What are Sustainable Development Goals?
Sustainable Development Goals are a complex of 17 goals and 169 tasks which are set for the global community in order to eliminate poverty and inequality, achieve social integration, stop global climate change in the next 15 years and create the world which will have enough resources for our descendants to live a good life. The Goals represent a set of measures targeted at reaching balanced progress in the three major aspects of sustainable development: economic growth, social integration, and environmental protection. They have a global and universal nature, but at the same time, the implementation of SDGs may vary depending on the local context. On September 25, 2015, 193 the United Nations Member States announced their commitment to achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The new sustainable agenda is described in the document titled “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. It has summarized three years of work of international experts, the United Nations Member States Delegations, public associations, and the general public. The agenda is derived from the success of the Millennium Development Goals implementation, which were outlined in the “Millennium Declaration” in 2000 and determined the actions towards sustainable development in the last 15 years. See the full list of SDGs here http://sdgs.by/targets/
What does sustainable development mean?
Sustainable development is a concept of social and economic growth which implies satisfaction of the need of present generations without damaging the environment and reducing the opportunities of future generations to satisfy their own needs. The need for reassessing the concept of infinite economic growth and resources was first mentioned in a book “Limits to Growth” based on the data of the mathematical model World3. It was designed by the scientists of the MIT in 1972. On the basis of data on industrialization, environmental pollution, data on food, population and use of resources which had been gathered before 1970, a team of scientists has modelled 12 scenarios of the planet’s development. According to a “Normal” scenario, if our economic activity remains the same, the Earth will get short of resources by 2070. The later research that has been monitoring the changes for the last 40 years confirms the significant number of forecasts. Officially the term “Sustainable Development” had first appeared in 1987 in the report by UN Commission on Environment and Development “Our Common Future”. The report contains the key idea of sustainable development which is maintaining the intergenerational balance. The principles which we need to adhere in order to preserve the environment without the level of life being decreased were determined by the global society in 1992 at the UN International Conference on Environment and Development in Rio-de-Janeiro. These principles became the basis for the Millennium Development Goals first, and after that – for the “Agenda 2030”.
What’s the difference between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
8 Millennium development goals (described in the “Millennium Declaration”) were targeted at acting in developing countries only. Experts have tailored the Goals for the countries which are affected by poverty, absence of medical help and equal access to education the most. Sustainable Development Goals are relevant for all the countries of the world. MDGs were focused on overcoming poverty, maternal and child mortality, equal access to education, medicine and government. SDGs cover a wider range of issues including the elimination of inequality, the creation of proper workplaces, solving the problems of cities, fighting the climate change, moving towards steady consumption and production, providing peace and security. The list of MDGs was created by the UN Agencies’ groups of experts. Sustainable Development Goals were worked out after three years of intensive work of Open-Ended group which included not only representatives of international organizations but the representatives of private sector, city mayors and even ordinary citizens from around the world. The successful implementation of Millennium Development Goals allowed decreasing the level of poverty by 200%, as well as making the child mortality and the percentage of children who are not attending school twice lower. It became possible to prevent 15.6 million deaths from measles, 6.2 million deaths from malaria, 37 million deaths from tuberculosis. Achieving of MDGs has attracted a 66% larger funding of the partnership for sustainable development and has established the system of indicators that allowed to measure the progress of the countries in achieving the Goals. The success of MDGs and the knowledge drawn from the process of their implementation became a stimulus for developing SDGs – more ambitious spectrum of large-scale tasks which will allow development of our generation without harming the environment and the future generations.
How did ordinary citizens manage to participate in formation of SDGs?
In 2013, the United Nations held global research titled “My World” http://un.by/novosti-oon/v-belarusi/372-ru-11j which gathered over 7 million votes around the world. The poll was held both online and with the traditional sociologic methods. The participants were offered to choose 6 out of 16 problems, solving which would significantly improve their lives. About 75% of the participants were younger than 30 years old.
Why are there so many goals and tasks? Is it possible to reach such a big number of different goals?
Sustainable development goals are universal and global challenges that the humanity faces today. It’s impossible to reduce them to one simple formula or task, resolving which can fix everything. Moreover, SDGs suggest localization. At the national level, they can be adapted and provided with specific indicators to track the progress considering the actual state of the region.
It seems that SDGs are a global project with the governments being responsible for it. How does it concern me personally?
Every day we choose products and goods, order different services, work and participate in social and economic life of society. As consumers, we determine what businesses will prosper, and which will stop operations: choosing the responsible productions gives a signal to other businesses that it is their duty to be responsible to people and the planet. As voters, we can support the candidates which are determined to overcome the inequality and develop partnerships. Finally, as the inhabitants of the Earth, we can overlook our everyday habits to reduce the amount of waste around our cities and in the oceans, moderately consume water resources and electricity. The main contribution of every person in the world is awareness. Every person can contribute to SDGs achievement simply by choosing the responsible manufacturers, types of energy and fuel that do less harm and leading the eco-friendly lifestyle.
How can I start acting today?
You can start with changing simple everyday habits: save electricity and water, print fewer documents and files to preserve wood which is used for paper production. Find out which of the companies you’re buying from are operating responsibly. Try to support only those who understand their impact and work towards its reducing. Share the information about SDGs and useful local initiatives on your pages on social media. Read our Lazy guide on saving the world and choose the suitable ways to participate in achieving Global Goals.
How can businesses adopt SDGs?
Business impacts all tree aspects incorporated into SDGs significantly. By creating working places companies encourage the economic growth and the right for a proper job. By introducing equality policies companies can influence the gender balance in society and fight inequality. By carefully selecting responsible suppliers businesses can uplift the burden the humanity had placed upon the environment during the manufacturing process. Implementation of SDGs starts with overlooking the whole process of creating added value. Track down the origins of the raw materials. Are they friendly to the environment? Do they cause pollution? Are the workers compensated fairly? Check the logistics arrangement. See if you’re transporting with the minimum carbon emissions. See if the work with human and material resources is organized safely and responsibly. Estimate the ecological friendliness of your end product. Is it recyclable? Is it safe for the environment? At any of these points implementation of Sustainable development, principles can help to achieve the Global Goals. As you discover the spaces for improvement, be that inequality at the workplace or unsustainable resource management, choose the course for its correction, set the performance indicators, and start integrating them. You can find the step-by-step manual in the instruction on achieving SDGs in business “The SDG Compass”, developed by the Global Reporting Initiative, the participants of the UN Global Compact and World Business Council for Sustainable Development. You can download the manual by clicking the link. https://sdgcompass.org/download-guide/ The detailed instructions, tools and rating systems for measuring the progress are available at https://sdgcompass.org

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