As progress on global challenges like climate change, inequality, and public health lags behind necessary targets, businesses have an important role in building a sustainable future and accelerating our collective progress.
To do so, more businesses are aligning their work with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (aka the SDGs).
The SDGs comprise a set of targets designed to focus the efforts of business towards solving the most pressing challenges of the planet.
We see these targets as the symptoms of a disconnected world; the manifestation of our collective consciousness. Our inner sustainability and wellbeing are reflected in our external environment. In other words, until we heal ourselves, our Earth will continue to suffer.
BLUEPRINT FOR A BETTER WORLD
As a blueprint to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030, the SDGs touch on issues that require companies to rethink their business models and commit to long-term change. Whether that involves reducing the production and use of plastic packaging or tackling the challenges of fast fashion and consumerism, businesses are realizing the need to act now and protect the future of our planet.
Why is it so critical for business to take action on all the SDGs?
The 17 SDGs are intrinsically interconnected; each target is interdependent on the others so an interdisciplinary framework needs to be implemented. For example, tackling poverty and deprivation is connected to improving health, reducing inequality and spurring economic growth.
At Sustainable Network, we are behind each and every one of the SDG targets, but we are running out of time to achieve them.
That’s why we ensure that the start-ups we fund and support are all aligned with the SDGs, making the implementation of this ambitious yet vital agenda possible.
Introduction to the 2030 Agenda
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an overarching vision for all of them as well as a global framework for national strategies and policies to put the world on a path to sustainability.
The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) has developed a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to help interested persons improve their knowledge about the 2030 Agenda and related Global Goals.
We are determined to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
We are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable consumption and production, sustainably managing its natural resources and taking urgent action on climate change, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.
We are determined to ensure that all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
We are determined to foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies which are free from fear and violence. There can be no sustainable development without peace and no peace without sustainable development.
We are determined to mobilize the means required to implement this Agenda through a revitalised Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focussed in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.
The interlinkages and integrated nature of the Sustainable Development Goals are of crucial importance in ensuring that the purpose of the new Agenda is realised. If we realize our ambitions across the full extent of the Agenda, the lives of all will be profoundly improved and our world will be transformed for the better.
Goal 1: Poverty
Eradicating poverty is not simply a role for charitable organisations. Inequalities in regards to wealth distribution have existed since ancient times and even the wealthiest of nations still have many individuals who are living at or below the poverty line. Each country therefore has a responsibility to guarantee that all citizens have universal access to a basic social welfare state. Richer individuals and entities should therefore support this system in order to provide everyone with the ability to maintain a quality of life which rises above the domestic poverty line. Simply stated, there is no shortage of wealth on the planet; it is merely a question of how this wealth is distributed.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
The global capacity for food production outstrips how much humans require to survive. However, localised means of distribution signal that millions of individuals are either malnourished or dying of starvation at the moment. We now possess the knowledge to grow sufficient amounts of food within every biome to satisfy the needs of a burgeoning population. If local inhabitants are provided the appropriate tools and training, they will quickly be capable of sustaining their associated communities. Should we choose to focus upon caring for our soil, replenishing ground water and rewilding the countryside in order to improve habitats and increasing biodiversity, it will be possible to recreate a planet which can feed its entire population.
Regenerative agricultural techniques can likewise reclaim previously degraded lands. It is now possible to utilise technology to map water flows in order to implement earthworks; offering the ability to recapture this vital fluid and to recharge local aquifers. Cities can use hydroponic means to grow food. Vertical farming methods can likewise be leveraged to feed large populations grappling with smaller amounts of arable space.
Goal 3: Health and Well-Being
Although there are countless types of healthcare options, we believe in espousing a more holistic approach to patient treatment. Spiritual meditative care, natural remedies, plant-based medicines, modern methods of rehabilitation and access to qualified surgeons are primary examples. It is likewise important to place a greater emphasis upon other methods such as Chinese medicines and agriculture; many of which have now been sidelined in favour of a Big Pharma solutions.
Goal 4: Quality Education
In the event that every child on the planet was capable of leaving school with basic reading, writing and maths skills, our civilisation would already be light years ahead in regards to communications, technology, healthcare practices, engineering, food production and indeed countless other ways. Unfortunately, education is only available to upper classes in many portions of the world. Either families are required to take on massive amounts of debt or the poor are simply excluded from the system entirely. While not everyone is suited for university-level education, those who wish to continue their journey should be provided with the opportunity. Supplying all students with the basic requirements for writing, reading and mathematics will enable communities to thrive while maintaining their unique cultural identities.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
From a general perspective, males are offered more professional and financial opportunities than women. Males will often make more money than a female colleague with the same job title. Women are still considered secondary to men throughout many cultures. In fact, the world is run by a largely male patriarchy. Our planet requires both genders to be viewed as equal in regards to personal and professional merit. This will result in societal harmony as well as relationships based upon unbiased equality.
Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Anyone who is reading this objective likely takes for granted their access to clean water and modern sanitation facilities. Unfortunately, many individuals are still struggling on a daily basis simply to find a potable source of drinking water. In many countries, water remains in short supply. Base ground water is likewise being used at an alarming rate due to growing populations and agricultural demands. In areas where basic sanitation is not maintained, even potable water can soon be contaminated and rendered undrinkable. In fact, diseases such as dysentery kill hundreds of thousands each and every ear. Our goal is is to provide clean water and modern sanitation services to countries which are in need.
Goal 7: Access to Clean and Affordable Energy
Sustainable power solutions such as off-grid solar energy are viable and yet, they are often rendered unrealistic options due to high shipping costs and expensive equipment. Thankfully, technologies are consistently improving while innovative solutions are now helping to augment the percent of energy that is now produced by renewable methods. The main point here is that we still need to think outside of the box in terms of offering the very same solutions to billions of individuals. Some other sustainable methods include:
It is now clear that there are many options at our disposal.
