Sustainable Development Goals

What Are the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals?

In September 2015, the U.N. General Assembly introduced their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda includes specific metrics to hit over the next fifteen years. Referred to as “a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity,” how, exactly, does this plan of action relate to sustainability?

What is the 2030 Agenda?

In 1983, the U.N.’s World Commission on Environment and Development’s Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Thirty-two years later, the U.N. adopted a new measure: “Transforming the World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” All 193 U.N. member states soon ratified and adopted the 2030 Agenda.

This detailed agenda includes 17 specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 target metrics to hit, and 232 indicators that will show when the goal is achieved.

The SDG Tracker was launched in June 2018 by the University of Oxford. Using official data from the U.N. and other international organizations, the tracker makes it easy for anyone to record global progress for these metrics.

What are the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are the overarching goals that the U.N. wishes to achieve between 2015 and 3030 as part of the 2030 Agenda.

Each goal is briefly summarized by a pithy phrase and includes specific targets and indicators that measure progress and compliance.

The 17 Sustainable Development 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 inequality
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace and justice strong institutions
  17. Partnerships to achieve the goal

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and Sustainability

The U.N’s SDGs span every aspect of the human experience. While many of them are intertwined, seven of the 17 SDGs directly relate to the environment.

As the 2030 Agenda states in its preamble, the U.N. is “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.”

These seven SDGs are specific goals that tie back to this commitment. Because Rubicon is passionate about protecting the planet and its resources, we’re going to dive into these seven sustainability-focused initiatives in more detail.

Goal #6: Clean water and sanitation

The U.N. defines goal #6 as ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

There are 11 indicator metrics and eight specific target goals within this SDG.

The eight specific water and sanitation target goals are:

  •       Safe and affordable drinking water for all
  •       Provide access to sanitation and hygiene for all
  •       Improve water quality, wastewater treatment, and safe refuse
  •       Increase water use efficiency and ensure freshwater supplies
  •       Implement integrated water resources management
  •       Protect and restore water-related ecosystems
  •       Expand water and sanitation support to developing countries
  •       Support local engagement in water and sanitation management

Get more information on goal #6, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #7: Affordable and clean energy

The U.N. defines goal #7 as ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

There are six indicator metrics and five specific target goals within this SDG. The five specific affordable and clean energy target goals are:

  •       Universal access to modern energy
  •       Increase the global percentage of renewable energy
  •       Double the improvement of energy efficiency
  •       Promote access, technology, and investments in clean energy
  •       Expand and upgrade energy services for developing countries

Get more information on goal #7, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #11: Sustainable cities and communities

The U.N. defines goal #11 as making cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

There are 15 indicator metrics and 10 specific target goals within this SDG. The 10 specific sustainable city and community target goals are:

  •       Safe and affordable housing
  •       Affordable and sustainable transport systems
  •       Inclusive and sustainable urbanization
  •       Protect the world’s cultural and natural heritage
  •       Reduce the adverse effects of natural disasters
  •       Reduce the environmental impacts of cities
  •       Provide access to safe and inclusive green and public spaces
  •       Strong national and regional development planning
  •       Implement policies for inclusion, resource efficiency, and disaster risk reduction
  •       Support the least developed countries in sustainable and resilient building

Get more information on goal #11, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #12: Responsible consumption & production

The U.N. defines goal #12 as ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns.

There are 13 indicator metrics and 11 specific target goals within this SDG. The 11 specific responsible consumption and production target goals are:

  •       Implement the 10-year sustainable consumption and production framework
  •       Sustainable management and use of natural resources
  •       Halve global per capita food waste
  •       Responsible management of chemicals and waste
  •       Substantially reduce waste generation
  •       Encourage companies to adopt sustainable practices and sustainability reporting
  •       Promote sustainable public procurement policies
  •       Promote universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles
  •       Support developing countries’ scientific and technological capacity for sustainable consumption and production
  •       Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable tourism
  •       Remove market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption

Get more information on goal #12, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #13: Climate action

The U.N. defines goal #13 as taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

There are eight indicator metrics and five specific target goals within this SDG. The five specific climate action target goals are:

  •       Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters
  •       Integrate climate change measures into policy and planning
  •       Build knowledge and capacity to meet climate change
  •       Implement the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
  •       Promote mechanisms to raise capacity for planning and management

Get more information on goal #13, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #14: Life below water

The U.N. defines goal #14 as conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas, and marine resources.

There are 10 indicator metrics and 10 specific target goals within this SDG.

The 10 specific life below water target goals are:

  •       Reduce marine pollution
  •       Protect and restore ecosystems
  •       Reduce ocean acidification
  •       Sustainable fishing
  •       Conserve coastal and marine areas
  •       End subsidies contributing to overfishing
  •       Increase the economic benefits from the sustainable use of marine resources
  •       Increase scientific knowledge, research, and technology for ocean health
  •       Support small scale fishers
  •       Implement and enforce international sea law

Get more information on goal #14, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Goal #15: Life on land

The U.N. defines goal #15 as sustainably managing forests, combating deforestation, halting and reverse land degradation, and halting biodiversity loss.

There are 14 indicator metrics and 12 specific target goals within this SDG. The 12 specific life on land target goals are:

  •       Conserve and restore terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems
  •       End deforestation and restore degraded forests and land
  •       Ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems
  •       Protect biodiversity and natural habitats
  •       Protect access to genetic resources and fair sharing of benefits
  •       Eliminate poaching and trafficking of protected species
  •       Prevent invasive alien species on land and in water ecosystems
  •       Integrate ecosystem and biodiversity in governmental planning
  •       Increase financial resources to conserve and sustainably use ecosystem and biodiversity
  •       Finance and incentivize sustainable forest management
  •       Combat global poaching and trafficking

Get more information on goal #15, its indicator metrics, and progress here.

Ready to do your part for the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda?

Whether you’re just starting out in business or you’re the Vice President of Sustainability for a large conglomerate, you can do your part to help the U.N. reach its Sustainable Development Goals.

Check out the rest of our blog to learn more about the history of sustainability, how your business can learn from zero waste influencers, and just how big a deal ocean pollution is. And if your business is ready to move toward sustainable waste and recycling management, contact our sales team at 844-479-1507.


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