Skip to Content

SDGs: What Are They?

By September 10, 2019

SDGs: What Are They?

Scroll through Instagram, turn on the news, or glance around at subway ads, and your eyes are bound to land on a call to action for some global cause. There are so many, it’s hard to know what’s most pressing, most relevant, and most reasonable to commit to. The good news is: in a world full of impactful charities, the United Nations has provided a to-do list for the planet, uniting efforts toward 17 of the most pressing global issues.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), often called the “global goals,” seek to lay the groundwork for corporations, organizations, and individuals alike to address a growing number of problems and build a better world. Launched in 2015 at the United Nations as the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 17 SDGs are approachable, comprehensive, and substantive in their objective: They allow contributors to set reasonable targets against set indicators to start moving the needle on the goals.

Whether you’re at a nonprofit, education institution, working at a company, or just an individual who wants to volunteer, you can align yourself to these global goals, too.

Approved by 193 countries, the SDGs are clearly a big deal

Why should everyone care about the SDGs?

Approved by 193 countries, the SDGs are clearly a big deal. They tackle challenges and inequalities that not only affect underserved and marginalized communities globally, but really everyone on Earth. These are not meant for only developing and emerging economies. Most developed countries have significant work to do if they expect to reach their goals by 2030. The statistics on climate change, for example, may feel alarming, but they’re real, and their implications are broad-reaching. Even with action taken now, the effects of climate change will continue for generations. We need to get started!

Despite serious strides in the right direction, there are critical delays in many of the SDGs throughout the world. Unfortunately, the effects of some of these problems disproportionately affect developing countries, and many of us do not experience the urgency of these issues firsthand. For example, global hunger is actually increasing, especially in eastern African and South Asian countries.

Moreover, the UN has recently noted that the world is not on track to accomplish the SDGs by the 2030 goal. With just 11 years left before the deadline, their 2019 report highlights data demonstrating the gaps. Some of the most staggering data includes a significant uptick in malaria cases from 2016 to 2017 and an increase in oceanic acidity, which debilitates marine life and CO2 absorption. If the root causes are not addressed immediately, we will miss the 2030 targets.

Salesforce is one company that is working to advance the SDGs. Learn how you can, too.

What can businesses do about the SDGs?

Some companies advance purpose as part of their mission. Many corporations release yearly corporate social responsibility reports that account for progress they’ve made toward the specific SDGs.

Companies, nonprofits, governments and individuals can get involved in the SDGs via several different channels, and the UN provides a wealth of guidance on this. Need help getting the word out? Project Everyone is a nonprofit communications agency, available to work on campaigns, content and events which ladder up to the achievement of the Goals.

A strategic plan to contribute toward the 17 SDGs can be pretty simple. Here are three steps your organization can take now:

    1. Choose your SDGs: Often, companies choose to align with SDGs that fit their business, brand, and values as well as their customers’ preferences. For example, L’Oreal worked on SDG #13 (Climate Action) by reducing their carbon footprint by 18% since 2016, with 38 sites achieving carbon neutrality in 2018. Additionally, 79% of products launched in 2018 have an improved social/environmental profile, and by 2025, their goal is to have 100% of packaging be reusable and refillable. For SDG #17 (Partnership for the Goals), 56,000+ people from highly disadvantaged backgrounds took part in vocational training through Beauty For a Better Life.

    2. Get everyone involved: Of course, none of this change is possible without the involvement of executives, employees, and even customers. A trickle-down approach can work here too: Executives lead their employees, which ignites customer and stakeholder support. Creating this visibility within an organization on the 17 SDGs can be fun, easy, and even beneficial to the company. Barclays, which has committed to SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), enabled a workforce development platform, LifeSkills, which offers opportunities largely to those in underserved and underrepresented communities through its company. Such programs bring awareness to local communities, employees, and stakeholders while also making progress toward the goals.

    3. Report on your progress: More than 9,000 companies have committed to the SDGs. They have contributed to issuing over 60,000 sustainability reports detailing their progress toward the goals. Not only do these reports make it easier for companies to be accountable to their goals, but they allow potential customers to support the companies based on their social good footprint.

An example of reporting on the SDGs: Salesforce employee volunteering summary, by which goal the volunteering activity relates to.
An example of reporting on the SDGs: Salesforce employee volunteering summary, by which goal the volunteering activity relates to.

This is not just for big brands – even if you’re at a small startup, you can participate, too! The SDGs should be part of everyone’s goals – aligning us to the better world we all deserve to live in.

Companies looking for ways to get employees involved in the SDGs can read about Philanthropy Cloud, which is a platform that connects employees with nonprofits and allows companies to track progress toward the 17 SDGs specifically.


About the Author
Georges SmineGeorges Smine, VP of Product Marketing, Philanthropy Cloud,, leads product marketing for Philanthropy Cloud, bridging the interests of business and nonprofit sectors and helping them align behind shared values and goals. He previously led marketing at Opera Solutions, a Big Data analytics company, and ran Mailbox Provider products at Return Path, an email analytics SaaS company. Prior, he held roles in products and marketing at Nominum (now Akamai), Tellme Networks (Microsoft), Ecrio, and Netscape. Follow him on Twitter: @GeorgesSmine