Goal 8: Access to Rewarding Employment and Economic Growth
It seems as if “sustainable” and “growth” are mutually exclusive terms. However, replacing sustainable for regenerative equates to new opportunities for growth. If based upon sustainable regenerative practices, we will be able to create a closed-loop system which can be scaled in order to match regional population growth. This type of organisation will likewise create productive and rewarding employment opportunities. Embracing a society where individuals can do what they love while leveraging their natural skill sets for the betterment of their community equates to emotional contentment alongside economic growth.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Every successful community is founded upon a functional and resilient infrastructure. However, industries and infrastructure will likewise need to be proactively upgraded to meet future challenges. We therefore need to promote innovative and sustainable technological solutions while ensuring equal and universal access to information across the financial marketplace. This strategy will usher in prosperity, create jobs and ensure that stable societies are fostered around the world.
Goal 10: A Reduction in Inequality
The vast portion of global wealth remains in the hands of a small percentage of individuals. This fiscal “squeeze” creates profound inequalities and leads to discrimination. In order for nations to flourish, equality and prosperity must be transformed into universal principles irregardless of gender, race, economic status, or religious beliefs. If this form of self-sufficiency is embraced, the world will inevitably prosper.
Goal 11: Sustainable Communities and Cities
The majority of the global population lives within large urban centres. Such close proximity signifies that trade can flourish and that mass methods of transportation can be augmented. For example, newer cities are often equipped with bicycle lanes and designated “green” areas; reducing carbon emissions and tackling air pollution.
Taking into account other methods such as modern insulation alongside energy-saving lighting and heating systems will likewise reduce the power consumption (and the carbon footprint) of even the largest of metropolitan areas. New building materials have begun to create unheard-of opportunities for sustainable development projects. By fostering high-value circular economies, the notion of long-term sustainability can be transformed from a dream into a reality.
Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
The 20th century represented the apex of excess and exuberance; perhaps bes illustrated in its decidedly materialistic culture. Phrases such as “planned obsolescence” were utilised to signify the act of deliberately designing items in such a manner that they would need to be replaced on a regular basis. This is in direct contrast to engineering goods that would otherwise last a lifetime.
Creating systems that utilise the waste produced by other industries signifies that it is now possible to promote value-based longevity within a circular economic structure. Consumers should be encouraged to purchase items based off of longitudinal value as opposed to short-term attractiveness. Packaging and plastics should be replaced with biodegradable organic materials that benefit the environment as opposed to contributing to massive amounts of waste.
Goal 13: Climate Action
The threat posed to our planet as a result of climate change can no longer be denied. Its effects are already being felt throughout many portions of the world. Frequent and more severe Caribbean hurricanes, massive wildfires consuming thousands of hectares in California, copious amounts of rain, and raging droughts are only a handful of examples.
The main issue here is that many of these situations can be directly attributed to climate change. Not only will these inevitably impact human civilisation, but they are disrupting natural ecosystems at a frenetic rate. Results such as rising sea levels, the extinction of countless species, decreased oceanic salinity, the loss of natural habitats, famine, and population displacements could soon become realities if action is not taken at the present. Innovative approaches in regards to sustainable activities alongside habitat regeneration will create entirely new opportunities while rebalancing our delicate climate.
Goal 14: Aquatic Life
Earth is known as the “blue planet” thanks to the ratio of ocean area to its land mass. It therefore stands to reason that the life contained within these waters is a primary factor which regulates the environment. This is particularly relevant in terms of the absorption of carbon dioxide and the production of oxygen. In the event that this delicate balance is disrupted, many believe that the effects upon our atmosphere will be nothing less than catastrophic.
Overfishing has already caused many species to arrive to the point of extinction (if they have not already crossed this threshold). Mass killings of apex predators such as sharks have likewise exacerbated oceanic imbalances. Pollutants such as plastics, volatile organic compounds and industrial chemicals can now be found throughout all trophic levels of the ocean. Unfortunately, these very same contaminants could very well end up on your dinner plate. It is therefore clear that re-establishing an environmental oceanic balance while reducing the amount of pollutants allowed to enter is another critical goal.
Goal 15: Life on Land
Pressures from human agricultural expansion has caused many of the great forests around the world to shrink at a frightening rate. Biodiversity is likewise being culled into mono-cultural systems which have come to rely heavily upon chemical products. This is already resulting in the death of our soils and the need to convert even more forests for agricultural production. This truly represents a self-perpetuating horror story.
Up to 90 percent of the world's wildlife biomass has already been replaced with human-oriented alternatives, such as the animals that we consume or choose to call pets. In order to regain a sense of balance and restore biodiversity to its previous levels, land restoration and regenerative projects are essential. Furthermore, such endeavours will create employment opportunities as well as tourism-based economic windfalls
Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Transparent Institutions
Can't we all just get along? Unfortunately, this is often a myth as opposed to a reality. We are not necessarily suggesting to embrace an Orwellian scenario such as was depicted in the novel 1984, but rather a system which keeps the interests of all of its citizens at heart. Justice can be meted out when necessary and peace will be embraced. This very same system ensures that the world is based upon cooperation and that the voice of the populace is heard as opposed to stifled.
Goal 17: A Cooperative Mindset
Of course, an immense amount of cooperation is required for these SDGs to become realities. Societies created upon win-win relationships will provide us with the means to build strong foundations that can reach even the loftiest of goals. If we choose to reach over the table and extend our hand in the form of friendship, there is nothing that cannot be accomplished over time.