • 3.6 billion of the global population live in potentially water-stressed areas. This is expected to reach 4.8 – 5.7 billion by 2050[64]
  • Globally 70% of fresh water is used for agriculture[65]
  • It takes an average of 7,000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans and 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced each year. That’s about the amount of water you drink over the course of 5-6 years[66]
  • 20% of industrial water pollution comes from the treating and dyeing textiles[67]
  • In China 80% of the groundwater from major river basins is “unsuitable for human contact”[68]
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Food Sustainability Statistics and Facts

  • Small-scale producers among all food producers in Africa, Asia and Latin America ranges from 40% to 85%[69]
  • 265 million people are facing acute food insecurity in 2020, nearly double that of 2019[70]
  • Climate change could depress global crop yields up to 30% by 2050, putting approximately 50 million more people at risk of undernourishment[71]
  • Globally, around 500 million farms are two hectares (4.9 acres) or smaller[72]
  • Maize is one of the most important crops in Africa, supporting the sustenance and livelihoods of over 300 million people[73]
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Sustainable Living Statistics and Facts

  • Currently 55% of the world’s population live in urban areas. This is expected to increase to 68% by 2050[74]
  • The built environment is responsible for half of all global energy use and half of all greenhouse gas emissions[75]
  • Buildings consume one-sixth of all freshwater, one-quarter of world wood harvests and four-tenths of all other raw materials[76]
  • The construction and later demolition of buildings produces 40% of all waste[77]
  • Africa and Asia are home to nearly 90% of the world’s rural population in 2018[78]
  • Building occupants in high-performing, green-certified office environments “scored 26% higher on tests of cognitive function, had 30% fewer sickness syndromes, and had 6% higher sleep quality scores than those in high-performing but non-certified buildings[79]
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Sustainable Fishing Statistics and Facts

Sustainable recycling Statistics and Facts

  • The world’s’ cities generated 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste, amounting to a footprint of 0.74 kilograms per person per day (2016)[84]
  • Annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70% from 2016 levels to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050[85]
  • 5.0 tonnes of waste were generated per EU inhabitant in 2016[86]
  • 45.5% of waste were landfilled and 37.8% were recycled in the EU in 2016[87]
  • 30% of all food produced worldwide occurs along the value-added chain “from farm to fork” every year which equates to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste[88]
  • There is 100 times more gold in a ton of discarded mobile phones than there is in a ton of gold ore[89]


As expressed through these statistics, we are able to see there are many areas in the world actively engaged in addressing the many different challenges we face to becoming a more sustainable society and living in alignment with the Earth’s natural systems. 

[1] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/09/10-things-to-know-about-the-sustainable-development-goals/

[2] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/Goal-01/

[3] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/Goal-01/

[4] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risk_Report_2020.pdf

[5] Time out For Fast Fashion by Greenpeace

[6] Time out For Fast Fashion by Greenpeace 

[7] Sustainable Apparel Materials, 2015

[8] Pollin et al. (2004), Miller & Williams (2009)  

[9] https://www.lyst.com/data/2020-conscious-fashion-report/

[10] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/Goal-02/

[11]  https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/agriculture-and-food/oecd-fao-agricultural-outlook_19991142

[12] https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture

[13] https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture

[14] https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community-supported-agriculture

[15] https://ota.com/organic-market-overview/organic-industry-survey

[16] https://ourworldindata.org/number-of-people-in-the-world-without-electricity-access-falls-below-one-billion

[17] https://sumas.ch/sustainability-statistics/

[18] https://sumas.ch/sustainability-statistics/

[19] https://sumas.ch/sustainability-statistics/

[20] https://ourworldindata.org/renewable-energy

[21] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/climate/biodiversity-extinction-united-nations.html

[22] http://www.fao.org/americas/noticias/ver/en/c/425600/

[23] https://trends.sustainability.com/2020/climate-mitigation/

[24] https://www.weforum.org/global-risks/reports

[25] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risk_Report_2020.pdf

[26]  https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/08/how-to-circular-economy

[27] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/Completing_The_Picture_How_The_Circular_Economy-_Tackles_Climate_Change_V3_26_September.pdf

[28] https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/the-circular-economy-could-unlock-4-5-trillion-of-economic-growth-finds-new-book-by-accenture.htm

[29] https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/why-all-businesses-should-embrace-sustainability/

[30] https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/why-all-businesses-should-embrace-sustainability/

[31] Ardoin, N. M., Bowers, A. W., Roth, N. W., & Holthuis, N. (2016). Environmental education and K–12 student outcomes: A review and analysis of research. Manuscript submitted for publication.

