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What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Impaakt Team

18 min Read Time | January 22nd 2020

“A blueprint to achieve a better more sustainable future for all.”

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals set out by the UN (United Nations) and adopted by all United Nations member states.

What are the SDGs?

The Sustainable Development Goals are a plan of action to target and resolve the challenges we’re facing on the planet. They are not just about the environment (as the word ‘sustainability’ can sometimes suggest), they encompass much more than that, with goals targeting issues such as gender equality, poverty, and peace.

When did the SDGs get implemented?

The goals were laid out at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in 2015. They are a global effort and each of the countries in the United Nations has committed to achieving the goals by the year 2030. Each year there is a follow-up at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Why did we create the SDGs?

The purpose of the SDGs is to encompass the following topics seen as critical to humanity and the planet:

 An end to hunger and poverty, encouraging equality in a healthy environment.

 Improve the management of natural resources by protecting the planet.

 Ensuring we all have fulfilling lives and that any developments are made in harmony with nature.

Building societies that are free from fear and violence.

Mobilising a global partnership to build a brighter future, together.

These are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals


GOAL 1: No Poverty

Whilst extreme poverty has been decreasing on a global level, the progress has begun to slow down, which means the UN is concerned that we are not on track to reach this goal by 2030. The target is to hit less than 3% of the world living in extreme poverty. Currently, we are projected to only hit 6%, meaning drastic action is required.

In 2018 8% of the world's workers still lived in extreme poverty with four billion people not receiving any form of social protection. There is a need to scale services addressing this issue in order to meet the UN’s goals.

Building a more sustainable future for the world has to include a reduction in poverty. Young workers are twice as likely to be living in extreme poverty, meaning as a world we are not adequately providing for the next generation.

Log in to read all the impact articles that impact SDG 1 No Poverty here


GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

Unfortunately, hunger is rising globally, with millions affected. There is a desperate need for further investment in the technology and infrastructure required to achieve the goal, which aims to allow food security and end hunger.

21.3% of children under the age of five are stunted, meaning 144 million children’s continued health is at risk. In addition, 6.9% of children under 5 are affected by wasting. The issues surrounding hunger and the lack of food security are only increasing. Helping businesses recognise their impact on the environment and helping them to realise the opportunities to help end global food shortages is a key part of making the world have a stable and secure future.

Log in to read all the impact notes that impact SDG 2 Zero Hunger here.


GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

This goal aims to better promote wellbeing and health amongst all age groups and has seen some encouraging results in the past few years such as reducing child mortality and fighting against disease. Global health is improving, but many areas require more attention and acceleration. Recent events have disrupted healthcare across the globe, threatening to reverse decades of improvements.

A great deal more work is needed to ensure better access to health care, with prevailing issues relating to pollution of the air, mental health, and sanitation all causing health and well-being issues globally. Businesses in particular have a strong part to play in promoting more sustainable practices which have a knock-on effect on global health, both for their workers and in the surrounding environment.

Join our community to read about the impact businesses have on SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


GOAL 4: Quality Education

The fourth SDG addresses access to quality lifelong learning to all groups. We have made positive movement in the right direction, however, there is still a lack of access for marginalized groups, women, and girls. Developing countries are still missing vital infrastructures to provide learning.

Improving the quality of education helps us all, from providing better opportunities for young people, to making sure that the world has the essential expertise and knowledge required to navigate future challenges.

Log in to read all the articles that impact SDG 4 Quality Education.


GOAL 5: Gender Equality

The heart of the goal - empowering women and girls and gender equality, has seen a strong movement toward positive outcomes (such as the decrease of practicing child marriage, genital mutilation, and improved gender equality laws), much work is left to do.

Ensuring that women across the globe are protected with essential laws and rights is a key part of achieving full gender equality. Addressing discriminating social norms, low-level political involvement, and other structural issues at play will be needed to reach this goal.

Sign-up to read all the analyses that impact SDG 5 Gender Equality here.


GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Targeting sanitation, sustainable management of water, and its availability to all, this goal is proving difficult to achieve, with the latest data suggesting that we would need to double the annual efforts. Billions are still lacking safe water, both in terms of sanitation and drinking water.

Sustainably ensuring that all have access to clean, safe, water is key to building a sustainable future for our world. Currently, the projections show that 700 million people may be displaced due to water scarcity by 2030. Drastic action is needed to make sure our global water supply is safe, secure, and clean - for all.

Log in to read more about SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation here.


GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

With this goal, aiming at giving access to reliable and sustainable energy sources to all, we have seen an increase in renewable energy usage – however, 800 million still do not have electricity and we require much greater ambitions and investments to achieve this goal, as well as the closely linked climate goal.

The effects of a lack of affordable and clean energy cannot be understated. Our global infrastructure relies on the production and supply of energy, making this affordable and renewable will help ensure a sustainable future for us all.

Read more SDG 7 here.


GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

This goal exists to underpin the efforts and progress toward achieving the other goals, emphasising sustainable and inclusive economic growth and employment. More importantly, the goal aims to ensure decent work, with safe environments, as well as eradicating gender pay gaps and increasing employment opportunities.

Global economic growth has been slowing down in recent years, with the world facing one of the worst economic recessions since The Great Depression. Drastic action is required from governments and businesses to tackle these economic challenges, in a sustainable, forward-thinking manner.

Log in to read all the notes which impact SDG 8 here.


GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The ninth SDG targets building solid infrastructures which encourage innovation and are sustainable and inclusive – key drivers like transport and communication play a vital role here with the aim to support economic development through innovative solutions.

Nonetheless, investment in this sector remains below the global average requiring further support to embrace true sustainable development. Manufacturing growth has declined due to tariffs and global trade tensions, with additional challenges caused by a need to invest more in research and development.

