Blog#5 - UN Sustainable Development Goals – the global agenda to transform the planet by 2030

Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short, are a framework of 17 global goals which all United Nations members adopted as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future.

The SDGs were introduced in 2015 by a United Nations General Assembly resolution called the “2030 Agenda” and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030. The aim of the SDGs is to enable prosperity for future generations by overcoming global challenges such as poverty, injustice, and damage to the planet. All of the 17 goals are integrated and actions in one dimension can influence the outcomes in others. The 17 goals are a call to action to governments, companies, and people to work together to make this world peaceful, prosperous, and balanced for everyone.


A summary of the 17 SDGs and their underlying targets


The first goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and to implement strategies and social protection systems to reduce the level of poverty by at least half by 2030. Furthermore, those in poverty should have equal rights to economic opportunities.


Everyone on this planet should have access to nutritious food in a sufficient amount. This goal encourages countries to develop sustainable agriculture and eradicate malnutrition.


Good health is the right of every individual. Countries should work together to ensure universal access to healthcare, lengthen life expectancy, reduce maternal and child mortality, and control the spread of diseases such as Malaria and AIDS.


Everyone, regardless of who they are or where they live, should have access to quality education at all levels and for this to be affordable. SDG 4 also calls for universal literacy and numeracy.


The purpose of this goal is to end gender inequality. The target is to end all types of gender discrimination, especially against women, and to provide equal rights, opportunities and economic resources to everyone.


A large portion of the world population does not have clean drinking water and basic sanitation facilities. Countries are encouraged to reduce water pollution and improve drinking water quality by implementing water treatment systems.


Energy poverty should be eradicated by delivering universal access to modern affordable energy resources. This goal focuses on development and modernisation of energy infrastructure, particularly in the least developed nations.


SDG 8 calls for sustainable economic growth, a reduction in unemployment, and a decent work environment and salary for all. Furthermore, labour laws should be improved such as ending modern slavery, trafficking and child labour.


This goal focuses on the improvement of industrial infrastructure to strengthen economic conditions, especially in developing nations. The aim is to empower sustainable industries and upgrade the industrial sector through greater use of environmentally friendly technologies.


Over the centuries, the gap between different classes, ethnicities, races, and genders has widened. The emphasis for this goal is on the economic development of the poor and marginalized communities to achieve greater equality in society.


This goal calls for sustainable urban development that focuses on the creation of more affordable housing that takes the environment and basic human needs into account.


Sustainable consumption and the production of resources to reduce climate change and the impact of dangerous chemicals is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. All countries are asked to use resources effectively, reduce food waste, and manage environmental pollutants.


Climate change is one of the biggest threats that humankind is facing right now. SDG 13 focuses on two things: First, how to prepare for the climate changes already under way, and second, what steps need to be taken to prevent further adverse climate change.


Conserving and protecting marine life is essential for human survival. SDG 14 encourages nations to reduce water pollution and to take effective steps to protect and preserve marine and coastal ecosystems.


This goal aims to protect and restore territorial ecosystems by forest management, preserving natural habitats and ecosystems. Countries should act to sustain biodiversity, eliminate poaching, and prevent land degradation.


This wide-ranging goal calls for the development of peaceful, free, and just societies. The core objectives of this SDG are access to justice, elimination of corruption, ending of all types of violence, and the development of inclusive and accountable institutions.


The 2030 Agenda requires collective efforts and global partnership and cooperation. The success of the agenda relies on the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and technologies, as well as providing financial support, especially to the least developed nations.


The Decade of Action to achieve the goals

In 2015, world leaders pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Although the goals have gained global momentum, we are not progressing fast enough. In September 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared the Decade of Action in an attempt to accelerate efforts. Nations have been called on to recognise the importance of 17 SDGs and review their mechanism at a regional level, adopt adequate policy changes, and cooperate with each other to review progress. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a negative impact on progress as well. For example, as a result of the pandemic, inequality gaps have widened, violence against women has increased and the economic slowdown has had little impact on the climate change crises. Additional effort is now required to recover lost progress.


Where do actuaries fit into all of this?

To achieve these goals action is needed from governments, organisations, and people. These stakeholders will need to carefully consider the risks and opportunities arising from action or inaction. As financial professionals we can exert influence via the companies for which we work and the societies of which we are members. I believe that actuaries, in their roles in insurance, pensions, and investment can assist with many of the challenges faced by the 2030 Agenda, including good health and well-being, reduction in economic inequality, climate change, gender disparity, decent working conditions, and responsible consumption and production. For those willing to branch out into wider fields, the actuarial skillset could potentially assist across an even wider range of the 2030 Agenda.

For more information on SDGs and the progress being made, the SDG tracker is a remarkable resource of information with some fascinating data visualisations. For a more domestic view, one can see how Ireland is progressing towards each goal via the SDG Data Hub.


Barry Murphy

Barry is a member of the Society’s Sustainability and Climate Change Steering Group

Published November 2021


The views of this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Society of Actuaries in Ireland, the Sustainability and Climate Change Steering Group, or the author’s employer.