Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 101


SDGs stand for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which were adopted in 2015 and are key to the world achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity.

The SDGs build on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and address issues that need to be solved, such as poverty (SDG1) and hunger (SDG2), or improved, such as education (SDG4). It’s a call to action for every single country on the planet to focus their work on the goals which will make the world a better place.

SDGs poster

All told, there are 17 SDGs and each of them have many targets to achieve by 2030 at the latest. This sounds like a lot, but that just means there’s a lot of work to do. Every SDG comes with its own facts, figures, and targets so we’ve decided to pick out the most important things for each SDG to give you a broad overview.

1. No Poverty

End Poverty in all its forms everywhere. It’s the 1st because it’s the most important. While poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, there are still around 783 million people who live under the international poverty line of US $1.90 a day.

2. Zero Hunger

1 in 9 people in the world (815 million people) are undernourished. Most live in developing countries. Poor nutrition causes almost half of all deaths of children under the age of 5. So how do we go about tackling this? We need to reevaluate how we grow, distribute, and consume food.

3. Good Health and Well-Being

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. One of the main goals of this SDG is to reduce maternal mortality to less than 70 deaths per 100,000 live births. Another is to reduce premature deaths caused by incommunicable diseases by 1/3. This goal spans the fields of healthcare, hygiene and sanitation, and education.

4. Quality Education

Over 265 million children are currently out of school. 22% are primary school age. So one of the main goals of SDG4 is to ensure that all children receive free quality primary and secondary education.

5. Gender Equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. While progress has been made in recent years, women and girls still suffer from discrimination and violence in every part of the world. Main targets are ending discrimination and violence against women, ensuring equal opportunities in political, economic, and public life, and the recognition of unpaid domestic work.

6. Clean Water and Sanitation

Ensure access to water and sanitation for all. 3 in 10 people in the world lack access to safely managed drinking water and 6 in 10 people lack access to safely managed sanitation facilities. While solving these issues are a must, another target focuses on water-use efficiency across all sectors which is critical to this SDG.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. 13% of the global population still lacks access to modern electricity. The goal is to get them onto the grid in an affordable, responsible, and sustainable way while giving everyone access to clean energy.

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. While the global unemployment rate has gone down, it’s not ensuring a path out of poverty for people in many places. Decent work opportunities continue to be lacking. The goal is to get people quality jobs that stimulate the economy in an environmentally friendly way.

9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. The goal is to grow productivity and incomes which in turn will improve health and education. But, none of it is possible without good infrastructure in sectors such as transportation, communications, irrigation, and energy.

10. Reduced Inequalities

Reduce inequality within countries and between countries. As much as there’s been a particular focus on economic growth in other SDGs, it’s not enough to reduce poverty if all the wealth goes to a few people. So the main goal is to grow the incomes of the bottom 40% at a rate that’s higher than the national average.

11. Sustainable Cities and Communities

Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Everyone is moving to a city and it’s projected 5 billion people will be living in a city by 2030 with most of the urban expansion happening in developing countries. With so many people piling into such small areas, this creates problems such as congestion, lots of waste, housing shortages, and pollution. Rapid urbanization is happening as we speak and it’ll require a lot of work to ensure that it’s done right while allowing cities to continue to thrive.

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. While many of the other SDGs might seem to be outside your sphere of influence, this SDG is something that you can tackle yourself. If you’re not a producer, you’re definitely a consumer because we all are. Start by reducing food waste and sorting your trash.

13. Climate Action

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. It’s all about climate change and the goal is to get all countries to implement and act on climate change policies.

14. Life Below Water

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. The oceans are being destroyed so the goal is to reduce pollution, manage and protect marine ecosystems, and end overfishing. Over 3 billion people rely on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood and as their primary source of protein.

15. Life on Land

Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss. We’re also destroying our land so it’s all about conservation, restoration, and the sustainable management and use of land and forests.

16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies. Violence, human trafficking, corruption, bribery, tax evasion, and theft affect societies and communities everywhere. Strong institutions are needed to fight against these crimes to build more peaceful and inclusive societies.

17. Partnerships for the Goals

Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development. We all need to work together if any of this is going to work. This means partnerships between governments, the private sector, and civil society.


We hope this overview was helpful! You can dive deeper into each goal by visiting the United Nation’s website here.