Are the SDGs having any meaningful impact on business practices?

The sustainable development goals or SDGs are an interlinked group of goals that target sustainable improvement on a global scale. In total the UN set 17 goals to address a diverse range of global issues and challenges and describe the goals as “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”.

These 17 goals are underpinned by 169 targets which will need to be met in order to achieve the goals. Examples of SDG’s include reducing poverty, taking climate action, and improving clean water and sanitation across the globe. These goals were set in 2015 and were intended to be achieved by 2030.

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The landscape 7 years on

A recent study conducted by BSI found that only 18% of decision makers in SMEs were aware of the SDG’s. This statistic increases in large businesses (250 employees and more) with around 50% of decision makers being aware of the SDG’s. The survey was completed by businesses in a multitude of industries, the industry found to be most conscious of the SDG’s was the manufacturing industry.

The low level of awareness discussed above is reflected in environmental target setting with the survey also finding that 40% of organisations have set no numerical or time bound sustainability targets. Along with low levels of engagement with the goals from businesses an article published in Nature Sustainability found that the government has made little change to policy and legislation to achieve the goals. It is therefore not surprising that many SMEs and large businesses are unaware of the goals. This bids the question, what progress has been made?

Progress as we approach the halfway mark.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe or UNECE published the 2022 SDG progress report in March 2022. This found we are currently on track to achieve only 26 of the 169 underpinning SDG targets. The 2022 SDG progress report also showed that progress is regressing with 15 targets moving in the wrong direction (an increase of 6 targets from 2021). Furthermore, 64 targets require accelerated progress in order to be achieved by 2030 (and increase of 7 targets from 2021). However, an arguably more worrying statistic is “40% of the 169 targets cannot be adequately measured by official statistics”. This concerning statistic is a significant barrier to achieving the goals and is something that will have to be remedied urgently if we are to achieve the goals by 2030. As a result of these factors some estimates suggest some of the goals won’t actually be fully delivered until the 2090’s.

The SDGs are known as 17 goals to transform our world, therefore, if as a business you wish to look at how you take action to support some of these goals, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is your solution. ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance and these three broad areas can provide a range of targets for a business to meet in order to improve its sustainability and lower its risk level across various factors, which can include aspects like inclusion and diversity, climate change, human rights and more.

To find out more about our ESG service, email our solutions team on or call 01756 794 951.