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Reports 16 Mar 2017

Evaluating Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals

A GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey

By Aiste Brackley and Mark Lee

Three decades following the publication of the Brundtland Commission’s Our Common Future, sustainability practitioners remain alarmed about the lack of progress the international community has made on sustainable development.

While this is hardly surprising, the time is right to ask where specifically we are failing, who is accountable, and where the key opportunities are.

For this iteration of The GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey (GSS), we chose to focus on the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or the Global Goals). These goals were agreed by the United Nations member states together with civil society and business in 2015, and set forth the agenda until 2030. These goals are new, and progress was expected to be limited.

“We asked more than 500 experienced sustainability professionals to evaluate the progress that has been made on each Global Goal.”

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We asked more than 500 experienced sustainability professionals to evaluate the progress that has been made on each Global Goal, rank their relative urgency and also share insights into the priorities within their own organizations. We also wanted to know how companies specifically are responding to the SDGs and where they see opportunities for the greatest impact.

Polled experts unanimously agree that, so far, society’s progress on sustainable development more broadly and the SDGs specifically has been poor. Reduced Inequalities, Life Under Water and No Poverty were singled out by respondents as the areas where society’s level of achievement has been lagging the most.

Not surprisingly, these are also the areas, along with Climate Action, Quality Education, and Responsible Consumption and Production, that are seen as being most vital to overall progress on sustainable development. Non-governmental organizations, social entrepreneurs and the United Nations are seen as doing the most to advance the goals, in contrast to national governments and the private sector.

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