UN Sustainability Development Goals - Source - Welcome to the United Nations
Welcome to the fiftieth-first edition of my weekly blog. In volume II (Week 51 onwards)I look at what some of the most sustainable companies in the world are doing to be better corporate citizens.
Before I focus on the sustainable performance of leading companies by industry sector, I first want to set the scene at a macro level by looking at the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) this week and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) next week.
The UN published 17 SDGs in January 2016 with accompanying targets for each goal to be achieved by 2030. It is an extensive piece of work supported by 169 targets and a common framework approach called MAPS (mainstreaming, acceleration and policy support). This blog will provide a brief overview of the goals and what drove this goal-setting exercise.
The MSCI World Index has done a good job categorizing the 17 UN SDGs across five headings: basic needs, empowerment, climate change, neutral capital, and governance. I will also use these headings while providing an overview of the SDG goals:
1. Basic Needs
1 No Poverty & 2 Zero Hunger
Roughly 800 million people live in extreme poverty and are undernourished as a consequence of this. The vast majority of this neglected group live in Africa or Southern Asia. The UN wants to see the number of people living in poverty halved by 2030 and for hunger to be completely eradicated.
3 Good Health and Well-Being
More than six million children under the age of five die each year. Close to 6 million children die from preventable diseases like measles and TB. The UN wants to bring an end to epidemics such as AIDS, TB, measles, and malaria by 2030.
6 Clean Water and Sanitation
Over 1.8 billion people use a water source that is contaminated and over 2 billion people do not have access to basic sanitary services such as a toilet. SDG 6 targets include access to safe and affordable water and basic sanitation for all by 2030.
11 Sustainable Cities and Communities
Over half of the world’s population live in urban centres. This puts demands on cities with respect to affordable housing and designing their infrastructure in line with population growth. A key target by 2030 is that all urban dwellers will be living in affordable housing and free slum conditions.
4 Quality Education
Over 100 million youths across the world do not possess basic literacy skills. Over 50% of children who do not attend primary schools reside in war-torn regions. A key target of SDG 4 is for all children to receive free access to primary and secondary level education by 2030.
5 Gender Equality
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Western Asia girls still find it difficult to gain access to primary and secondary level education. One of the key goals against this SDG is simple: ‘end all forms of discrimination against women and girls everywhere’. In Iceland, it is now illegal to pay women less than men for the same job.
8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
Over two billion people live below the $2 poverty line and an additional 470 million people will enter the job market by 2030. The UN wants to see per capita economic growth sustained and at least 7% GDP growth in developing countries. The UN also advocates for the promotion of job creation by supporting entrepreneurs set-up micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
As mentioned in SDGs 6 and 7 if you live in a developing country it is highly likely that you struggle to gain access to safe drinking water, basic sanitation, and modern electricity. In addition to this over a billion people are unable to avail of reliable telephony services. One of the SDG 9 targets champions cross-border infrastructure projects which is an interesting way of accelerating the solution.
10 Reduced Inequalities
The World’s richest 10% now earn roughly 40% of total global income, whereas the poorest 10% earn as little as 2% of global income. One of the key goals of SDG 10 is for the income growth of the poorest 40% to be above the national average by 2030.
3. Climate Change
7 Affordable and Clean Energy
One in five people don’t have access to modern electricity supply. Energy consumption accounts for roughly 60% of greenhouse gases (GhG) emissions. Some of the targets to address these concerns include doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and making modern electricity supply available to all by 2030.
13 Climate Action
Since 1990 CO2 emissions have increased by 50% and the rate of emissions growth between 2000 and 2010 was higher than in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. SDG 13 targets include the implementation of commitments made by developed economies to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) e.g. Paris Agreement targets.
4. Natural Capital
12 Responsible Consumption and Production
Roughly one-third of all food produced (1.3 billion tonnes) is sent to landfill sites. Almost 30% of global energy is consumed by households and over 20% of CO2 emissions come from this consumption. One of the targets of this goal is for ‘the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources by 2030’.
14 Life Below Water
Over 3 billion people depend on the marine and coastal ecosystems for their employment. On average 13,000 pieces of plastic litter dumped from the land are found in every square kilometre of ocean. The UN wants to see a significant reduction in the pollution of oceans from land sources by 2025.
15 Life On Land
Approximately 12 million hectares of land are lost to droughts and desertification each year. That is equivalent to losing 20 million tonnes of grain per annum. By 2030 the UN has set a target for the amount of restored land to at least match the area of land lost to droughts and desertification.
16 Peace Justice and Institutions
Corruption costs developing economies approximately $1.3 trillion per annum, the EU market is worth about twice that figure. If this problem was solved that amount of money would be able to rectify SDG 1 ‘No poverty ‘ for about six years.
17 Partnerships for the goals
Developing countries now receive over $130 billion in aid and approximately 3.6 billion people in these countries do not use the internet. Some of SDG 17’s targets include assisting developing countries with the collection of taxes, stabilising their debt levels and improving the technological infrastructure.
The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are well balanced and thought out, they address basic rights and aspirations that everyone person should be entitled to regardless of their background or current living conditions. The 169 targets that support the goals are ambitious and rightfully so, it remains to be seen how many of the targets will be met by 2030. However, as the saying goes ‘shoot for the stars you might reach the chimney tops’.
Next week’s blog will feature the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the work the organisation is doing to promote better reporting of sustainability performance by large companies.
If you liked this article you might enjoy reading the following information:
United Nations Development Programme: Sustainable Development Goals
ACCA: The Sustainable Development Goals: redefining context, risk and opportunity
World Benchmarking Alliance: Corporate Sustainability Performance