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Sustainable Development Goals for 2030: a mirage?

Inês Martins – Marketing Manager

I’ll start this article with a challenge: can you find a newspaper or magazine in which the word sustainability doesn’t appear? Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? I’d go so far as to say impossible.

In recent years, the word sustainability has become frequently mentioned in the media, at events, in business strategies and even in everyday conversations. Despite the growing discourse on this topic, real progress towards sustainable development remains disappointingly slow. The latest Sustainable Development Report 2024* (SDR) underlines this worrying reality, revealing that while the rhetoric around sustainability is omnipresent, concrete progress towards achieving the SDGs is woefully inadequate and insufficient.

Since 2016, the SDR has analyzed the progress made each year towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by the 193 members of the United Nations, allowing for a comprehensive assessment of global efforts.

The 2024 edition, published this June, reveals a bleak scenario: only 16% of the targets set in the SDGs are on track to be achieved by 2030. The remaining 84% show limited progress and, in some cases, even regression. Thus, overall, progress on the SDGs has been stagnant since 2020, with some SDGs particularly lagging behind: SDG 2 (Eradicate Hunger), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), SDG 14 (Protect Marine Life), SDG 15 (Protect Land Life) and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).

The report also highlights the challenge of long-term investment in sustainable development. Achieving the SDGs requires extensive financial resources and, as far as companies are concerned, investment in innovation, training and resources. We need to change the way we work, produce and consume so that, with a strategy of global and transversal cooperation, we can get closer to the goals set in 2015, since achieving them seems impossible.

And while the conversation around sustainability has certainly intensified, the SDR makes it clear that talking is not enough. Here, the role of marketing and companies’ ESG strategies becomes crucial. Many companies use marketing actions to communicate their sustainability efforts, but not all claims are genuine, leading to the phenomenon known as greenwashing.

Companies therefore have the challenge of communicating their sustainability initiatives in a transparent and authentic way, based on verifiable data and real actions, so as not to damage consumer confidence.

At the same time, companies have the challenge and the power to change the way their customers consume. While it is true that, on both the business and consumer sides, the driver of change will always be largely based on the financial issue, the challenge is to find this balance. Companies urgently need to reinvent themselves, change their products and services, integrate ESG practices into their strategies and communicate them transparently.

The role of marketing and communication here involves knowing how corporate strategies can be truly aligned with the SDGs, but in such a way that consumers also feel the need to consume products and services aligned with these same SDGs. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, we also need to ensure that these SDGs don’t jeopardize the sustainability of businesses and companies. Sounds difficult too, doesn’t it? But in this case, I’d even say it’s possible.

The road to sustainability is long and requires much more than words. The global community must move from rhetoric to action, urgently implementing comprehensive strategies and reforms to make significant progress towards the SDGs. The challenge is great and time is running out. Only through genuine commitment and collaborative effort can we hope to achieve a sustainable future for all.


Opinion article by Inês Martins, Marketing Manager, published in Ambiente Magazine on June 21, 2024.

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