The Sustainable Development Goals are a map of future opportunity and wellbeing. It’s that simple.
Since 2015, critics have fretted that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) and their 169 action-specific targets are “too complex”, “unwieldy”, or “hard to keep track of”. But three critical insights can help to correct that perception:
The SDGs are a map of future opportunity and wellbeing.
193 nations agreed to implement all of them—within their borders, at all levels, and through international cooperation. That they apply to everyone makes their complex interactions a virtue.
Real progress on all 17 SDGs will create far better conditions for generalized human security and prosperity; lagging on one or more can affect opportunity across whole economies.
The collaborative effort to free humanity from suffering and deprivation—to open access to well-rounded lifelong education, to build peaceful and prosperous societies around an inclusive and resilient middle-class, reinforced by open civics—requires that we make serious progress on all 17 of these Global Goals, at all levels. This is everyone’s work, everyone’s responsibility, and markets and industries will adjust to this mandate—either with high or low intelligence.
The smarter a given policy or enterprise is, about the value of interactions between the SDGs, the better prepared it will be to thrive in the 21st century.
In the everyday sustainable economy, enhancement of value in one area supports an expansion of value in others. For example:
Progress on Sustainable Cities (11) and Innovation and Infrastructure (9) improves human health (3), enhances food security (2), creates more inclusive economic opportunity (8), and reduces poverty (1) and inequality (10).
Sustainable Quality Education (4) supports improved gender equality (5), while reducing poverty (1), hunger (2), and insecurity (16), and creating conditions for better health (3), better work prospects (8), reduced inequalities (10), and smarter, less destructive industrial practices (11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
Improved Gender Equality is shown to reduce risk of conflict and injustice (16), reduce poverty (1) and hunger (2), and lead to more sustainable communities (11), as well as cleaner (6) and healthier (3) societies.
All of these listed here are further enhanced by progress toward Sustainable Energy for All (7), which allows children to study (4), cooking to be clean (3), cold chains to support food security (2), and more reliable management of water and sanitation (6), while also directly serving as climate action (13).
Future investment opportunity will be shaped by this logic of interactive, inclusive progress and prosperity. Advancing the SDGs is a way to ensure one's work will have enduring value—for enterprise, finance, society, and for our survival. We need the complex, interacting dynamics of work toward all 17 Goals to support everyone's success... or complex, interacting crises will make success more difficult for everyone.
Future opportunity and wellbeing depend on whether we meet this challenge.
It’s that simple.