[32] https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/summer-2014/environmental-education-and-sustainability/

[33] https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/summer-2014/environmental-education-and-sustainability/

[34] https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/summer-2014/environmental-education-and-sustainability/

[35] https://www.nais.org/magazine/independent-school/summer-2014/environmental-education-and-sustainability/

[36] http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED497546.pdf

[37] https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-barometer-special-report-in-brands-we-trust  

[38] https://www.lyfemarketing.com/blog/social-media-sites-for-business/

[39] https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-barometer-special-report-in-brands-we-trust

[40] https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-barometer-special-report-in-brands-we-trust

[41] https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-barometer-special-report-in-brands-we-trust

[42] https://www.edelman.com/research/trust-barometer-special-report-in-brands-we-trust

[43] http://tourism4sdgs.org/tourism-for-sdgs/tourism-and-sdgs/

[44] https://coral.org/coral-reefs-101/why-care-about-reefs/tourism/

[45]  (Cesar and van Beukering, 2004)

[46] https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/efficient-aviation

[47] https://www.ontheluce.com/sustainable-travel-swaps-9-ways-to-reduce-your-impact/

[48] https://www.volunteeringsolutions.com/blog/voluntourism-will-continue-to-be-a-top-travel-trend/

[49] https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/how-are-banks-doing-sustainable-finance-commitments-not-good-enough

[50] https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/how-are-banks-doing-sustainable-finance-commitments-not-good-enough

[51] https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/10/how-are-banks-doing-sustainable-finance-commitments-not-good-enough

[52] https://www.unepfi.org/banking/bankingprinciples/

[53] http://ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/IEEFA-Report_100-and-counting_Coal-Exit_Feb-2019.pdf

[54] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-04/

[55] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-04/

[56] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-04/

[57] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-04/

[58] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-04/

[59] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Plastics_the_Circular_Economy_and_Global_Trade_2020.pdf

[60] https://www.edie.net/news/9/Earth-Overshoot-Day–How-business-can–move-the-date–to-create-a-sustainable-future/

[61] https://www.edie.net/news/5/Flurry-of-corporate-plastic-announcements-hints-at-a-new-normal-for-the-circular-economy/

[62] https://www.edie.net/news/5/McDonald-s-joins-TerraCycle-s-Loop-programme-to-trial-reusable-cups/

[63] https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2019/07/10/the-power-of-sustainable-packaging/#eb733e3be890

[64] https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/scarcity/

[65] https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/chart-globally-70-freshwater-used-agriculture

[66] https://www.sustainablefashionmatterz.com/fashion-facts

[67] https://www.sustainablefashionmatterz.com/fashion-facts

[68] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/jun/02/china-water-dangerous-pollution-greenpeace

[69] https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/goal-02/

[70] https://www.wfp.org/news/covid-19-will-double-number-people-facing-food-crises-unless-swift-action-taken

[71] https://cdn.gca.org/assets/2019-09/GlobalCommission_Report_FINAL.pdf

[72] https://cdn.gca.org/assets/2019-09/GlobalCommission_Report_FINAL.pdf

[73] https://ccafs.cgiar.org/bigfacts/#theme=evidence-of-success&subtheme=crops&casestudy=cropsCs2

[74] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2018/05/68-of-the-world-population-projected-to-live-in-urban-areas-by-2050-says-un/

[75] https://architecture2030.org/buildings_problem_why/

[76] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/greenwashing-property-market-why-green-star-ratings-don-t-guarantee-more-sustainable-buildings-a8232336.html

[77] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272884216310008

[78] https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2018/05/68-of-the-world-population-projected-to-live-in-urban-areas-by-2050-says-un/

[79] https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/study-opens-the-door-to-better-sleep-work-and-health/

[80] https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/08/3-climate-resilient-food-solutions-smallholder-farmers

[81] www.fao.org/3/a-i5555e.pdf

[82] https://globalplasticaction.org/

[83] Lebreton, L., Slat, B., Ferrari, F. et al. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic. Sci Rep 8, 4666 (2018). https://doi. org/10.1038/s41598-018-22939-w

[84] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste-management

[85] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste-management

[86] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste-management

[87] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/brief/solid-waste-management

[88] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333708355_Food_Waste_Management

[89] https://www.ft.com/content/b41ae10c-7d58-11e9-8b5c-33d0560f039c

Source: https://www.unwto.org/tourism4sdgs


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