What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Does a world where all countries work to improve sustainable economic growth while respecting human rights and refraining from polluting and destroying our natural environment sound unimaginable?  Well that is exactly what the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also known as the “Global Goals”) aim to achieve.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, each with their own subset of targets that aim to improve the world in which we live.

The overarching aim is to promote sustainable economic growth by looking at a range of individual goals that address climate change, the health of our natural environment, improving income inequality, strengthening innovation and human rights issues. A detailed list of the 17 goals can be viewed here and below.

Sustainable Development Goals - Carbon Tanzania

Who do the Sustainable Development Goals apply to?

The Sustainable Development Goals do not just apply to developing countries nor do they just apply to developed countries, but rely on every nation working towards a common end.  To ensure every country commits to achieving the goals they were developed and finally adopted by all 193 member states of the UN in September 2015.

While previous goals have relied solely on government engagement, the SDGs call on the public and private sector, NGO’s and aid organisations to collaborate in order to achieve success.

The SDGs recognize the importance of engaging with the private sector. The goals urge organisations to conduct business in an ethical manner by respecting human rights and refraining from polluting and destroying our natural resources. “We would be closer to the world we want if companies everywhere took baseline actions like respecting employee rights; not polluting land, sea and air; and punishing corruption.” – Ban Ki Moon.

Has the private sector engaged with the goals? According to a recent survey fewer than half of the global companies surveyed plan to address the SDGs.  This could become a considerable hurdle for many brands, as another study found 8% of millennials (a leading group of consumers in today’s society), believe that business has a key role to play in achieving the SDGs. This is likely to result in a loss of sales for those companies who do not take action to address the goals in the near future.

What is the time frame for achieving the SDGs?

The goals were agreed to in September 2015 and became applicable in 2016. They encourage political policy making that ultimately influences business operations. The set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals guide decision making for 15 years with the deadline to achieve the goals by 2030.


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