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Sustainable Development Goals

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Find out what the Sustainable Development Goals are, why they’re important, how they relate to Practical Action’s work around the world and what you can do to make a difference.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals to transform our world. They were designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” and part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They were agreed by 193 countries in September 2015.

Each of the 17 goals strive for the universal reduction of climate change and poverty, and the improvement of education, health, and economic growth. United Nations describes the SDGs as seeking to “protect the planet, and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.”

The SDG’s provide worldwide guidance for addressing each of these goals. Crises within the SDG’s are faced by most countries and can only be addressed if we work as one global community.


What are the UN global goals?

There are 17 SDGs. They are as follows, with each one linking to the relevant UN page for more detail and explanation:

Why are the SDGs important?

The Sustainable Development Goals work towards a world of peace and prosperity, eradicating major issues such as poverty and hunger, all while protecting the planet. In the midst of the climate crisis, this has never been more important.

Each of the goals are interlinked, meaning the key to achieving one often lies within another. The goals can only be achieved if they are embedded within all each area of governance.

Sustainable development means developing cities, land, businesses, and communities to meet the needs of the present, without effecting future generations’ ability to meet their needs. The environment underpins each of the SDG’s – they seek to improve living conditions for all, without increasing the use of natural resources. The SDG’s work to protect the planet’s resilience for our future generations.

Climate change is having a profound impact on the communities Practical Action works with. The way in which the world responds to the climate crisis is closely tied to our progress against the SDGs. As well as our work with communities on the ground, we showcase bottom-up adaptive work by people on the front line of climate change at global events such as COP-26.

A Decade of Action

Sarah Roberts at COP26

Our CEO, Sarah Roberts, and colleagues from around the world attended COP26 to amplify the voices of the people we work with, and to share what we have learned from those who are already adapting to extreme climate events.

The SDG’s have a 2030 deadline for implementaion. In 2019, the UN Secretary General, Anónio Gutteres, called for a decade of action across three essential areas.‘ Global Action’ calling for bold leadership, ‘local action’ to make a real difference in people’s lives, and ‘people action’ to mobilise partnerships, hold leaders to account and for people to make the Global Goals their own.

However, the COVID-19 has slowed progress dramatically for many of the SDG’s, heightening the need for their implementation now more than ever.

We were already far behind in terms of progress for some of the SDG’s. Healthcare was already off track for it’s 2030 target, and the gains already made, such as the halving of malaria cases, have been greatly threatened by coronavirus. In addition to this, lockdowns deprived children with no internet access from getting an education, and one in six young people have lost their jobs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Still, the SDG’s provide us with a roadmap to sustainable recovery from the pandemic that we must work towards to ensure a better future for all.

What are the five pillars of sustainable development?

The 5 pillars, also known as 5 Ps of sustainable development, encompass 5 overarching areas that each of the SDG’s address. These are of critical importance to act towards over the next decade.

They are: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships, sustainability sitting at the core of each. These pillars are there to inform decision making around interventions installed by the government that work towards the SDG’s.

When a new policy is adopted, it must consider the consequences it will have upon any of the 5 Ps. Today, United Nations successfully continues to consider these pillars against each of their development goals. They offer a blueprint that many organisations can measure their own actions against.

How can I contribute to sustainable development?


Waste workers in Bangladesh

Our partnership with Lamor Foundation is cleaning up rivers in Bangladesh with new waste collection units. They’re creating jobs with better working conditions and fairer pay for informal waste collectors. And the waste plastic will be recycled into ultra clean fuel.

We can all help contribute to the success of the SDGs and sustainable development by both educating ourselves more, speaking out and making practical and positive adjustments to our daily lives.

Reduce, reuse and recycle with the waste heroes

Around the world, people we work with are discovering ingenious ways to reuse or recycle waste, in keeping with the 6 Rs. Together, they’re keeping their communities healthy, earning a living and protecting natural resources.

Meet the waste heroes and find out more about our work tacking waste challenges. And discover how you can do your bit to reduce the amount of waste you produce, recycle more and replenish natural resources.

Meet the waste heroes

Get inspiration from our family of supporters

Every choice makes a difference. In this post, we celebrate the amazing actions our supporters are already taking to choose a better future now.

See what’s possible

Take positive action for a better future

We can all make positive choices that can make a difference to people at the sharp end of the climate crisis. If you’re looking to take small steps that support climate pioneers around the world, here are several ideas for you to consider.

Let’s show the world what’s possible when we come together to take climate action.

See how you can take action today

What is Practical Action doing to advance the SDGs?

Helping people find solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems – like those included within the SDG’s – are at the heart of everything we do. We work with communities around the world to develop sustainable solutions for climate resilience, water and waste management, agriculture and clean energy.

By 2025, our work with partners will have improved the lives of 6 million people. Not only that, but our work towards system change will have positively impacted 20 million people.

We’ll be contributing towards 9 of the Sustainable Development Goals across our 4 change ambitions:

2 - Zero Hunger 5 - Gender Equality 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy

8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production 13 - Climate Action 15 - Life on Land

Our change ambitions

Find out more about our aims by following the links below.

Energy That Transforms

Our work with partners will have led to 2 million people in last mile communities being able to access affordable, low carbon energy for homes, schools and businesses.

 Farming That Works

Our work with partners will have improved food security and income for 2 million people in rural communities.

Cities Fit for People

Our work with partners will have improved the water, sanitation and waste management services for 1 million people living in slum communities.

Resilience That Protects

Our work with partners will have enhanced risk knowledge systems, so that 4 million people living in climate vulnerable communities are better protected.

We combine our expertise across these issues, meaning that we can tackle energy and agriculture, sanitation and climate resilience within our system approaches. We’ll deliver upon each of these ambitions by 2025, through maintaining and creating partnerships, working with communities and disseminating our knowledge to inform and inspire.

Together, we can make a difference

We’re working with people across the globe to implement ingenious, sustainable solutions to their toughest problems. We can all do our bit, by taking steps to live more sustainably and reducing our planetary footprint.

Together, we can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.