SDGs: the Basics

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals set by the United Nations General Assembly as “A blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all people and the world by 2030”.The goals cover a broad range of topics, from poverty, health, environment, equality, peace and education. Each one has a further subset of targets which have actionable indicators and set dates for completion.. The Sustainable Development Goals were published in 2016 to cover the next 15 years towards Agenda 2030.

The rationale behind the Sustainable Development Goals

The goals are expected to guide both public and private policy toward achieving sustainable development. Part of the aim of the goals is to encourage businesses and other private organisations to get involved rather than waiting for government policies to change. Putting a deadline of 2030 on achieving the goals was intended to create a sense of urgency. By working in partnership with private and public organisations it is hoped that more can be achieved in a shorter space of time, reflecting the need to be proactive in relation to sustainability rather than reactive to changes in legislation. 

Since the 17 goals covered a huge range of topics, it is intended that organisations or businesses assess the relevance of each goal to their business and focus on a specific smaller number of Goals in order to derive the most progress. For example a supermarket owner might choose to focus on (2) Zero Hunger and (3) Good Health & Wellbeing, whereas a fisheries business might focus on (17) Life Below Water. A number of the Goals are related to work such as (8) Decent work and Economic Growth and (9) Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and thus could be incorporated into many business structures.

Why your business should get involved

With 17 goals to choose from, and a further subset of targets under each, your business can choose from a wide range of achievable actions. You could choose to focus on ones directly related to your business or add in others which though not directly relevant will help improve lives in your community or the wider world. By publicly committing to be part of the SDGs, you send a clear message to your employees, your business partners and your customers that your business is working to make the planet cleaner and healthier for all. While this might seem like a very lofty aspiration you can relate your chosen SDGs to practical actions within your business that translate to more sustainable practices. If every organisation committed to Sustainable Development Goals, and followed through with actions, the world could be improved for billions of people by 2030. 

Visit our Where to start? page for tips on how to include SDGs as part of your business’s sustainability strategy.