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What are the UN SDGs, and why do they matter?

What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
A brief overview of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and how they can guide your company’s social impact strategy.

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — also known as the UN SDGs — are the cornerstone of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an urgent call for action by all member countries to promote prosperity for people and protect the environment. The Agenda was created in 2015 (and implemented on January 1, 2016) to serve as a roadmap for global partnership for the next 15 years.

In short, the UN SDGs are a shared blueprint for peace and the planet now and in the future.

The UN SDGs recognize that ending societal deprivations such as poverty and food insecurity go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth — all while tackling climate change and working to preserve waterways, oceans, and natural spaces. Meaningful societal change cannot occur in a silo.

The 17 UN SDGs include:

  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

  • Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture

  • Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages

  • Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities

  • Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls

  • Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation

  • Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy solutions

  • Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work

  • Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive, and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

  • Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries

  • Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

  • Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

  • Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development

  • Goal 15: Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

  • Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels

  • Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Why the UN SDGs matter to your CSR strategy

Aligning your corporate social responsibility strategy with the UN SDGs is beneficial for several reasons.

Integrally, the UN SDGs are broad. They are designed to be implemented by multiple institutional entities, including governments, private sector companies, individuals, trade groups, nonprofit organizations, and more.

While public establishments have a responsibility to actualize the UN SDGs, they cannot do it alone. Corporations are tantamount to the success of the SDGs, too.

Aligning your social impact strategy with SDGs

The SDGs can also provide a framework for your company’s initiatives and mission.

By aligning your CSR program with several “hero” SDGs, you can focus your organization's impact efforts, motivate your employees, and effectively track your progress overtime.

Many corporations choose 3 to 5 UN SDGs that align with their business values and core work. For example, if a multinational food company commits to mitigating food insecurity (SDG #2) and improving health and well-being (SDG #3), they could plan their social impact strategies around these goals. An activity such as stocking shelves at a food bank could support SDG #2; participating in a group meditation class could support SDG #3.

Incorporating SDGs into a CSR strategy guides the social impact experiences you choose to participate in, and communicates to your employees and stakeholders how you put your values into action. Your contribution to one, several, or all of the UN SDGs can help your company be an agent for a better future.

Every social impact experience supports at least one UN SDG, which is indicated on each experience page.

Reach out to the team if you’d like to learn more about supporting the SDGs.


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