You must have heard the fancy term ‘sustainable development’ buzzing around everywhere, from news channels to newspaper articles.
So what is it, and what does the United Nations have to do with it? We will discuss everything you need to know about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. From what they are and why are they essential to how companies are incorporating them into their business strategies.
What is Sustainable Development?
The idea of sustainable development first appeared in 1987 with the publication of the Brundtland Commission Report. The report highlighted the negative environmental consequences of economic development and globalization. It intended to find logical solutions to the problems caused by increased industrialization and population growth.
Sustainable development is the concept that human communities must live and fulfill their needs without jeopardizing the needs of future generations to satisfy their own needs.
There are four central pillars of sustainable development:
Sustainable development is a paradigm for thinking about a future in which environmental, societal, and economic dimensions are balanced in the pursuit of improved living standards. For instance, a healthy society depends on a healthy environment to provide nutrition, resources, safe drinking water, and clean air.
What Are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?
There are plenty of challenges that are currently threatening humankind. Global issues such as climate change, water shortage, inequality, and hunger are harming a huge portion of the Earth’s population. The only chance humankind has to solve these issues is by acting in unison and promoting sustainability.
Therefore, as a part of a new sustainable development roadmap, the United Nations initiated the 2030 Agenda. UN’s 2030 Agenda includes the 17 UN’s sustainability goals, a call to action to conserve the planet to ensure the global well-being of all the people. These shared objectives require the effective involvement of people from all walks of life – be it business owners, administrations, leaders, politicians, or ordinary people.
17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
In 2015, the United Nations pledged to adopt 17 Sustainable Development Goals and strived to achieve them by 2030. These 17 SDGs have been accepted by all 193 United Nations Member States. It seeks to end deprivation, ensure prosperity for all, and conserve the planet.
The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:
- No poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Good health and well being
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitization
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace justice and strong institutions
- Partnerships for the goals
Why Are Sustainable Development Goals Important?
Ensuring economic growth, social equality and justice, and environmental conservation is the main objective of the UN’s sustainability goals. However, while these three factors should be in harmony and balance each other out, the reality is that they are often conflicting with one another.
During the latter half of the 20th-century, economic growth and improving living conditions has been the primary cause of environmental degradation. In other words, economic development came at the expense of the environment. This has led people and businesses to use more resources than the environment could sustain. Such selfish actions have led to the degradation of Earth with waste products.
Over the years, scientists have warned us repeatedly that communities cannot survive in an economy that drives scarcity of resources and environmental degradation. Economic growth will persist as the basis for human advancement, but it must change and become less destructive to the environment. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals strive to balance this equation, striving for prosperity for now and future generations.
Some Examples of Companies Embracing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
Several companies now realize the importance of sustainable development. Businesses are starting to realize that neglecting Mother Earth and social issues is not only in their best interest for their long-term survival, but also for their financial and strategic performance. As a result, companies are coming forward and adopting UN’s sustainability goals within their operations:
A few examples of businesses implementing sustainable development strategies include all of the following:
- VISA: To incorporate no poverty goals into their business model, Visa has taken a step forward to provide financial services to the weaker sections of society. By investing in underserved and often neglected communities, Visa seeks to drive financial inclusion.
- General Mills: As a part of their corporate social responsibility program, General Mills distributes meals to local food banks to help reduce hunger.
- Kaiser Permanente: The health consortium invests a hefty amount every year in helping create healthier communities to promote people’s good health and well-being.
- Participant Media: The film production company has recently launched an initiative to teach students worldwide about gender equality. Their goal is to drive diversity and inclusion and women empowerment globally.
- Microsoft: Through their program Microsoft YouthSpark, the tech giant encourages young people to develop computer skills to promote decent work and economic growth.
- Siemens: The German tech giant appreciates and acknowledges communities that adopt green and sustainable economic solutions to support United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
- Discovery Channel: Discovery Channel is utilizing its digital global footprint, audience, and influence to advertises clean oceans to encourage businesses and other organizations to help protect life underwater.
- Nike: The multinational corporation seeks to utilize recycled materials within most of its gear. Their athletics clothing lines and shoes are increasingly being fabricated with recycled materials.
- Patagonia: We cannot talk about sustainability without mentioning one of the world’s leading sustainable companies. Patagonia ensures that its supply chains and operations are sustainable end-to-end. At the same time, their high-end products are made from recycled materials and of the highest quality to reduce overconsumption.
- TripAdvisor: The online travel company partners with GlobalGiving to identify and support locally driven nonprofits that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Is the UN’s Target Goal Going to Be Achieved by 2030?
As previously mentioned, the United Nations hopes for the efforts driven by their Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. Six years into the 2030 Agenda, though, it’s pretty evident we are not even close to where we need to be.
There’s still a long way to go for humankind to go and plenty of challenges that, rather than showing signs of improvement, are getting worse. A few of the challenges worth mentioning include:
- We are confronted with the severe threat of climate change and increased levels of global warming.
- There is a total $2.5 trillion annual sustainable development investment gap. These investment gaps especially threaten the world’s most vulnerable regions. At the current, it will be practically impossible to accomplish the SDGs by 2030. This will directly impact people, society, the environment, and business owners.
- Since 2015, companies have undergone inspiring transformations to align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Various businesses are increasingly determined to reach the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Despite all that, hopes for the 2030 target to be achieved seem unlikely.
- The world is still recovering from a destructive and chaotic pandemic. The destructive economic and livelihood impact of the coronavirus pandemic has put the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals out of reach. Most of the objectives to eradicate poverty and hunger, save the climate, and aid the well-being of the people were already off course. Whatever little progress has been made now has been interrupted by the global lockdown.
The World Depends on These Goals Being Achieved
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals all have in common the following underlying message: we are either all in this together or all on our own. It’s only with collective action that these goals can be achieved. It’s not enough for one person or one company to lead the change – we are all in the same boat.
If we diligently try to change for a better world, we still have hope. It is a long road ahead, but we are not ready to give up just yet!