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The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a 15-year plan to address some of the most pressing issues faced in the world. The goals were the outcome of a growing demand for leadership roles and direction in the fight against poverty, inequality, and climate change. After three years of deliberations between the 193 members of the United Nations to create a blueprint that can shift the world onto a sustainable and resilient path, world leaders converged on New York, on 25 September 2015, to adopt the 2030 Agenda.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were agreed by governments in 2001 and expired in 2015. The MDGs were specific, measurable, and timely as they focused on eradicating poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease. However, they were also criticized for being too specific, leaving out other equally important issues.
The 17 goals are a historic global achievement, and they disaggregated into 169 targets that will require investments of all kinds – both public and private. They are to guide all global, regional, and national endeavors for the next 15 years, with a view towards building a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for humanity.
Here are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:
1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote agriculture
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable equality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
10. Reduce inequality within among countries
11. Make cities and human settlements safe, resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
An interesting fact about the Sustainable Development Goals is that they are interconnected. In other words, success in one affects the other. For instance, achieving the production of clean and renewable energy will have an impact on the climate. Similarly, ensuring quality education for all can help promote innovation and industrialization.
Also, the UN member states made a commitment to the Leave No One Behind pledge so that the progress of those furthest behind the first will be accelerated. This gives a boost to the comprehensive global agenda to end poverty in a single generation.
Benefits of the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals hold lots of opportunities for businesses to make money while addressing the world’s sustainability problems. Studies indicate that achieving the SDGs in just four sectors – food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, health and wellbeing – can generate as much as $12 trillion of new market opportunities at the expiration of the 2030 agenda. Even more, a report shows that savings from reduced carbon emissions, water use, and other resource combination could further raise profit to as high as $17 trillion.
While it might seem like the benefits are only for businesses, it is also for people as these opportunities are expected to create millions of jobs, effectively solving the unemployment problem that many national governments currently grapple with. Industries that target low-income markets such as affordable housing, food, and healthcare have the most growth potential. Here’s a brief look at the potential benefits of the SDGs in three sectors and the opportunities for human development and environmental sustainability.
Food and agriculture
Part of the achievements of the MDGs was a significant reduction in global hunger, but there’s still a lot to be done as the number of undernourished people rose to 815 million in 2016. Feeding the world’s growing population is a huge challenge that has been made difficult by land degradation due to climate change. Businesses can benefit from the SDGs by leveraging the three top opportunities related to food and agriculture: food waste reduction, reforestation, and development of low-income food markets.
SDG 11 is to make cities and human settlements safe, resilient, and sustainable. Already, about half the global population resides in cities, and the figure is expected to continue to climb. By engaging the SDGs, businesses may reap huge benefits in a number of areas like building, transport, carbon emission reduction, energy use, and more. Businesses can play a key role in shaping health, livable cities while making a profit, and boosting employment.
Energy and materials
Another key aspect of the SDGs that is highly lucrative for businesses and can positively impact the environment is energy and material consumption. Material consumption leads to enormous waste, and the demand for energy is expected to rise with the global population. Businesses can invest in recycling waste as well as the transition to renewable energy. This could go a long way to help in tackling climate change and making the planet a more habitable place for all.
The Sustainable Development Goals mark the beginning of a new era for both the public and private sectors to make more efforts towards building a more sustainable, safer, and more prosperous planet for humanity. Built on the gains of the MDGs, the SDGs represent an ambitious plan to enhance peace and prosperity. Even more, they provide a solid base for which companies can reduce poverty and benefit the planet as they simultaneously generate jobs and make a profit.
ESG Enterprise provides tool to assist with sustainable development goals for ESG assessment and ratings.