There are 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relative to 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The new-era SDGs include 169 targets relative to the 18 targets launched 15 years ago at the turn of the millennium.
The spot the difference game does not end there. The world has changed a lot in 15 years. Natural resources are under pressure; biodiversity levels are dwindling; carbon dioxide levels are heating up the planet; poverty persists; and while 1 billion go to bed hungry every night, another 1 billion suffer from obesity. And so accordingly, these new goals fuse the three pillars of sustainability: environment, society, and economy. The SDGs are also global in scope – unlike the focus of the MDGs, which were predominantly designed for the developing world.
Embodied in the SDG targets and goals is a reframing of thinking that is concerned with global public goods, not just nationally defined problems. This new thinking around public goods and global commons is encroaching into many aspects of planning: now even fossil fuel companies are bending to the necessity to build sustainability concerns into their business plans.
Triple-pronged sustainable planning is thought to have changed the face of philanthropy, with the rise and rise of the social enterprise model . More and more foundations fund ethical businesses that attempt to solve social and environmental problems . Rather than pour charitable donations into a cause better to help people help themselves and by extension help future generations.
The long, brutal, and ongoing Syrian conflict has resulted in what some have labelled the worst refugee crisis of our generation . To assist Syrian refugees the education company, Pearson wrote a £500,000 cheque. But Pearson soon realised that displaced Syrian children could be better equipped with education tools than hand-outs and so used their education expertise to design a learning programme for refugee children.
Pearson’s noble attempt to ‘Teach without Borders’ was greatly influenced by the SDGs. In many ways the SDGs are readily adaptable for businesses to tailor and integrate sustainability into their business plan . More and more organisations and businesses are incorporating societal and environmental issues to their economic needs. We are on a steady path to Green Growth.
UNDP administrator Helen Clark emphasized this relationship between sustainability and corporations. “[The SDG] requires very big partnerships, and the growth engine of the world economy is business,” she said. The SDGs have vast potential for improving the global business climate. By encouraging a “solid enabling environment”, she explained, they also provide the basis for corporate growth. Michael Meehan, CEO of the Global Reporting Initiative, agreed. “This is really about building trust not only in companies, but also in your markets, in your sectors and in the economy as a whole,” he said at the forum. “It’s about adapting strategies and business models to rise above the fray of short-termism,” he added.