Measuring Up the UK’s performance on the SDGs

By Steve Kenzie, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network UK

Our new report, Measuring Up 2.0: How the UK is performing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals shows the Government’s continued lack of progress towards meeting its commitments to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK.

The 17 ambitious Goals and their 169 Targets are often referred to as an action plan or to-do-list for the planet. Together they seek to eradicate poverty, end inequalities, and combat the nature and climate emergencies. The UK Government committed to the Goals in 2015 and has so far failed to use them as an opportunity to address deep-rooted challenges in the UK.

Measuring Up 2.0 is the second report in the series and shows the worsening state of many of the SDGs in the UK. It highlights the significant danger of quality of life getting worse in the UK if action is not taken, particularly in light of the energy and cost-of-living crisis and of the increased risks of climate change.

The report was produced by over 100 organisations and individuals. It considers the UK’s performance on the Targets which are domestically relevant and whether we have adequate policies in place to achieve them. Of these Targets, we are only performing well on 17%, the performance for 18 Targets has regressed and there are 65 where there has been no change since this exercise was first conducted in 2018.

It is perhaps no surprise to us after the impacts of Brexit, the pandemic, and now the cost-of-living crisis, that poverty and inequality continue to deepen. One in every five people are currently living in poverty and it’s estimated that workers on the national living wage will need an extra £800 this year – the difference of 13 weeks of food – to meet the rising cost-of-living.

We need to be bold and ambitious

Although the Goals have been committed to by governments, their achievement is dependent on action and engagement from all of us. Business is a vital actor in the transformational change we need to address our poor performance on the Goals in the UK. This action requires businesses to consider how they are directly and indirectly impacting on the Goals, and then set priorities for action.

While evidence shows the increased number of businesses engaging with the Goals, it also shows this engagement is primarily focused on operational change. The engagement that is likely to be more impactful – engagement with value chains, business model adaptation, and working collectively across or within industries – is not happening at the pace and scale needed to achieve the Goals by 2030.

At the UN Global Compact Network UK our work on the SDGs will continue to find ways for business to take the bold and ambitious action necessary. Critically, we all need to use our voice to work together to ensure the policy environment enables this action. That means ensuring the Government engages in a meaningful dialogue about how the SDGs should be integrated in decision-making across Whitehall, driven by the PM. We invite everyone to engage with us as we drive progress on the SDGs and a world in which we want to live and work.

The UN Global Compact Network UK is part of the world’s largest responsible business initiative connecting UK companies and other organisations in a global movement dedicated to driving sustainable growth. Through an extensive programme of activity, we promote practical sustainability leadership, share knowledge across sectors, and actively shape the responsible business environment to create a world we want to live and do business in. Find out more and become a member today:

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