Do you know what the SDGs are and how your company can contribute towards achieving them? The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as SDGs, are an initiative of the United Nations.

The 193 UN member states pledged to adopt the so-called Post-2015 Agenda, considered one of the most ambitious in the history of international diplomacy.

Signed in September 2015, during the United Nations Summit, the 17 humanitarian themes that make up the SDGs were defined and serve as a priority in international public policies for the socio-environmental agenda up until 2030.  

In this article, we’ll get to know each sustainable development objective, what they represent and how companies can contribute!

What is SDG?

SDG is short for Sustainable Development Goals. They represent a global plan of action to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger, provide quality education for all, protect the planet, and promote peaceful and inclusive societies by 2030. 

The initiative seeks the collaboration of all countries under the UN, to enable solutions to complex development problems, and point out viable paths to sustainability, both in the environment, and in civil society itself.

The SDGs comprise comprise of 17 objectives and 169 goals, and can be divided into four major areas:

  1. Social: related to human needs, health, education, improving the quality of life, and justice.
  2. Environmental: seeks the preservation and conservation of the environment, with actions ranging from reversing deforestation, protecting forests and biodiversity, among others.
  3. Economic: addresses the use and depletion of natural resources, waste production, and energy consumption. 
  4. Institutional: it concerns the action of putting sustainable development objectives into practice. 

Learn a little more about each of them below. 

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (Question mark?) 

SDG: Meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

1. End poverty in all its forms, everywhere 

The first goal aims to reduce the proportion of people living in poverty by at least half, according to national definitions.  For this, it seeks to implement measures and social protection systems that are suitable for everyone. 

The 1st SDG emphasizes that strong policy frameworks should be created at national, regional and international levels, based on anti-poverty and development strategies to support accelerated investments in poverty eradication actions.

2. Ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture

Eradicating hunger, malnutrition and ensuring global access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food throughout the year is Sustainable Development Goal number two.

By 2030, the aim is to double the agricultural productivity and income of small food producers, particularly women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, shepherds, and fishermen.

In addition, the recommendation is to adopt measures to ensure the proper functioning of commodity markets for food and its derivatives, as well as facilitate timely access to market information.

3. Ensuring a healthy life and promoting well-being 

The reduction of the rate of maternal mortality, neonatal mortality, as well as ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria are all important key components. 

Another key objective is to achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health services, and access to safe, effective, high-quality and affordable essential medicines, and vaccines.

4. Ensuring inclusive education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities

The fourth SDG, calls for everyone to complete free, equal and high-quality primary and secondary education with relevant and effective learning outcomes. Just as it proposes access to quality early childhood development and preschool education so that they are ready for primary education.

It also seeks to ensure equal access for all to high-quality technical, professional, and higher education at affordable prices, including universities, among other objectives.

5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women

Ending all forms of discrimination against all women everywhere is part of Sustainable Development Goal number five. 

 It also includes eliminating all forms of violence against all women in the public and private spheres, including trafficking, sexual and other types of exploitation. 

Another important reaffirmed objective is the elimination of all harmful practices, such as premature, forced, and child marriages as well as female genital mutilation.

It is also worth remembering the quest to carry out reforms that guarantee women equal rights to economic resources.

6. Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation 

The sixth SDG is to achieve universal access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation, and hygiene. It is also part of increasing the efficiency of water use in all sectors and ensuring the supply of fresh water to address water scarcity.

As well as protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems.

7. Ensuring reliable, sustainable, modern, and affordable access to energy

It is important to ensure universal, reliable, modern, and affordable access to energy services is the seventh SDG. 

These goals include increasing the share of renewable energies in the global energy matrix and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

8. Promote economic growth, as well as fulfilling and productive employment 

The eighth SDG is to promote economic growth per capita according to national circumstances and, in particular, an annual growth of at least 7% of the gross domestic product [GDP] in the least developed countries.

Reducing the proportion of young people unemployed or training, eliminating child labor, protecting labor rights, as well as ending modern slavery, and human trafficking are also part their objectives.

9. Build infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation

Developing quality infrastructure to support economic development and well-being, with a focus on equal and affordable access for all is the ninth Sustainable Development Goal.

Other plans are to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, increase the participation of industry in the employment sector and in GDP, and double its share in the least developed countries.

10. Reduce inequality within and between countries

Achieving and sustaining an income growth of 40% of the poorest population at a rate higher than the national average is part of the tenth Sustainable Development Goal.

Promoting social, economic, and political inclusion for everyone, regardless of age, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic condition are goals pursued in this segment.

11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

This goal includes topics such as lowering the percent of the human population that live in slums, which in 2018 rose to 24%. It also includes other reforms for urban areas, such as increasing convenient access to public transportation, lowering air pollution, and increasing the number of open public spaces.

This is especially pertinent to us after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how much room for improvement our urban areas really have.

12. Ensure sustainable production and consumption patterns

The 12th SDG consists of the implementing of the ten-year “Programs on Sustainable Production and Consumption” plan. It is intended that all countries take action, with developed countries taking the lead, in order to make industrial activities more sustainable while also assisting in the industrialization of developing countries.

This goal also ties into achieving sustainable management, efficient use of natural resources, and halving food waste worldwide per capita, among other initiatives.

13. Take urgent measures to combat climate change and its impacts

The 13th SDG aims to strengthen the capacity to adapt to climate-related risks and natural disasters in all countries and seeks the sustainable integration of terrestrial ecosystems.

The request for the incorporation of climate change measures into national policies, strategies, and plans cannot be ignored. In addition to raising awareness for climate change related planning. 

14. Conservation and Sustainable Use of Oceans, Seas, and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development

Preventing and reducing marine pollution of all types is part of the 14th Sustainable Development Goal. 

Another debate that will be promoted is how to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems to avoid significant adverse impacts. Among other topics, one of the main activities is ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources.

15. Protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems

The 15th SDG addresses the need to ensure the conservation, restoration, and sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems.

Promoting the implementation of sustainable management of all forest biomes, halting deforestation and increasing afforestation and reforestation.

16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development

The 16th goal of the SDG is to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related mortality rates everywhere..

Helping promote the rule of law, on a national and international level, and guarantee equal access to a fair and unbiased justice system. Other commitments include reducing corruption and bribery in all its forms and developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions.

17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

The last SDG reinforces the importance of domestic resource mobilization, with international support for developing countries, to improve national capacity for tax and other revenue collection.

It is also necessary to improve North-South, South-South and triangular regional and international cooperation and access to science, technology, and innovation, as well as increase knowledge sharing on mutually agreed terms.

Why companies need to have SDGs

Our current moment – ​​That of global crisis, exemplifies the need for a global community working together to achieve common SDGs.

The idea is that companies need to take a leadership role in addressing critical social challenges, in order to help alter the habits of citizens, governments, and investors towards more sustainable practices.

There is evidence that this integration of environmental, social, and governance practices into a company’s investment and management helps deliver superior performance and long-term financial returns. In this way, we can help promote positive social and environmental change in tandem with economics. At the end of the day, the only way to get people on board with sustainable practices is to demonstrate that they foster a direct economic benefit.

By making a commitment to include SDGs in their strategy, companies pave the way for sustainable practices. Organizations can also take this opportunity to meet customers’ wishes for sustainable products and services. A trend that has only increased in recent years.

Aligning your company’s actions, procedures, and operations with UN standards reduces the environmental impacts of products and promotes social justice. 

The principles and goals established by the UN’s SDGs are already being incorporated into the Environmental Policy of many companies, including big corporations. It’s important to stay ahead of this trend not just to reap the financial benefits it provides, but also the long-term sustainability we so desperately need.