United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 01, 2023

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What Are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals established by the United Nations in 2015.

They aim to address a wide range of social, economic, and environmental challenges, such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation.

The SDGs serve as a roadmap for creating a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable world by the year 2030, with the goal of ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development.

The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) success and aim to address the root causes of global challenges through an integrated approach.

The SDGs have a 15-year implementation period, from 2015 to 2030. This timeframe was chosen to allow for adequate planning, resource mobilization, and execution of the necessary policies and programs to achieve the ambitious targets set by the goals.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Goal 1: No Poverty

This goal aims to eradicate extreme poverty for all people by 2030. It focuses on implementing social protection systems, ensuring access to basic services, and building resilience to economic, social, and environmental shocks.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

This goal aims to end hunger and ensure access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food for all people. It also aims to promote sustainable agriculture, improve the productivity of small-scale farmers, and maintain the genetic diversity of seeds and livestock.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

This goal seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. It targets reducing maternal and child mortality, ending epidemics, achieving universal health coverage, and reducing exposure to environmental hazards.

Goal 4: Quality Education

This goal aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Key targets include universal primary and secondary education, increased access to early childhood development, and improved literacy and numeracy skills.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

This goal aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

It seeks to end discrimination, violence, and harmful practices against women, promote equal participation in leadership roles, and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

This goal aims to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It focuses on improving water quality, increasing water-use efficiency, protecting water-related ecosystems, and expanding access to basic sanitation services.

Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

This goal seeks to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. It aims to increase the share of renewable energy, improve energy efficiency, and expand access to electricity and clean cooking solutions.

Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

This goal aims to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

It targets increasing labor productivity, reducing unemployment and underemployment, promoting safe working environments, and eradicating forced labor and child labor.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure

This goal aims to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation. It focuses on increasing access to financial services, upgrading infrastructure, and enhancing technological capabilities.

Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities

This goal aims to reduce income inequality within and among countries. It seeks to promote inclusive growth, empower disadvantaged groups, reduce discriminatory policies, and ensure the fair distribution of resources and opportunities.

Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

This goal aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

It focuses on improving urban planning, providing affordable housing, enhancing access to public transportation, and reducing the environmental impact of cities.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

The objective of this goal is to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. It targets reducing waste, promoting resource efficiency, encouraging sustainable procurement practices, and raising awareness about sustainable lifestyles.

Goal 13: Climate Action

This goal seeks to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. It focuses on strengthening resilience, integrating climate change measures into policies, and mobilizing financial resources for climate action.

Goal 14: Life Below Water

The focus of this goal is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

It aims to reduce marine pollution, protect marine and coastal ecosystems, regulate fishing practices, and enhance scientific knowledge of marine biodiversity.

Goal 15: Life on Land

This goal seeks to protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt biodiversity loss. It targets the conservation of ecosystems, reforestation, and the prevention of species extinction.

Goal 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

This goal aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions.

It focuses on reducing violence, combating organized crime, ensuring public access to information, and promoting the rule of law.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals

This goal seeks to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize global partnerships for sustainable development.

It targets enhancing international cooperation, mobilizing financial resources, increasing access to technology, and promoting policy coherence.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Implementation Strategies

National Level Implementation

Countries are primarily responsible for implementing the SDGs within their borders. This involves integrating the goals into national development plans, allocating resources, and establishing legal and regulatory frameworks to support sustainable development.

Regional and Global Cooperation

Regional and global cooperation is essential for addressing cross-border issues and promoting the sharing of best practices.

International organizations, such as the United Nations, play a crucial role in facilitating dialogue, providing technical assistance, and mobilizing resources for the implementation of the SDGs.

Public-Private Partnerships

Public-private partnerships can be instrumental in driving innovation, mobilizing resources, and enhancing the effectiveness of SDG implementation.

These partnerships involve collaboration between governments, businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders to achieve shared objectives.

Role of Technology and Innovation

Technology and innovation play a critical role in advancing the SDGs by offering solutions to complex challenges, improving resource efficiency, and enhancing the delivery of essential services.

Governments and the private sector should invest in research and development to promote sustainable technologies and practices.

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and evaluation are essential for tracking progress, identifying challenges, and ensuring accountability in the implementation of the SDGs.

Countries should establish robust data collection and reporting systems to measure progress and inform policy decisions.

Challenges and Obstacles

Political Will and Commitment

The SDGs' success depends on governments' political will and commitment to prioritize sustainable development and allocate adequate resources. Political instability, corruption, and competing priorities can hinder progress toward the goals.

Resource Constraints and Financing

Financial resources pose a significant challenge to achieving the SDGs, particularly for developing countries. Innovative financing mechanisms, such as blended finance and green bonds, can help mobilize additional resources for sustainable development.

Data Availability and Quality

Reliable and timely data are essential for monitoring progress and informing policy decisions. However, many countries need help in collecting, analyzing, and disseminating high-quality data.

Strengthening national statistical systems and leveraging new data sources, such as big data and geospatial information, can help address these challenges.

Inequality and Disparities Among Countries

Inequalities between and within countries can undermine the achievement of the SDGs. Addressing these disparities requires targeted interventions, capacity building, and sharing knowledge and resources to ensure that all countries can progress towards the goals.

Conflicting Priorities and Trade-offs

The integrated nature of the SDGs can lead to conflicting priorities and trade-offs between different goals and targets.

Policymakers must carefully consider the potential synergies and trade-offs when designing and implementing policies and programs to achieve the SDGs.


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals that aim to address a wide range of social, economic, and environmental challenges, such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation.

The SDGs serve as a roadmap for creating a more prosperous, equitable, and sustainable world by the year 2030, with the goal of ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of sustainable development.

The SDGs have a 15-year implementation period, from 2015 to 2030, and require national-level implementation, regional and global cooperation, public-private partnerships, and the role of technology and innovation.

However, challenges such as political will and commitment, resource constraints and financing, data availability and quality, inequality and disparities among countries, and conflicting priorities and trade-offs must be overcome to achieve the SDGs.

Despite these challenges, the SDGs present an opportunity for countries and stakeholders to work together to build a more sustainable and equitable world for all.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals offer a unique opportunity for wealth management professionals, such as wealth managers to align their client's financial objectives with the broader goals of sustainable development.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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