Introduction to SDG
In 2015, the United Nations established 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), which were adopted by 193 countries, and our mission is to achieve these goals by 2030. The issue with these 17 goals is that there are 17 of them, which can make them appear complicated and difficult to remember. The good news is that they are the result of extensive public consultations and provide a common language for all countries to report in. They also cover a wide range of important topics and can tell us whether or not we are becoming more environmentally conscious. Instead of examining them individually, let us first consider how they are linked.
The SDG Wedding Cake
The Stockholm Resilience Centre proposed breaking down the SDGs into three layers: the environment as the foundation, society as a support system, and the economy as a driver. This is analogous to the triple bottom line (or the three pillars of sustainability). The economy is a strategy for making money while achieving sustainability, and sustainability is essentially about meeting human needs within ecological constraints. Life below water, climate action, life on land, and life below water are the four goals of the environment. The eight societal goals are: no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, and peace, justice, and strong institutions. These are the four economic goals: decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, and responsible consumption and production. This representation was dubbed the SDG wedding cake.
Targets and Indicators
In other words, we can’t achieve “decent economic growth” or even food security unless we first take care of our oceans, as Newfoundland demonstrated during the Atlantic cod fishery’s collapse in the 1990s. To take a more recent example, we can’t have everyone in “good health” and “no poverty” unless we first take care of our land, forests, and greenhouse gas emissions. There are targets and indicators in addition to the 17 goals. I won’t bore you with all 169 targets and 232 indicators, but consider the “affordable and clean energy” goal, which has five associated targets that go as follows: By 2030, ensure that everyone has access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services. By 2030, the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix will have increased significantly. By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and so on.
How to Measure
Is it true that if a country performs well on the SDGs, it is more sustainable? Take a look at the top of the list: all of these European countries are doing extremely well in terms of poverty, health, education, and so on, but they also have some of the world’s largest ecological footprints per capita. Although looking at each individual target and indicator to see how a country is doing on individual goals is interesting, looking at a country’s aggregate score can be misleading because developed countries appear better as a whole but use far more resources and contribute significantly more to climate change. These 17 goals are excellent for breaking down sustainable development into all of its dimensions. However, if you are attempting to create a plan for a country to become sustainable, I would recommend using these science-based first order principles for sustainability: three ecological and five social. They are both necessary and sufficient, and they are not mutually exclusive. When we follow these principles, we will be truly sustainable. Future-Fit Business provides a comprehensive benchmark for companies to assess their social and environmental impacts if you want to see if your company is becoming more sustainable.
This benchmark includes both break-even and positive pursuits beyond the goals, which can be organised by SDG or topic. Consider waste: “operational waste is eliminated” has an action guide to help you prioritise your actions and monitor progress, as well as to show the sustainable development goals to which it contributes. Assume your company’s goal is to contribute to these SDGs; you can categorise them as follows: environmental goals, employee goals, and community goals. There is still much work to be done around the world to achieve the 2030 agenda, but it is important to remember that if the environment is fragile, it can literally crash the wedding… cake.