SDGs: Moon-shot or Achievable?

A common dialogue surrounding sustainable development goals (SDGs) is promoting the use of clean and renewable energy. However, there are 17 SDGs and bringing affordable and clean energy is only one of them. While the world has made great progress in achieving this SDG, it seems to have lost momentum on other critical goals such as ending world hunger.   To better understand where the gaps are, I have made a simple table to showcase which of the SDGs are making headway and which of them are lagging. Each SDGs have a set number of targets assigned to them. Example – SDG 1: No Poverty has 7 targets and SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being has 13 targets. So, I have categorised the SDG progress as follows – 
  1. Green – Progress in majority of the SDG’s targets 
  2. Orange – Mix of SDG targets showing progress and decline  
  3. Red – Decline in majority of the SDG’s targets

Source – The progress highlighted in UN’s SDG Knowledge Platform website was used to form this table 

As you can see, only 4 of the SDGs have made a positive progress in the last 5 years. Whereas 9 of them have shown mixed results and 4 are signaling a declining trend. So, the question then is, why hasn’t significant progress been made on achieving the SDGs? It could be that countries aren’t making serious enough commitments. Private companies could be using SDGs as a global PR stunt, rather than make any meaningful strides to solve the problem.  Off the bat, it is not clear what the root cause of the issue is. But one thing is certain, we cannot continue business as usual. Well, we can, but that could mean not being able to achieve majority of the SDGs and risk causing irreversible damage to our planet. What do we do then? To start off with, if the SDGs are to succeed, it will depend on continued advocacy for each of its targets. Countries and companies will also need to start adopting meaningful and achievable short-term targets. This will allow us to be flexible and help in identifying roadblocks a lot quicker.   Finally, goals and targets can become meaningless if there are no consequences. But the question is, are companies going to wait for regulations to make them adopt SDGs or are they going to be proactive? By the same token, as private companies come under increased global pressure, what role will the trade associations play?