What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 goals set out by the UN (United Nations) and adopted by all United Nations member states.

“A blueprint to achieve a better more sustainable future for all”
(United Nations)

Working together for a better future


The Sustainable Development Goals are a plan of action, to target and resolve the challenges we’re facing on the planet. They are not just about the environment (as the word ‘sustainability’ can sometimes suggest), they encompass much more than that, with goals targeting issues such as gender equality, poverty and peace.


The goals were laid out at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in 2015. They are a global effort and each of the countries in the United Nations has committed to achieving the goals by the set year - 2030. Each year there is a follow up at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.


The purpose of the SDGs is to encompass the following topics seen as critical to humanity and the planet:

People: Aim to end hunger, poverty and equality in a healthy environment.

Planet: Improve the management of natural resources and protect the planet.

Prosperity: Ensuring we all have fulfilling lives and that developments are made in harmony with nature.

Peace: Societies that are free from fear and violence.

Partnership: Mobilizing the means to achieve the goals through a global partnership.

These are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

GOAL 1: No Poverty

Whilst extreme poverty has been decreasing on a global level, the progress has begun to slow down, which means the UN are concerned that we are not on track to reach this goal by 2030. The target is to hit less than 3% of the world living in extreme poverty. In 2018 8% of the world's workers still lived in extreme poverty. There is a need to scale services addressing this issue.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 1 No Poverty here

GOAL 2: Zero Hunger

Unfortunately, hunger is rising globally, with millions affected. There is a desperate need for further investment in the technology and infrastructure required to achieve the goal, which aims to allow food security and end hunger.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 2 Zero Hunger here.

GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being

This goal aims to better promote wellbeing and health amongst all age groups, and has seen some encouraging results in the past few years such as reducing child mortality and fighting against disease. However a great deal more work is needed to ensure better access to health care, with prevailing issues relating to pollution of the air, mental health and sanitation.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

GOAL 4: Quality Education

The fourth SDG addresses access to quality lifelong learning to all groups. We have made positive movement in the right direction, however there is still a lack of access for marginalized groups, women and girls. Developing countries are still missing vital infrastructures to provide learning.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 4 Quality Education.

GOAL 5: Gender Equality

The heart of the goal - empowering women and girls and gender equality, has seen a strong movement toward positive outcomes (such as the decrease of practising child marriage, genital mutilation and improved gender equality laws), much work is left to do though. Addressing discriminating social norms, low-level political involvement and other structural issues at play will be needed to reach this goal.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 5 Gender Equality here.

GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

Targeting sanitation, sustainable management of water and its availability to all, this goal is proving difficult to achieve, with the latest data suggesting that we would need to double the annual efforts. Billions are still lacking safe water.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation here.

GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

With this goal, aiming at giving access to reliable and sustainable energy sources to all, we have seen an increase in renewable energy usage – however, 800 million still do not have electricity and we require much greater ambitions and investments to achieve this goal, as well as the closely linked climate goal.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 7 here.

GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

This goal exists to underpin the efforts and progress toward achieving the other goals, emphasising sustainable and inclusive economic growth and employment. More importantly, the goal aims to ensure decent work, with safe environments, as well as eradicating gender pay gaps and increasing employment opportunities.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 8 here.

GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The ninth SDG, targets building solid infrastructures that encourage innovation and that are sustainable and inclusive – key drivers like transport and communication play a vital role here with the aim to support economic development through innovative solutions. Nonetheless, investment in this sector remains below the global average.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 9 here.

GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality

As the title suggests the goal is to reduce inequality, with particular focus on the disproportion of opportunities, income and power. An increasing share of income remains with the top 1% of earners causing concern for progress toward this goal, more work is required to increase zero-tariff exports for developing countries among other actions.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 10 here.

GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

With the aim to make human settlements safe, inclusive and sustainable, this goal addresses living situations such as slums, access to transport, clean air and waste collection to name just a few topics. But recent data suggests many urban areas are growing faster than the populations themselves, which will have consequences when it comes to sustainability.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 11 here.

GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

Over extraction of resources, degradation of natural resources, waste, and improving sustainability factors need to be considered and improved in order to achieve the responsible consumption and production goal. The realisation of this goal is far from encouraging – with material consumption expanding rapidly.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 12 here.

GOAL 13: Climate Action

The goal that often gets the most airtime, climate action, puts the spotlight on the increasing greenhouse emissions, climate change and the associated impact. Despite the media coverage, the situation is not rosy. Even with the Paris Agreement in place, suggesting a revitalized course toward achieving the goal, (signed back in 2016), drastic action is still required to mitigate greenhouse gases, in the form of finance, reforms and much more.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 13 here.

GOAL 14: Life Below Water

Specifically relating to life ‘under the sea’ this goal is focused on conserving and sustainably utilising our oceans, seas and marine resources. As it stands there are inadequate measures in place to do so, thus, overfishing, acidification from climate change and coastal eutrophication (the loading of unneeded ‘nutrients’ into the water by upstream activities, namely agriculture and other industries) continue to move us further away from this goal.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 14 here.

GOAL 15: Life on Land

With deforestation often making the news, land degradation like desertification (which occurs largely due to deforestation, drought or agriculture) continues, and loss of biodiversity has increased, alongside other concerning issues like wildlife poaching and animal extinction. So whilst protection of these vital areas of land has increased - many ecosystems are still suffering.

Read all the impact notes that impact SDG 15 here.

GOAL 16: Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions

This SDG focuses on building institutions that are inclusive, promoting peaceful societies that are able to be sustainably developed. This goal is yet to be achieved with great consistency, international homicide is on the rise, violence against children continues, so all efforts need to be accelerated to reach this critical goal.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 16 here.

GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

SDG 17 is all about how the goals will be achieved through partnerships, funding and initiatives. ODA (Official Development Assistance – the funds given to help achieve sustainable development) has actually decreased, with poor alignments to sustainable development coming from private investment, a lot of work will be required to mobilise the goals ambitions at the right level.

You can read all the impact notes that impact SDG 17 here.

Each of the goals has its own set of detailed targets to reach by 2030, 169 in total. You can find out more about the progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals in this report issued by the Secretary-General , it is also the source of some of the data we refer to in this blog.

How do we utilise the SDGs in our platform?

Impaakt uses the Sustainable Development Goals as our framework for measuring businesses' impact on the planet. With each impact note written, the writer chooses the SDG that will be impacted the most in that note. The culmination of the impact notes and the ratings they receive from the wider community, produce the company impact score. The end goal (pardon the pun) is that investors can use our impact scores to make more informed decisions on how they invest, and the wider public can use them to decide which companies they want to buy from or advocate for.

Investment has notoriously been focused on what revenues can be generated, rather than what good the investment can achieve.

“The exclusive pursuit of short-term profit is incompatible with the promise to realize sustainable and inclusive development for all people, everywhere, on a healthy planet.”

Quote from António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General in a report found here.

With our platform we are changing the way companies are measured, so whilst businesses can issue Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports on what practices they have in place, without a real, unbiased measure of their impact we remain in the dark somewhat about how their business impacts our progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

We hope this article has helped you understand more about the SDGs, if you feel like sharing it with others, you can use the social share buttons. And of course, if you want to learn more about us here at impaakt, check out our story or our how it works page.

The Impaakt Team