Getting back on target

David Thompson asks whether the UN’s sustainable development goals are leaving the public behind?

Archery target

Two years on since the launch of the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs), many commentators are providing analysis of the progress thus far. But it is of great importance to ask a more basic question – does the public understand them?

Given that policymaking decisions are often born out of public pressure, the need for the public to be well informed on the subject is significant. If nations are to meet their agreed global obligations, popular understanding, if not active backing, is a must.

Yet, to the frustration of many professionals working in the sustainability sphere, there is an unfortunate disconnect between academic and corporate understanding of sustainable development. Add to that the general public’s limited grasp of the subject and it is easy to see how awareness and perceptions can vary considerably across society. While it is important to scrutinise the success of the SDGs to date, it is of equal importance to ask how effectively we are communicating to the public the very need for such goals and the reasons why we cannot fail in our pursuit to achieve them.

On 1 January 2016, when the 17 global goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development came into force, countries around ...

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