Log in to read all the notes that impact SDG 9 here.


GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

The target of this sustainable development goal is to reduce inequality, with a particular focus on the disproportion of opportunities, income, and power. An increasing share of income remains with the top 1% of earners causing concern for progress toward this goal, more work is required to increase zero-tariff exports for developing countries among other actions.

Great strides have been made in reducing inequality across the globe with the Gini coefficient falling in 38 out of 84 countries, however, this does leave a large amount of work yet to be implemented. Vulnerable groups are hit hardest by inequality, leaving many groups squeezed by growing inequality in some global areas.

Log in to read all the notes that impact SDG 10 here.


GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

With the aim to make human settlements safe, inclusive and sustainable, this goal addresses living situations such as slums, access to transport, clean air and waste collection to name just a few topics.

However, recent data suggests many urban areas are growing faster than the populations themselves, which will have consequences when it comes to sustainability. In 2018 the share of urban populations living in slums rose to 24%, indicating a greater need for action to combat unsustainable growth in our urban settlements.

Log in to read all the impact articles that impact SDG 11 here.


GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Over extraction of resources, degradation of natural resources, waste, and improving sustainability factors need to be considered and improved in order to achieve the responsible consumption and production goal.

The realisation of this goal is far from encouraging – with material consumption expanding rapidly. Overall the world’s global material footprint has grown from 73.2 billion tonnes in 2010 to 85.9 billion tonnes, a rate of increase that is unsustainable.

Log in to read all the notes that impact SDG 12 here.


GOAL 13: Climate Action

The goal that often gets the most airtime, climate action, puts the spotlight on the increasing greenhouse emissions, climate change, and the associated impact. Despite the media coverage, the situation is not rosy.

Even with the Paris Agreement in place, suggesting a revitalized course toward achieving the goal, (signed back in 2016), drastic action is still required to mitigate greenhouse gases, in the form of finance, reforms, and much more. Current projections indicate that global temperatures may rise by up to 3.2°C by 2100, a situation that will see us enter an era of unrivaled devastation for biological life on Earth.

Read all the notes that impact SDG 13 here.


GOAL 14: Life Below Water

Specifically relating to life under the sea, this goal is focused on conserving and sustainably utilising our oceans, seas, and marine resources. Our oceans are a finite resource despite their vast size and must be treated with respect and care if they are to continue to be a sustainable resource in the future.

As it stands there are inadequate measures in place to do so, thus, overfishing, acidification from climate change, and coastal eutrophication (the loading of unneeded ‘nutrients’ into the water by upstream activities, namely agriculture and other industries) continue to move us further away from this goal. A 100-150% rise in ocean acidity is projected by 2100, which will impact not only half of marine life but industries and lives which depend on that marine life.

Log in to read all the notes that impact SDG 14 here.


GOAL 15: Life on Land

With deforestation often making the news, land degradation like desertification (which occurs largely due to deforestation, drought or agriculture) continues, and loss of biodiversity has increased, alongside other concerning issues like wildlife poaching and animal extinction.

Whilst protection of these vital areas of land has increased - many ecosystems are still suffering. The world continues to fall short on 2020 targets regarding halting biodiversity loss, with 31,000 species threatened with extinction. Forest areas, in particular, are continuing to decline due to agricultural expansion and deforestation, depriving many species of essential habitats.

Log in to read all the notes that impact SDG 15 here.


GOAL 16: Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions

This SDG focuses on building institutions that are inclusive, promoting peaceful societies which are able to be sustainably developed. Global peace, security, and justice for all through inclusive institutions at all levels remains the UN’s target with this sustainable development goal.

This goal is yet to be achieved with great consistency, international homicide is on the rise, violence against children continues, meaning all efforts need to be accelerated to reach this critical goal.

You can read all the notes that impact SDG 16 here.


GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

SDG 17 is all about how the goals will be achieved through partnerships, funding and initiatives. The world isn’t just the reserve of a few, the issues targeted by the SDGs affect every single person on the planet, from rich to poor, from privileged to deprived. By building effective partnerships that span the globe, the goal is to make us all invested in building a sustainable and fair future for the world and our environment.

However, issues have developed over recent years. ODA (Official Development Assistance – the funds given to help achieve sustainable development) has actually decreased, with poor alignments to sustainable development coming from private investment, a lot of work will be required to mobilise the goals ambitions at the right level.

Log in to read all the notes which impact SDG 17 here.

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Each of the goals has its own set of detailed targets to reach by 2030, 169 in total. You can find out more about the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals in this report issued by the Secretary-General , it is also the source of some of the data we refer to in this blog.

How do we utilise the SDGs in our platform?

Impaakt uses the Sustainable Development Goals as our framework for measuring businesses' impact on the planet. With each impact note written, the writer chooses the SDG that will be impacted the most in that note. The culmination of the impact notes and the ratings they receive from the wider community, produce the company impact score. The end goal (pardon the pun) is that investors can use our impact scores to make more informed decisions on how they invest, and the wider public can use them to decide which companies they want to buy from or advocate for.

Investment has notoriously been focused on what revenues can be generated, rather than what good the investment can achieve.

“The exclusive pursuit of short-term profit is incompatible with the promise to realize sustainable and inclusive development for all people, everywhere, on a healthy planet.”

Quote from António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General in a report found here.

With our platform we are changing the way companies are measured, so whilst businesses can issue Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports on what practices they have in place, without a real, unbiased measure of their impact we remain in the dark somewhat about how their business impacts our progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

We hope this article has helped you understand more about the SDGs, if you feel like sharing it with others, you can use the social share buttons. And of course, if you want to learn more about us here at impaakt, check out our story or our how it works page.

The Impaakt Team


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