The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): A Framework For Responsible Investing

The problems we face as a planet, and species are global in scope and need a global response. By setting global goals like the SDG, we can promote sustainable development goals that help to ensure global progress. By working together toward a set of common goals, we can:

  • end extreme poverty
  • reverse climate change
  • build safe and affordable housing
  • promote and protect civil society

And this is just the beginning.

After all, isn’t this where responsible investing (and all of the related concerns I keep coming back to) takes a different approach? I choose to promote and encourage goals like those found in the SDGs because I choose to believe that a better world is possible – for all of us.

Since its creation in the aftermath of the Second World War and the arrival of the Cold War the United Nations (UN) has been premised on the idea that we’re all in this together.

However imperfect the UN has been, we have often turned to it to work out global solutions based on global cooperation.

These solutions have included the creation of International Peace Keeping forces and the introduction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The development and promotion of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals is just the latest example of that success.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are some of the most exciting and inspiring proposals introduced to fight for a safe and fair world. The United Nations SDG website introduces the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by telling us that:

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must 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 our oceans and forests.”


What are the Seventeen Goals in the SDG?

The 17 Sustainabel Development Goals

Let’s start by listing the 17 goals in the SDG:

  1. No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Good Health and Well-Being: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Climate action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Life below water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Life on land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Partnerships for the goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development

What else is included in the SDGs?

These seventeen goals cover a broad range of concerns. To achieve these goals, the plan also includes:

  • 169 targets
  • 3086 events
  • 1303 publications, and
  • 5474 actions

That leaves us with lots of things to talk about.

Each goal is worth reviewing and supporting. Every target offers us a real opportunity for hope. All of the events, publications, and actions indicate the progress we are collectively making on the SDGs.

What is the History of the SDGs?

On September 25th, 2015, the member states of the United Nations agreed to the SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit. The signatories agreed to an ambitious plan to reach these goals by 2030 – hence the 2030 Agenda.

The SDG was actually a follow-up to an earlier set of goals set out by the United Nations called the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

The SDGs Are a Continuation of the Millenium Development Goals

Adopted in 2000 at the beginning of the 21st century, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were made up of eight goals that look a lot like the SDGs. They were intended to run until 2015 – the point at which the SDGs were adopted as a follow-up. These goals are:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development

The Millennium Development Goals were made up of 21 targets. One big success for the MDGs was a decision in 2005 by the G8 finance ministers to cancel as much as $ 55 billion in debt owed by “heavily indebted poor countries.”

According to Wikipedia: “The heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) are a group of 39 developing countries with high levels of poverty and debt overhang which are eligible for special assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.”

And, of course, efforts like this did not start in 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals. Another document called the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development was produced in 1995, addressing many of the same issues. Maybe another post, later on, will need to look at some of the other historical efforts made to promote economic growth and environmental improvement throughout the developing world, especially the end of the Cold War.

Are We Achieving Anything with the SDGs?

Although we have often seen how even the best-laid plans can go astray, I’m impressed by the goals that are being achieved on the ground, helping ordinary people around the world. SDG Good Practices details the success stories of each of the SDGs. This report from December 2020 “is based on submissions received from Governments and other stakeholders through UN DESA’s (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) online SDG GoodPractices portal during the first open call (2018-2019)”.

DESA received over 700 submissions addressing every one of the seventeen goals. The report then went on to highlight sixteen SDG Good Practices that deserved special attention. It was heartwarming to see such meaningful progress.

Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals Within the Wider Movement for Climate Change

Many of the Good Practices listed in the report were related directly to climate change. One case study described a campaign in Yemen to provide employment and business opportunities for women and youth to develop solar micro-businesses. Another highlighted an international network of environmental NGOs (EKOenergy) working on financing renewable energy projects all over the world.

What Role Can SDGs Play in Understanding and Promoting Socially Responsible Investing?

Together, the SDGs neatly encapsulate the objectives of a socially responsible investment strategy and offer a framework for understanding and measuring environmental, social and governance investment goals.

Over the months ahead, I will look at these goals and targets in detail. I may not look at them in order and cannot promise to give them equal attention.

But there is plenty here to occupy our attention. I will start by pointing out that what you find here is simply my personal reflection on these lofty goals.

While lofty, these goals are achievable – essential even.

Enough already. I hope you enjoy this, but I don’t expect you to agree with everything I have to say. Or even any of it.

But if I can contribute to the conversation, then I will consider this endeavour a success.