The Failure of the Sustainable Development Goals

Published Jul 6, 2024


By Fernando Morales-de la Cruz

When all UN Member States adopted the Sustainable Development Goals at the UNGA in 2015 thousands of articles were published in all continents praising the historic decision to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I wrote then: "We need a real Shared Value system in global trade and not glitz at the UN or buzz in the media."

According to the UN: “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.”

Today, almost 9 years later, it’s impossible to deny that the Sustainable Development Goals are failing, mainly because there was never a real plan to reach them. It is absolutely impossible to reach the SDGs without changing the terms of global trade, specially trade between the wealthy nations and the Global South. In fact, this means that it’s impossible to “Improve the State of the World, as the WEF claims to be doing since 53 years, unless all governments rein in at least the top 2,000 corporations that generate USD $ 45 trillion in revenue each year (45% of the global GDP). The vast majority of these corporations have business models that are the opposite of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The failure of the Sustainable Development Goals is about the 4 billion poorest people in the world, about the one billion of them that go hungry, about inequality, about the 50 million modern day slaves, about the more than 350 million children that do not study, about the nearly 400 million children that must work to survive, more than 100 million of these poor children work in the supply chains of corporations to reduce costs and increase profits.

Of course, the failure of the SDGs is also about the destruction of life on water, on land and on air, and about the lack of peace and democracy in so many parts of the world.

I can not fail to mention irresponsible and unsustainable consumption and the fact that most of the energy that we consume is also destroying the planet.

The failure of the Sustainable Development Goals is a huge problem for humanity. Nearly 9 years after adopting them, governments do not have a plan to reach the SDGs. In my opinion the United Nations have demonstrated that they never had a realistic plan. Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals requires an investment of more than USD $ 8 trillion per year for at least 10 years, not only USD$ 200 billion per year in false development aid.

This week the World Benchmarking Alliance published its first ever Social Benchmark. It“assesses the world’s 2,000 most influential companies – also known as the SDG2000 – on their responsibility to meet society’s fundamental expectations towards respecting human rights, providing decent work, and acting ethically.”

Their Key Finding

The 2,000 most influential companies are leaving hundreds of millions of people behind.

I am convinced that the 2,000 most influential companies are leaving nearly 4 billion people behind due to the cruelty of their business models, not hundreds of millions. Almost all companies have misery, hunger, malnutrition and child labor in their supply chains. Hundreds of them have misery and child labor in their own workforce.

According to the Social Benchmark report:

“90% of companies are not even halfway to meeting fundamental societal expectations on human rights, decent work and ethical conduct.”

“Companies on average do not meet even a quarter of their responsibilities to uphold socially responsible business conduct across any of the three measurement areas. 90% of the 2,000 companies assessed are not even halfway to meeting fundamental social expectations on human rights, decent work and ethical conduct. Alarmingly, over 30% of companies score between 0 and 2 points out of 20 total possible points, indicating little to no acknowledgement of their impact on people’s lives. It is increasingly apparent that the private sector is disregarding its crucial role in reducing poverty and inequality.” I recommend that you read the complete Social Benchmark Report summarized in the chart below:

* Fernando Morales-de la Cruz is a fierce campaigner and advocate for an end to child labour globally.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.