United Nations

Understanding the UN Sustainable Development Goals: What They Are and Why They Matter

Wed Mar 15 2023

If you're looking to align your career or personal goals with a broader purpose, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a powerful framework for creating meaningful impact. These 17 goals, established in 2015, are a blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all. But what exactly are they, and why do they matter? In this article, we'll take a closer look at the UN Sustainable Development Goals, exploring what they aim to achieve, how they were developed, and what progress has been made so far.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals, with 169 targets, established by the United Nations in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They aim to address some of the world's biggest challenges, including poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation. The goals cover a wide range of areas, from health and education to economic growth and infrastructure.

The 17 goals are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Each goal has specific targets, with indicators to track progress towards achieving them. You can explore each of them at the website of the UN.

How were the SDGs developed?

The Sustainable Development Goals were developed through a process of consultation and collaboration, involving governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from around the world. The process began in 2012, with the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. At Rio+20, member states agreed to develop a set of sustainable development goals to build on the work of the Millennium Development Goals, which had been in place since 2000.

Over the next three years, the UN conducted a global consultation process, which included online and in-person consultations, surveys, and meetings. The resulting report, titled "The Future We Want," identified a range of priorities and goals for sustainable development. These priorities were then refined and consolidated into the 17 SDGs that were eventually adopted in 2015.

Why do the SDGs matter?

The SDGs matter because they provide a shared vision for a sustainable and equitable future for all people and the planet. They recognize that economic, social, and environmental issues are interconnected and cannot be addressed in isolation. By providing a common framework and language for action, the SDGs can help to mobilize resources, guide policy, and hold governments and other stakeholders accountable for progress.

The SDGs also matter because they are ambitious and comprehensive. They aim to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, protect the environment, and promote sustainable economic growth, among other things. Achieving these goals will require significant effort and collaboration, both within and between countries.

Progress on the SDGs

Since the SDGs were adopted in 2015, there has been some progress towards achieving them, but there is still a long way to go. According to the 2021 SDG Report, progress has been uneven across goals and regions. Some of the key findings include:

  • Progress has been made in reducing poverty, but the COVID-19 pandemic has set back progress in many countries.
  • Hunger is on the rise, with an estimated 768 million people experiencing chronic undernourishment in 2020.
  • Access to education has improved, but many children and young people still do not have access to quality education.
  • Gender inequality remains a major challenge, with progress towards gender equality stalling in some areas.
  • Access to clean water and sanitation has improved, but many people still lack these basic services.
  • Renewable energy is becoming more affordable and accessible, but progress towards sustainable energy has been slow.
  • Economic growth has been uneven, with many countries struggling to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • Climate change is becoming increasingly urgent, and urgent action is needed to mitigate its impact and adapt to its effects.

While progress has been made in some areas, the SDG Report highlights the need for urgent action and greater investment in sustainable development. Without significant progress towards the SDGs, the world risks exacerbating poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation, with serious consequences for future generations.

How can we achieve the SDGs?

Achieving the SDGs will require action and collaboration from governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and individuals around the world. Some of the key actions needed include:

  • Mobilizing resources and increasing investment in sustainable development, including through public-private partnerships.
  • Developing and implementing policies and strategies to address the root causes of poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.
  • Building resilient infrastructure and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change and other challenges.
  • Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth that benefits all people, including marginalized and vulnerable groups.
  • Fostering partnerships and collaborations between different stakeholders to leverage their strengths and resources.

Individuals can also play a role in achieving the SDGs, by making sustainable choices in their daily lives, advocating for change, and supporting organizations and initiatives that work towards sustainable development.

In addition, your career choices can have a significant impact on the achievement of the SDGs. For instance, working for a sustainable company or organization can help advance the SDGs by promoting sustainable practices and reducing negative impacts on the environment and society. By choosing a career path that aligns with the SDGs, individuals can contribute to creating a more sustainable future. Furthermore, sustainable companies and organizations often prioritize employee well-being, diversity, and inclusion, which can also help advance the SDGs. By working for such companies, individuals can contribute to the achievement of SDG 8, which promotes decent work and economic growth, as well as SDG 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls.

At Greendeed, we use the SDGs as a framework for job seekers to find a job at a sustainable company and for employers to target purpose-driven talent that matches their mission. Our platform allows job seekers to search for job opportunities that align with the SDGs, enabling them to contribute to the achievement of a more sustainable future. Employers can also use this framework to attract purpose-driven talent that shares their values and goals. By using the SDGs as a framework, we hope to create a community of individuals and organizations that are committed to making a positive impact on the world.

Browse for jobs at companies and organizations that support one or more SDGs or explore which SDGs you value the most.

Conclusion

The UN Sustainable Development Goals represent a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future for all people and the planet. While progress has been made towards achieving the goals, there is still a long way to go, and urgent action is needed to accelerate progress and address the many challenges facing the world today. By working together and taking bold action, we can build a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient world for future generations.

FAQs

  1. Who developed the UN Sustainable Development Goals?
    The Sustainable Development Goals were developed through a process of consultation and collaboration involving governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from around the world, and were adopted by the United Nations in 2015.
  2. How many goals are included in the SDGs?
    There are 17 goals in the SDGs, covering a wide range of areas from poverty and hunger to climate action and partnerships for the goals.
  3. What progress has been made towards achieving the SDGs?
    While progress has been made in some areas, the SDG Report highlights that progress has been uneven across goals and regions, and that urgent action is needed to accelerate progress towards the goals.
  4. What can individuals do to contribute to achieving the SDGs?
    Making sustainable career choices is another way that individuals can contribute to achieving the SDGs. By choosing a career path that aligns with the SDGs, individuals can make a significant impact in creating a more sustainable future. At GreenDeed, we use the SDGs as a framework for job seekers to find a job at a sustainable company, and for employers to target purpose-driven talent that matches their mission. So, if you're looking to make a career change and contribute to sustainable development, check out our job board!
  5. Why do the SDGs matter?
    The SDGs matter because they provide a shared vision for a sustainable and equitable future for all people and the planet, and can help to mobilize resources, guide policy, and hold governments and other stakeholders accountable for progress.
Article updated at: Thu Mar 16 2023

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