Officially coming into force on 1 January 2016, the 17 UN SDGs can justifiably be described as the most significant set of shared goals the world has ever seen. Forming the framework of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, they aim to build on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but are more comprehensive, wide-ranging and ambitious. Here just-food outlines the goals and which are most relevant to food companies.

UN SDG 1    End poverty in all its forms everywhere

UN SDG 2    End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

UN SDG 3    Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

UN SDG 4    Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

UN SDG 5    Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

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UN SDG 6    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

UN SDG 7    Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

UN SDG 8    Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

UN SDG 9    Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

UN SDG 10    Reduce inequality within and among countries

UN SDG 11    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

UN SDG 12    Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

UN SDG 13    Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

UN SDG 14    Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

UN SDG 15    Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

UN SDG 16    Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

UN SDG 17    Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) were officially adopted by the UN in September 2015 and came into force on 1 January 2016.

Following on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which ran from 2000 to 2015, the UN SDGs form the framework of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and take the UN’s development agenda to a new level. Also called the Global Goals, the UN SDG programme includes aims to end all forms of poverty and hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture, tackle climate change, and ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages.

For food companies, UN SDG 2 is extremely significant as it covers hunger, food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture. Other goals with particular relevance for the food sector are UN SDG 3 to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being”; UN SDG 6 which covers access to water and sanitation; UN SDG 12 to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”; and UN SDGs 13, 14, 15 which respectively cover tackling climate change, protecting oceans and marine resources and promoting sustainable forest management and the defence of ecosystems and biodiversity.

The SDGs differ from the MDGs in a number of important respects. They apply to all countries whereas the MDGs had only applied to developing countries. Also, they combine development challenges around poverty and hunger with the aim of promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Progress towards the Global Goals will be underpinned by a strong emphasis on partnerships. Such is the importance attached to the role partnerships will play in meeting the 2030 goals that this is itself enshrined as one of the goals, UN SDG 17, to “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development”.

With strong emphasis also being placed on private sector engagement in pursuit of the goals, it is expected the UN SDGs will be a catalyst for more cross-stakeholder partnership and collaboration.

Progress towards the 17 goals and 169 separate targets will be monitored by reference to some 232 global indicators developed by the UN’s Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEA-SDGs). National governments will also develop separate country indicators. Detailed progress reports will be published on an annual basis.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017, published in July, concluded that while progress had been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress is currently not sufficient for the goals to be fully achieved by 2030.

In-depth analysis – Why are food companies aligning with UN Sustainable Development Goals?