Last updated:
May 24, 2024

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

What are Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a global initiative, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, comprising 17 goals designed to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all" by 2030. These goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice. Each goal is supported by specific targets and indicators to guide and measure progress, making them a comprehensive framework for sustainable development across the globe.

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

How do SDGs Integrate into a Sustainability Strategy?

Integrating SDGs into a sustainability strategy allows organisations to align their operations with global efforts to foster a sustainable future. By adopting SDGs as part of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) targets, companies can ensure their initiatives contribute to wider global goals.

For instance, investing in carbon credit projects that also support local community development or biodiversity conservation can provide co-benefits beyond carbon sequestration. These projects not only help mitigate climate change but also advance other SDGs, such as reducing inequalities (SDG 10) or promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG 15). By strategically selecting projects that align with specific SDGs, companies can address a broad spectrum of ESG targets, demonstrating commitment to comprehensive sustainability and social responsibility.

How are SDGs Tracked and Measured?

SDGs are tracked and measured using a set of targets and indicators specific to each goal. These indicators provide clear metrics for evaluating progress towards each target. Governments, international organisations, and other stakeholders use these indicators to assess advancements, identify areas requiring more effort, and ensure accountability. Data collection and analysis are crucial, involving a wide range of methods, from national statistics and surveys to satellite imagery for environmental monitoring. The Global Indicator Framework, adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission, offers a standardised approach to measuring and reporting on progress, facilitating global comparisons and benchmarking.

What to Look Out for when Evaluating a Project's SDGs?

When evaluating a project's alignment with SDGs, ask yourself the following:

  • Does the project directly contribute to achieving specific SDGs and targets? Are there clear, measurable impacts that align with the indicators defined for each goal?
  • Do the projects offer integrated benefits across multiple SDGs? For instance, do projects addressing climate change also promote social and economic benefits, enhancing their overall impact?
  • Can the project's outcomes be scaled up or replicated in other contexts, thereby amplifying its contribution to the SDGs?
  • Is there evidence of meaningful engagement with local communities, governments, and other stakeholders? Are projects with strong stakeholder involvement more likely to be sustainable and have a lasting impact?
  • Does the project demonstrate a high level of transparency in its operations and reporting, including clear documentation of its impacts and mechanisms for accountability?
  • How sustainable is the project over time? Are projects that are economically viable and have secured long-term funding more likely to achieve sustained impact?

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