With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN countries have committed themselves to a comprehensive development program to meet global challenges and to shape further environmental, social, and governance (ESG) development in each country in its required manner.
The background of the SDGs
In 2012, during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20 Conference), the UN started a process to determine a new framework to guide sustainable development which would succeed the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.
At a United Nations summit meeting in 2015, along with other major agreements such as the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Reduction, the 193 member states of the UN adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” commonly referred to as the SDGs or Agenda 2030.
The 17 goals of the SDGs
The SDGs are structured along 17 overall goals. The 17 SDGs are divided into a further 169 sub-goals and include a new interconnected understanding of poverty, inclusive education, reliable energy, sustainable production, and corruption, to name just a few examples. The integrated approach of the SDGs is cross-sectoral, recognizing that “action in one area will affect outcomes in others“. Moreover, it aims at promoting ESG development worldwide.
These are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in detail:
No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Good Health and Well-being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all
Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
Reduced Inequality: Reduce income inequality within and among countries
Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable
Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy
Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development
Life On Land: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels
Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
The relevance of SDGs for companies
The Sustainable Development Goals address global developments such as climate change and therefore mark the central global challenges of our time. Meeting these challenges is the task of all social players, including companies.
To address the enormous pressure on businesses to adapt, the SDGs can be seen by companies as compass for strategic further development, sustainable positioning in a competitive environment, and meeting the expectations of external stakeholders for sustainable business. In addition, they offer companies a variety of approaches to aligning their business activities for the future. Not only large, but also small and medium-sized companies can benefit from proactively implementing global sustainability goals in a variety of areas, such as risk management, supply chain, innovation, reputation, employer attractiveness, or cooperation.
Developed by the UN Global Compact, the GRI and World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the SDG Compass is a tool that provides guidance for companies on how they can best align their strategies and measures and manage their contribution to the realization of the SDGs. This is particularly interesting for companies that already report according to international standards.