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Extraordinary action needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

New global forecast launched at UN headquarters

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New York, 19 September: Will the world achieve the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030? What can business do to lead the charge? DNV GL set out to answer these two critical questions in its new forecast examining the future of our ‘Spaceship Earth’. The report concludes that, while many of the goals will make good progress across several world regions, action will not be fast enough or fair enough and will come at an unacceptable environmental cost. However, there is still time to reset the course of our ‘Spaceship Earth’: the report showcases 17 global companies driving extraordinary progress on each of the global goals.

One year after the SDGs’ launch, businesses, governments, organizations and individuals everywhere have started to work towards the global goals. However, the Future of Spaceship Earth forecast shows that none of the goals will be met in all regions of the world. Likewise, no single region will achieve the necessary progress towards all the goals. The scale of the challenge is such that urgent, extraordinary action is now needed.

Business is uniquely positioned to drive this magnitude of action. The report highlights 17 global companies at the frontier of progress on the SDGs; Tata, Danone, HiTechnologies, ARM, Symantec, Grundfos, SolarWorld, NYK, Hydro, Safaricom, Siemens, Marks & Spencer, Iberdrola, Cermaq, APP, Calvert Investments and Unilever. These pioneers are driving sustainable change through innovations, partnerships and adjustment of business models. The Sustainable Development Goals have become a blueprint for companies to reshape and future-fit their business.

Group President & CEO of DNV GL, Remi Eriksen, says: “For the most part, business has the technology, people and processes to rock the world. The challenge, therefore, isn’t the ‘smarts’, it’s the take-up of the solutions proposed and piloted – the real scaling of these interventions.”

All the companies featured in the report are signatories to the UN Global Compact, an initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies and thus contribute to a sustainable future. The forecast report launch was co-hosted with the UN Global Compact at the UN headquarters in New York. The co-chair of the UN Secretary-General´s SDG Advocacy Group, Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, provides a foreword and received the report during the week of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly.

Key findings from the ‘Future of Spaceship Earth’ report

None of the global goals will be met in all regions of the world

o    Moreover, not even half of the goals will be met in any of the regions

o    We need to step up our collective efforts to reach the goals

The world is making progress towards most of the global goals

o    Health (3), Education (4), Water and Sanitation (6), Energy (7) and Industry (9) have the most positive outlooks

o    We are also moving in the right direction on several other goals, particularly for human development such as Poverty (1), Hunger (2) and Gender Equality (5)

The progress is not fair enough

o    The Reduced Inequality goal (10) is likely to be the area of least progress, with red indicators forecast in all regions

o    Within countries, the inequality gap will continue to widen – and between counties, developing nations will continue to lag behind

The energy transition is not fast enough

o    The replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources is underway

o    On the current trajectory, we will exceed the carbon budget by the year 2037, entering increasingly dangerous climate change territory

The energy demand will level off

o    From 2030 onwards, the growth in energy demand will level off, due to the fact that improvements in energy efficiency will outpace the energy demands created by growth in population and productivity

o    Energy demand will level off as a result of lower fertility rates linked to urbanisation and education. Lower productivity growth in more mature service economies also lead to energy demand levelling off

Lack of climate action is a showstopper

o    Lack of sufficient progress on climate action forms a barrier towards achieving most other global goals

o    It will be increasingly difficult to achieve most of the global goals in a world with increased climate change

Business is ready for extraordinary action

o    Private sector has a key role to play, representing 60% of the world’s GDP. Business can be the swing factor: the actions companies choose to take have the power to amplify change – for better or for worse

o    The business case for sustainable development is showcased in the report with examples from frontier companies taking extraordinary action for the global goals.

17 UN Global Compact members contribute with their insights:

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Company

Country HQ

1. No poverty

Tata

India

2. Zero hunger 

Danone

France

3. Good health and well-being 

HiTechnologies

Brazil

4. Quality education 

ARM

UK

5. Gender equality 

Symantec

US

6. Clean water and sanitation 

Grundfos

Denmark

7. Affordable and clean energy 

SolarWorld

Germany

8. Decent work and economic growth 

NYK

Japan

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

Hydro

Norway

10. Reduced inequalities 

Safaricom

Kenya

11. Sustainable cities and communities 

Siemens

UK & Germany

12. Responsible consumption and production 

Marks & Spencer

UK

13. Climate action 

Iberdrola

Spain

14. Life below water 

Cermaq

Norway

15. Life on land

APP

Indonesia

16. Peace and justice 

Calvert Investments

US

17. Partnerships for the goals 

Unilever

UK & the Netherlands