What are the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations?

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The United Nations General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. What are they, and does veganism play a part?

The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly member states in September 2015 are aimed to be achieved by 2030. Also called Global Girls, these are now part of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which is officially a United Nations Resolution.

Within the 17 Sustainable Development Goals laid out by the United Nations, there are 169 smaller targets as well as 5,285 actions laid out.

Goal 1: No poverty

The first Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations is to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere. The UN hopes to eradicate world poverty by 2030, but its latest progress report has projected that that goal will be missed with the current pace.

Goal 2: Zero hunger

The next goal is to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. As part of this goal, the UN aims to ensure access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round to all people, and double the agricultural productivity and income of small-scale farmers.

Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing

The third goal is to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all people of all ages. By 2030, the UN wants to reduce the global mortality rate to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, strengthen the prevention and treatment of narcotics abuse, achieve universal healthcare, and end epidemics like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Goal 4: Quality education

The fourth Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, as well as promote lifelong learning opportunities for all populations. The UN aims to provide all boys and girls complete and quality education, eliminate gender disparities, and achieve literacy in all youth and a substantial number of adults.

Goal 5: Gender equality

The fifth goal is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The General Assembly hopes to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare, and enforceable legislation to promote gender equality and female empowerment.

Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation

Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation is next on the agenda for sustainable development. This includes equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water, improving water quality, protect water-related ecosystems, and adequate access to sanitation and hygiene.

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

To secure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy globally is the seventh Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations. The targets outlined include doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement and increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

veganism and the sustainable development goalsGoal 8: Decent work and economic growth

The next goal is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. This includes reducing unemployment and achieving full and productive employment as well as protecting labour rights and promoting safe working environments.

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure

The next goal is to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation. The UN aims to increase financial access for small-scale enterprises, upgrade technological capabilities and provide Internet access in the least developed countries.

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities

By reducing inequality within and among all countries, the UN hopes to empower social, economic and political inclusion of all, ensure equal opportunities, and facilitate safe and responsible migration and mobility.

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

As part of its eleventh goal, the UN wants to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. That includes safe and affordable housing and transportation, reducing the environmental impact of cities, and inclusive access to green spaces.

Find out what the 6 Rs of sustainability stand for.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

The next goal is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Through this, the UN intends to achieve the efficient use of natural resources, reduce waste, and get companies to adopt sustainable practices.

Goal 13: Climate action

Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts is the next Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations. This means integrating climate change measures into national policies, improving education and awareness, and strengthening the adaptive capacity to combat climate-related hazards.

Goal 14: Life below water

The member states also agreed to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development as part of the 2030 agenda. This includes reducing marine pollution by 2025 and enhancing the conservation of ocean resources.

Goal 15: Life on land

As part of its land life commitment, the UN aims to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

The UN hopes to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels by reducing all forms of violence, providing legal identity to all and enforcing non-discriminatory laws.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

The final Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations is to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development. This includes strengthening domestic resource mobilisation and respecting individual countries’ policy spaces.

Are veganism and the Sustainable Development Goals connected?

While there is no mention of veganism or plant-based diets in the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations does recommend flexitarianism — which it defines as “flexible or part-time vegetarianism” — or at least a significant reduction of meat consumption to the healthy levels recommended by credible medical authorities.

This is a result of its recognition of Western diets being responsible for the rapid deterioration of ecological and human health, and encouraging ever-increasing production and consumption of meat, which it labels “one of the greatest sustainability threats”.

Read our story on the United Nations urging investors to fund a plant-based factory.

Anay Mridul
Anay Mridul
Anay is journalism graduate from City, University of London, he was a barista for three years, and never shuts up about coffee. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford Comma. Originally from India, he went vegan in 2020, after attempting (and failing) Veganuary. He believes being environmentally conscious is a basic responsibility, and veganism is the best thing you can do to battle climate change. He gets lost at Whole Foods sometimes.