Whops! The Sustainable Development Goals turned 5 (and we missed it)

UN Photo/Cia Pak

You know that feeling when you miss someone's birthday? That’s the feeling we got realizing that the SDGs turned five years old the other day.

As a company making it simple for everyone to support climate projects working to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals, September 28. should be an easy date to remember. Turns out it’s not.

Being late to the party, we thought a nice birthday gift would be to give the SDGs the introduction they deserve. So here goes.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as The Global Goals are a collection of 17 guidelines designed by the United Nations to be a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all".

The SDGs were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly with the intention to be achieved by the year 2030, which are part of a United Nations Resolution called the "2030 Agenda". Basically, it’s a 15-year plan for making the world better. 

The Sustainable Development Goals

The goals have been adopted by cities, companies, organizations, and individuals all around the world. Today it serves as one of society's most important guiding tools for positive and much-needed change.

Probably the most important three letters of our time

The SDG’s are not just some fancy words and fluffy ideas. They are a set of 17 scientific and concrete goals consisting of 169 targets and 247 indicators - all designed to drive measurable change and transform our world.

Each goal has a dedicated set of targets and indicators. The indicators are used to measure traction toward reaching the respective targets. This is a way of ensuring the creation of solid action steps, accountability and progress.

To put it simply, it’s the difference between saying “I want to be healthy” and saying, “I’m giving up on junk food, will start to exercise 20 minutes per day, and I will make a weekly note of my progress”.

Moving from guidelines to values

In 2020, human activities and consumption will exceed 60% of our planet's capacity. That’s the same as increasing your personal mortgage with more than half every single year - which is not exactly a long-term solution, is it? To keep a sustainable lifestyle we need to balance our consumption with not spending more than we have. Preferably, we should even save some for a rainy day. Same goes for our planet.

Five years into its lifespan, the Sustainable Development Goals has a huge potential of becoming a natural part of people’s everyday lives and doings. Thankfully, this is already starting to happen. Although we still have a long way to go, an increasing number of companies have started to openly acknowledge their environmental responsibilities and making it easier to make climate-friendly choices as consumers.

Some brands have even started using The Sustainable Development Goals as a compass when building their sustainability strategies. This is a good thing because it takes the SDGs from being a set of useful guidelines to become an important part of the core values of consumer brands all around the world.

At CHOOOSE, we cheer this positive development on by allowing our partners to select the type of climate projects they want to support from SDGs that are aligned with their values, strategies, and customer preferences. This enables our partners to measure their positive impact based on the realization of the SDGs they are supporting.

Let us back that up with an example.

One of the projects our partners have actively supported consists of distributing innovative cookstove technology in Rwanda. Not only does the project create measurable environmental benefits by reducing 58,315 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year (Goal 13: climate action), it also allowed households to save money by using less fuel (Goal 1: No poverty) while improving health conditions inside the home because of the reduction of indoor smoke (Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing).

The Dempsey Ridge Wind Project in Oklahoma, USA is another example. This is a zero-emission project which adds 66 wind turbines to the Southwest Power Pool (Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy, and Goal 9: Industry, innovation, and infrastructure), while creating an annual reduction of 312,658 tonnes of CO2 emissions (Goal 13: climate action).

We are 1/3 of the way – so where are we now?

Because the SDGs are based on targets and indicators, it's easy to follow the progress of each individual goal. Now that we're 1/3 of the way between 2015 and 2030, let’s take a look at how far along we have actually come.

According to Mr Ola Rosling, President and Co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, 35 of the 169 targets the SDGs consist of having sufficient data to track the factual progress.

After five years, the results show that 6 targets are on track, including child survival and internet connectivity. 24 targets are still moving too slow, like ending hunger.

Five targets are even going the wrong way, such as slum dwellings and biodiversity.

This shows that we have a massive task ahead of us for the SDG’s to be accomplished in only 10 years time. So, ladies and gentlemen - it’s time to buckle up and get to work.

(You can learn more about which targets are on track here.)

As an endnote, and just like every birthday, an occasion like this one can be used as an opportunity to reflect, grow and improve. Even though we aren’t 100% where we want to be yet, we can still celebrate the progress made so far and use it to fuel our continued effort to do better.

Do you have a favourite SDG goal? Tell us which one and why on our latest Instagram-post!


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