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A new approach to the 17 SDGs

In late August a group of researchers published an article on the journal Nature Sustainability called "Six Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)". The aim of this work was to design a model to help governments, civil society, science and business understand how the SDGs can be functional and thus achievable.



As expected, this requires important structural changes across all sectors in society emphasizing the question, how can we organize the strategies to achieve the 17 SDGs?.


To answer this question the group used a a systemic approach to define six Transformations to organize SDGs interventions through a semi-modular action agenda that can be designed by discrete, yet interacting, components of government.



Each Transformation describes a major change in the organization of societal, political and economic activities that transforms resource use, institutions, technologies and social relations to achieve key SDG outcomes (represented by the SDG wheel in the centre).



Important changes have to be made about how we use resources, infrastructure, institutions, technologies and social relations. These changes need to be implemented in a short period of time to create real impact.


Another set of considerations applied when creating the Six Transformations for achieving the SDGs are:

  • They have to be technically feasible.

  • Targeted to resolve trade offs.

  • Need to accelerate development.

  • Business and government play an important role for acting as sources of financing and leaders of change.

  • Engaging business through incentives is key.

  • Ensure the implementation of policies that prevail through time.

  • Requires civil-society engagement and public debates about sustainable development pathways.


One of the authors, Johan Rockström from the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research states that "the six transformations have the ultimate goal of enhancing human prosperity and reduce inequalities. This is not easy of course. In fact, it is the largest human endeavor of all time. And science is here to provide governments with a fact-based framework. If political leadership fails to act, however, we would face unprecedented risks for the stability of societies, and for our Earth system."



Source: Sachs J D, Schmidt-Traub G, Mazzucato M, Messner D, Nakicenovic N, Rockström J (2019). Six Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Sustainability. doi: DOI 10.1038/s41893-019-0352-9.

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