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UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

global, global




15 years




Project achievements

Environment benefitted

Restore and protect biodiversity

Economy boosted

Ensure economic growth and decent work for all

Greater accessibility

Make sure all opportunities and resources are accessible to everyone

What are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)?

The UN SDGs are 17 interconnected goals that act as a blueprint to address the most urgent global challenges. The aim is to achieve them by 2030. They are:

  1. No poverty: ensure everyone has the resources that they need to live a good life.
  2. Zero hunger: make sure there’s enough food available for all, offer better nutrition and practice more sustainable farming.
  3. Good health and wellbeing: ensure people can lead healthy lives and promote welfare for all at all ages.
  4. Quality education: guarantee access to inclusive and equitable education for all and promote lifelong learning.
  5. Gender equality: provide equal opportunities and empower women and girls.
  6. Clean water and sanitation: ensure clean water is available to all and sustainably managed.
  7. Affordable and clean energy: make sure everyone has access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy.
  8. Decent work and economic growth: promote sustainable economic development, and fair and fulfilling job opportunities for everyone.
  9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure: develop climate resilient buildings and infrastructure systems, and nurture innovation.
  10. Reduced inequality: globally reduce inequality in all its forms.
  11. Sustainable cities and communities: ensure that the places people live in are inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
  12. Responsible consumption and production: adopt sustainable methods of making, managing and using goods and services.
  13. Climate action: take immediate action to fight climate change.
  14. Life below water: look after and responsibly use the oceans, seas, and marine resources.
  15. Life on land: call for responsible land use and protect all forms of life on the planet (biodiversity).
  16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions: ensure universal access to justice and establish accountable, effective, and inclusive institutions at all levels.
  17. Partnerships for the goals: strengthen the ways we carry out plans and boost global collaboration to achieve sustainable growth.

Do you know all 17 SDGs?

The UN defines the SDGs as a "universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity".

Did you know …

  1. The SDGs have some incredible global ambassadors, ranging from South Korean girl pop group BLACKPINK to writer and filmmaker Richard Curtis.

  2. Leaving No One Behind (LNOB): a core part of the SDGs is to leave no one behind, prioritising the needs of society's most vulnerable and marginalised people.

  3. The SDGs resulted from a three-year process involving 83 national surveys engaging over seven million people, making it the largest consultation in UN history.

Why do we need the UN SDGs?

Currently, most of the energy people use to live and work comes from burning fossil fuels (80%), which take the form of coal, oil and gas.

Burning these fuels has led to a rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which has caused our planet’s temperature to rise. This is known as global warming.

In turn, this has contributed to a change in our climate, and we’re seeing more frequent and severe weather events. This affects not only humans, but all species and ecosystems on the planet.

As well as the threat of climate change, there are millions of people living in poverty, going hungry, and without access to clean water or education.

We need to make sure we can meet society’s current needs while protecting resources for future generations. At its core, that’s what sustainable development is all about.

So, how can the SDGs help us achieve sustainable development?

SDG7, for example, calls for affordable and clean energy.

By investing in renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower – electricity generated from flowing water – we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lessen the effects of climate change.

Projects such as the International Solar Alliance, established by India and France, are helping to support the use of solar energy and meet SDG7.

The SDGs and the ICE

The construction industry emits a whopping 37% of greenhouse gases. This means those working in the sector have a big opportunity to make a difference.

Civil and infrastructure engineers can help address society's most significant challenges and help deliver the SDGs.

As such, the goals are vital to shaping the ICE’s work and priorities.

In 2018, the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO) and the ICE held the first Global Engineering Congress at the ICE headquarters, One Great George Street.

Over 20 organisations, including the American Society of Civil Engineers and the European Council of Civil Engineers, got together to agree on a path forward to help the engineering community turn words into actions and deliver the goals.

Since then, the ICE’s work has aligned much more closely with the SDGs.

In 2019, the ICE launched a Sustainability Route Map outlining a three-year plan to enhance engagement with the SDGs.

Throughout 2022-23, the ICE President for that term, Keith Howells, encouraged members to 'step up' and help to achieve the SDGs.

In 2024, in its State of the Nation report, the ICE presented clear recommendations to help industry professionals deliver the goals. Some of the critical areas of focus are:

As well as the above initiatives, the ICE regularly writes profiles about infrastructure projects that integrate the SDGs, from 3D-printed steel footbridges to sustainable drainage systems (SuDS).

The history of the SDGs

Before the SDGs, there were the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The UN MDGs were eight international development goals established in 2000 to address poverty, hunger, and disease.

Despite lifting over 1 billion people out of poverty, critics argued they lacked sustainability and inclusivity.

In response, the SDGs were created at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, and then adopted in 2015 at a summit in New York.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are a universal agenda that addresses diverse issues and emphasises the interdependence of economic, social, and environmental factors in achieving sustainable development.

They promote global collaboration to build a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable future.