Sustainable Development Goals, part 1: what is the United Nations doing to achieve sustainability?

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In September 2015, over 150 global leaders met at the United Nations headquarters to define the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their sub-targets are at its heart. In a couple of articles, we want to focus on this topic, explaining what SDGs are and how they could be employed in the fashion industry.

What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was signed by the 193 countries of the United Nations and contains 17 SDGs, which have 169 sub-targets that should be achieved by the year set by the organization. SDGs include a series of founding topics for global development and concern all the countries and the people: no one should be excluded or left behind in this transition towards sustainabilitySDGs are also an urgent call to action for all developed and developing countries to collaborate globally. They acknowledge that strategies to end poverty, hunger, and other disequalities must be implemented with measures to improve health and education systems and foster economic growth while mitigating climate change and preserving oceans and forests.

No poverty

836 million people live in extreme poverty. About a fifth of the population of developing countries, located mainly in Africa and Asia, lives on less than 1.25 dollars per day. Achieving the no poverty goal is necessary to foster sustainable and inclusive economic growth and promote equality.

Zero hunger

Approximately 795 million people suffer from malnutrition, but one-third of the food globally produced is thrown away. Now it is time to go for zero hunger, reinventing how food is produced, supplied, and consumed.

Good health and well-being

Vaccines have drastically reduced the danger level of many diseases: the deaths caused by measles, for instance, decreased by 80% between 2000 and 2017. Despite the significant progress made in this area, several other efforts are needed to eradicate various diseases and guarantee good health and well-being to as many people as possible.

Quality education

Quality education is the foundation of sustainable development. 103 billion children and teenagers cannot read and write, and over 60% of them are girls. An equal number of girls and boys currently have access to elementary schools worldwide, but only in a few countries, a similar result is reached in all grades.

Gender equality

The world is not set to achieve gender equality by 2030. A third of women have suffered from physical and/or sexual violence, and the 2020 pandemic has mainly affected the female gender with job and education loss, more unpaid care work, and increased domestic violence. Gender equality is a fundamental human right and is essential to create a peaceful and prosperous world.

Clean water and sanitation

Water shortage concerns more than 40% of the global population, and an increase in this percentage is expected. 2.4 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Everyone should, however, have the possibility to benefit from adequate clean water and sanitation.

Affordable and clean energy

3 billion people do not own appropriate fuels and technologies to cook and head up. Affordable and clean energy is pivotal to sustainable development, and, in the long term, the aim is to produce it using a low quantity of carbon.

Decent work and economic growth

20% of young people do not study or work. 470 million jobs are estimated to be needed between 2016 and 2030 to satisfy the demand of those entering the market. It will be fundamental to create the right conditions for supplying decent work positions to everyone to achieve the desired economic growth.

Industry, innovation, and infrastructure

Improving industry, innovation, and infrastructure is necessary to allow the economic development of those countries having a shortage of roads, water, sanitation, and electricity. In many African areas, infrastructure scarcity restricts productivity by about 40%.

Reduced inequalities

40% of the poorest people earn only 25% of the global income. It will hence be essential to get to reduced inequalities and focus on the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals to guarantee the best economic growth.

Sustainable cities and communities

United Nations estimates that by 2050 two-thirds of the population will live in urban areas. Cities take up only 3% of the land but use between 60% and 80% of the total energy and issue 75% carbon. Building sustainable cities and communities will then be fundamental to guaranteeing everyone's access to primary services and a decent lifestyle.

Responsible consumption and production

Responsible consumption and production models should be adopted as soon as possible: 9.6 billion people are estimated to live on Earth by 2050, and three planets would then be needed to support the current lifestyle.

Climate action

Climate action is pivotal to sustainable development. CO2 emissions have indeed increased by 50% since 1990. Between 1981 and 2000, corn, wheat, and other crop production decreased by 40 million tons yearly, and between 1901 and 2010, the average sea level raised by 19 centimeters. 99% of the urban population breathes polluted air.

Life below water

Accurate marine and coastal biodiversity management is essential for sustainable development since 3 billion people build their sustenance on this resource. Moreover, life below water means 200,000 identified species, which could actually be even millions, and oceans absorb about 30% of the CO2 issued by humans, reducing global warming effects.

Life on land

More than 80% of all land animals, insects, and plants live in forests, and the sustenance of 1.6 billion people depends on them. Therefore, it is important to preserve life on land, stopping desertification and soil erosion, as well as the consequent loss of biodiversity.

Peace, justice, and strong institutions

Corruption, extortion, theft, and tax evasion cost developing countries about 1.26 billion dollars a year. Therefore, promoting peace, justice, and strong institutions is essential to create an inclusive society and help achieve all previous goals.

Partnerships for the goals

For the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to be successful, the governments, the private sector, and the entire civil society must work towards partnerships for the goals, built on a shared vision centered on people and the planet.

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