In 2015, the United Nations released the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of goals within a dynamic framework that works to reduce the issues facing the globe through a transformation that is to be achieved by 2030 (United Nations 2021). This framework and set of goals allow businesses and governments to align their priorities and actions towards improving upon metrics within 17 goal categories. The SDGs provide clear and actionable areas that governments can focus on and reports that score cities on their actions (United Nations 2019). The World Benchmarking Alliance also ranks businesses in the private sector on efforts and performance on the SDGs as well (World Benchmarking Alliance 2021). Governments and businesses can validate their progress through these reports and work to strengthen their operational integration of these strategies by incorporating this framework into their annual reporting. With visibility into how governments and businesses are performing towards the goals, citizens can not only help achieve these goals by small daily actions but also by supporting businesses that are making progress on these topics and participating in their local governments’ actions by holding elected leadership accountable for progress towards these goals as well.
The Nexus of Education and Poverty with Sustainability
Poverty and population growth are key drivers of future growth and resource needs (Hart 2010, 89). All efforts at minimizing waste and consumption are amplified by the billions of people in poverty around the world. With more than half of the world being in poverty and with unmet needs, sustainable systems and solutions will be needed to reduce suffering and further environmental impacts. Contaminated drinking water and polluting energy sources cause millions of deaths a year and represent the direct connections sustainability and poverty have for shared solution needs (Hart 2010, 57).
Education is an important element in allowing people to escape poverty, however, hundreds of millions of children globally are not in school with even more unable to access quality education (United Nations 2021). Education allows people to not only improve their socioeconomic position, but it enables the population to improve their communities towards other SDGs like clean water and sanitation, gender equality, reduced inequalities, and clean energy to name a few. Poverty and education are critical components that are both important categories as well as intertwined drivers for all of the SDGs.
Energy’s Role in World Transformation
Another critical category and integrated element of global sustainable development is energy. The global demand for reliable and affordable energy has created an energy system that generates large amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. These pollutants directly impact SDGs by reducing health, water, air, and land quality, and leading to global inequities, irresponsible resource consumption, and climate change. Actions towards developing clean and affordable energy (SDG 7) is a critical element that ties to most of the other SDGs directly, and creates indirect impacts to all the other SDGs too. Cleaning our energy system and tackling climate change will be the critical tasks for all of humanity in the next few decades. Inaction on these topics will only limit any progress made on the other SDGs.
Understanding the challenges faced globally, and the strategies to overcome them, is the first step in making progress to a more sustainable world. Implementing those strategies and actions will be much more difficult and will require a concerted effort from businesses, governments, and citizens to achieve these goals (Hart 2010, 105). Citizens will need to demand action from their political leaders and vote with their dollars by supporting businesses focused on sustainable value creation to help drive some of these fundamental changes from the ground up. If businesses and governments begin to consider more stakeholder views and unmet needs of the majority, greater innovation and growth towards sustainable goals can be achieved to help solve these major global issues (Hart 2010, 88-105).
Author: Logan Callen
Hart, Stuart L. 2010. Capitalism at the Crossroads. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
United Nations. 2021. “17 Goals to Transform Our World.” United Nations. Accessed September 22, 2021. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/.
—. 2021. “Quality Education.” United Nations. Accessed September 28, 2021. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/education/.
—. 2019. “Sustainable Development Report 2019: Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.” Sustainable Development Solutions Network. June. Accessed September 20, 2021. https://s3.amazonaws.com/sustainabledevelopment.report/2019/2019_sustainable_development_report.pdf.
World Benchmarking Alliance. 2021. “Benchmarking for a Better World.” World Benchmarking Alliance. Accessed September 28, 2021. https://www.worldbenchmarkingalliance.org/.