Everything you need to know about SDGs

4 December, 2019

What are the SDGs?

In 2015, more than 200 Heads of State and Government met at the Summit on Sustainable Development, at which they adopted Agenda 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are part of this agenda and represent an urgent call to action by all countries—developed and developing—to achieve a sustainable world by 2030.

These goals recognise the need to end poverty and implement measures to improve health and education, reduce inequality and stimulate economic growth, while addressing climate change and working to conserve our oceans and forests.

What are the 17 SDGs?

No Poverty
End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
Zero hunger
End hunger, achieve food security and better nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Good health and well-being
Ensuring a healthy life and promoting well-being for all, at any age.
Quality education
Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Gender equality
Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
Clean water and sanitation
Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.
Affordable and clean energy
Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy worldwide.
Decent work and economic growth
Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
Industries, innovation and Infrastructure.
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.
Reducing inequalities
Reduce inequalitities 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.
Life below water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Life on land
Protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
Peace, justice and strong institutions
Promote just, 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 revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development.

Who promotes them?

This programme was adopted by the Member States of the United Nations in 2015. Specifically, 193 countries signed and committed themselves to meeting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. As we have commented before, this commitment covers first level issues such as the fight for a planet without poverty or hunger, with health, quality education, gender equality, water, energy, decent work, without inequality, actions for the climate, peace, justice and robust institutions, underwater life and responsible consumption.

Who can contribute to the achievement of these sustainable development goals?

To achieve these goals, everyone has to play their part: from governments and private sector, to civil society and individuals. In the latter case, the UN invites citizens to take part by starting by “talking to everyone about the need to meet these objectives”. It also suggests different actions that we can all adopt in our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprint.

For example, it calls on people to avoid unnecessary spending on electricity by turning off unused appliances, to “speak out demanding that the authorities participate in initiatives that harm neither people nor the planet” or to “express their support for the Paris Agreement and ask their country to ratify or sign it if it has not already done so”.

All these measures, and many more, are compiled in an original document that they have entitled “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”.

What role do companies play?

Companies can undertake to  comply with the SDGs in three different ways.

On the one hand, by developing philanthropic actions not necessarily related to the company’s activity, as a means of contributing to better social and environmental conditions.

They can also be involved by implementing initiatives linked to the business, in order to reduce or eliminate its negative impact and enhance only the positive effects in respect of their stakeholders.

Finally, they can promote the creation of innovative products and services to contribute to achieving the goals set by the SDGs and, at the same time, generate new business opportunities.

How can countries contribute?

Most of the 17 SDGs are set for 2030, but there are some more urgent targets that are intended to be achieved by 2020. The commitment is a shared and global one, extending to all countries, regardless of their stage of development. Each nation will be responsible for setting its priorities based on its situation.

Are they fulfilling their commitments?

There is a ranking of countries that indicates how close they are to meeting the goals set by the UN SDGs. This index, created by the non-profit organisation, Bertelsmann Stiftung, and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, measures the performance of 149 countries and compares their progress against a baseline measurement taken in 2015.

You can view this ranking in the Sustainable Development Report 2019 (SDG Index).

How is Spain doing?

According to the latest update of the SDG Index (June 2019), Spain ranks 21st out of 162 countries. For its part, the SDG Trends Panel notes that the Spanish trend is very positive, it does not detect non-compliance and it highlights Spain in 12 goals in which it has made efforts to improve.

In the 2018 SDG Index, Spain improved in 8 of the 16 objectives analysed, although its progress is unchanged in the fulfilment of four SDGs: 10 (Reduced inequalities), 13 (Climate action), 15 (Life on land) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals).