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Tackling Sustainable Development One Step at a Time

sustainable development

If you were helping to internalize ideas about sustainable development into the minds and activities of those you live or work with – family, friends, customers, clients, co-workers, students and bosses – how would you tackle such a challenge? I've been noticing some creative ways to embed the Sustainable Development Goals into our collective brains and come up with a plan of attack.

To get started, here's a priority list for the year: Save the world from hunger and poverty, and ensure that all are able to thrive with good health, wellbeing, education, equality, decent work and livelihoods, clean water, sanitation, and an environment safe from harm.

Why stop there? Add affordable clean energy, economic growth, innovation and improved infrastructure, sustainable cities and communities.

While we're at it, let's make sure that we take a responsible approach to consumption and production, climate action, caring for life below water and on land, peace, and justice. Of course, to achieve all of these tasks, we'll need to develop strong institutions and partnerships.

Sustainable Development Should be Contagious

There's a simple way to remember and internalize all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals. Try watching this short and catchy video produced by Flocabulary, an online educational tool using creative approaches to inspire young adults (and the young at heart) to learn and engage in the world.

Flocabulary breaks down the United Nation's huge sustainable development mission step by step into two minutes with some snappy hip-hop music. You may find yourself singing along with the syncopated rhythm.

"Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals…To improve life all around the globe…Protecting human health and the envi-ron-ment whatever bed we make we're going to have to lie-in-it."

"In some corners of the world today people are living on a dollar a day. Hey, that's not how it ought to be. So goal 1, eliminate poverty. And goal 2, root out hunger across the globe. There's 800 million people hungry, if you want to know."

I recommend taking a moment to watch and sing along before reading on.

If you're not convinced that a hip-hop video will spread the message far and wide, the United Nations developed these memorable icons to disseminate the Goals around the globe. If you run in sustainability circles, you've probably already seen these colorful and simple images flashing about in news stories, websites, and social media profiles.

sustainable development

The UN encourages all to download these images and share widely (with a few guidelines). The logos and each of the square icons is available in six different languages. Disseminate at will - divide our efforts, disperse, and conquer. 

Ask the Sustainability Community 

I've read several LinkedIn publications lately focused on the Sustainable Development Goals. I believe these posts could be useful in helping us in our quest to internalize the Goals and while we're at it, commit to sustainable development one step at a time.

Mel Wilson of PwC Canada presented the goals at the end of last year as a wish list for 2017. His wish list brought attention to the Goals while imploring us (in a polite Canadian way) to collaborate in meeting these goals by 2030. 

Just so that you don't think I'm getting a kickback, I like to give credit where it's due. I was inspired to write this essay after reading Wilson's wish list. I also couldn't help but notice his other publications helping to lay the groundwork for approaching the Goals. He advises a thoughtful and collaborative approach by thinking about the Goals in terms of progress rather than perfection.

Bjorn Kjaerand Haugland of DNV GL and his colleagues have published a series of insights on sustainability topics. I followed the breadcrumbs and watched an impressive video forecast called Future of Spaceship Earth (and then downloaded the comprehensive report). The video briefly examines the global community's ability to achieve the 17 Goals by 2030. The report dives into specific examples of companies who are pioneering progress on at least one of the Goals.

The good news is that we're making progress in education, health, and gender equality, and steady progress in poverty, clean water, and sanitation. The bad news is that if we continue on our "business as usual" track, none of the goals will be met in all of the regions without some extraordinary measures. To achieve the Goals, DNV emphasizes the importance of strategic engagement from the business community.

Consider the UN's message"The SDGs are unique in that they cover issues that affect us all. They reaffirm our international commitment to end poverty, permanently, everywhere. They are ambitious in making sure no one is left behind. More importantly, they involve us all to build a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for all humanity."

There's no doubt we have work to do. Let's begin by tackling sustainable development one step at a time. We'll need to make sure not to overlook the final step - number 17 Partnerships For the Goals - in our plan for a sustainable future that includes us all.

sustainable development one step at a time