The UN Sustainable Development Goals: What They Are and Why They Matter

Bodhi Surf + Yoga / Surf + Yoga Camp Blog / The UN Sustainable Development Goals: What They Are and Why They Matter

In 2015, the United Nations held a conference in Paris, France where the governments of 190 countries gathered to discuss a global plan of action to address and overcome the impending challenges of climate change. The aim was to create a universal set of goals to reduce carbon emissions, conserve vital ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable. As part of a 15-year agenda, 17 goals were adopted by all United Nations member states. These became known at the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

United Nations SDGs

Why this matters to a small surf and yoga camp in Costa Rica

At Bodhi Surf + Yoga, we are committed to using our business as a force for good. As a business rooted in responsible tourism, we use the SDGs to hold us accountable. We use tools like the SDG Action Manager from B Lab and the B Corporation B Impact Assessment, and we partner with organizations in our community like SOMOS to expand our positive impact. The private sector plays a huge role in the future of our planet and the livelihoods of all its people. It is absolutely crucial that we do not underestimate the impact the private sector can have.

Furthermore, one of the components of our mission is education. We believe that, to be successful in this regard, we must:

  • Create awareness,
  • Disseminate information,
  • And ultimately influence the individuals in our sphere to adopt behaviors that contribute to advancing the SDGs and being more responsible global citizens.

So what exactly are the SDGs?

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.”

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals

To read more about the specific goals, their targets, and how they are measured, follow the links to the United Nations SDG website.

A framework for a better future

Now, taking a look at all 17 of these goals you may notice that they are quite lofty. It is important to keep in mind that the SDGs were designed as a guide; a framework for governments around the world to implement measures that would bring the planet closer to achieving these ambitious goals. They serve to outline a future that is more prosperous, abundant, and just.

It is important to note that the SDGs were designed to allow each nation to determine, individually, how to achieve the objectives. They are not legally binding and they do not provide step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish them. Each member state that signed the Paris Agreement is responsible for implementing protocols and policies that achieve the goals.

This being said, one also notices that these SDGs were designed for global governance. They are geared towards the top decision-makers around the world. However, the SDGs are also an incredibly useful framework on a smaller scale for local governments, the private sector, individuals, and everything in between. We each have a role to play in bringing the world closer to the ideal future the SDGs are striving for.

Why the SDGs matter

Bringing the SDGs down-to-earth

So how can we do this? How can we contribute to things like ending poverty, conserving life below water, and reducing inequality? In this 3-part series, we will be bringing the SDGs down-to-earth — making them more accessible, understandable, and applicable to the many of us that are not top decision makers in government positions.

How the private sector can advance the SDGs

First, we will explore the ways that all businesses, even small ones like Bodhi Surf + Yoga, can tackle the SDGs. Regardless of industry, location, or audience, any private company can contribute to advancing the SDGs. Sometimes this may require getting creative. Yet it is extremely important, as published in a business statement at a forum leading global business organizations, private sector institutions and networks:

“The SDGs provide all businesses with a new lens through which to translate the world’s needs and ambitions into business solutions. These solutions will enable companies to better manage their risks, anticipate consumer demand, build positions in growth markets, secure access to needed resources, and strengthen their supply chains, while moving the world towards a sustainable and inclusive development path.”

How individuals can advance the SDGs

Finally, we will explore how individuals can contribute to the SDGs and why your involvement matters. While it can feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that no act is too small. Moreover, by seeing each small action as contributing to a healthier planet, a more equitable global system, and a richer experience for all of us on this planet, you are aligning yourself with a movement that will be one of the most pinnacle ones of human history. From consumer choices to voting to finding local volunteer opportunities — every small act counts towards a brighter future.

The SDGs are the result of leaders from 190 nations around the globe coming together and agreeing to a collective set of goals that make our future more sustainable and just. These are not pipe dreams, they are achievable if we are willing to commit. Let’s get to work!

This is part one of the series, check out part two in which we discuss the private sector and how businesses of all types can become champions of advancing the SDGs! 

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About the author

Sheridan Plummer