SDGs and the Sustainable Mentality
“Sustainable development has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
5th September 2017 - Design for Need, Sustainable Development Goals
By Finn Brownbill
Who has the boldness to set themselves a goal to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Optimist, Pessimist, Realist, whatever mental attitude you possess, reading such an ambitious, idealistic goal may seem like nonsense. But why does it have to be? One could go one step further, look inward and ask themselves what is the meaning of life? To achieve the purest form of life for oneself may be just as ambitious and idealistic as eradicating global poverty. But should that stop us? Some believe the agenda pushed to achieve goals like this is too difficult, believing the goals are too unwieldy to implement/sell to the average person. Some argue there are too many goals altogether. One thing is for sure, its got people talking. It’s creating a proactive attitude towards making a difference and it has facilitated the creation of social enterprises like ours, so that’s got to count for something. Goals such as the incredible goal to ‘End Poverty’, is one of 17 world changing goals, which collectively make up the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This is what I will be talking to you about today.
Following the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a previous 15 year agenda set by the UN, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set up to expand on its predecessor’s work. Some argued, the MDGs overlooked certain factors, including the roots of poverty and gender inequality. Additionally, they directed mainly at the poorer countries of the world. The SDGs instead require harmony amongst all countries of the world to achieve the goals. A much needed transformation.
A statement by the UN reads: “ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and addresses a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection”.
It’s pretty obvious. A lot of work it to be done if we want to achieve these goals. The SDGs are not legally binding, nor are implemented by national Governments. However, they are expected to be inputted into society and promoted by those in control. Countries poor or rich, small or large, have the opportunity to collaborate, analyse their work and produce positive results to achieve the SDGs.
The 1987 Brundtland Report defines sustainable development has as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In our eyes, that’s called having a conscience. We believe at Design for Need, holisticity is key, especially in regard to our project work helping communities. But the sad truth is, there are some organisations and individuals out there who are not aware and couldn’t care less about the third parties who suffer at the expense of their work. This is one way how I see the SDGs making a difference. I hope that the SDGs will take a swing and suppress individualised greed and power, therefore bringing attention to fact that ‘we are all in this together’. As, afterall, one of the leading causes of change is education. And this can be equally directed at the next young generation, newly created start-ups formulating their values and big businesses in need of positive reformation.
Not only will the SDGs hopefully have a direct impact on the planet and lives of the people the goals target, it will also change the way people think and approach tasks, both small and large. To me and Design for Need as a whole, the SDGs represent a mentality, not just a direct agenda for tangible change. There is nothing more liberating to one's individual enlightenment than welcoming the holistic approach to all tasks. It is not as simple as creating a toxic power plant in a foreign country to power the needs of another, and jeopardizing the environmental well being of a future generation. But I’m not taking an easy shot at the obvious target here. It is equally not as simple as rolling into a struggling community in a poverty stricken country and implementing a design to improve the lives of certain few, but ignoring the effect it has on the social wellbeing of the neighbouring town which suffers at it’s expense. Yes, the SDGs will hopefully saves lives, but it also makes people think twice and consider the complete effect our work has on everyone.
When deciding on the specifics of future project work, Design for Need takes into account all factors of the community, including its: social, cultural, environmental, economic state. We ensure that our projects will incorporate and freely be shaped by the sustainable development goals (SDGs). For example, ‘Pure Water’ directly addressed Goal 6 from the SDGs which is to “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all”. Additionally, access to clean water should not scare and certainly should not have a price. By ensuring communities have this precious commodity, we can ensure sustainable livelihoods and tackle Goal 1 to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Finally the ‘Pure Water’ stimulates economic growth of the local area. Therefore, Goal 9 of “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure” will directly be pursued. These are the three main goals which are directly associated with Pure Water, however, one of our main aims is to expand our project work to incorporate as many SDGs as possible. There is a huge need for this work throughout the world. 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation, 780 million people worldwide who live with clean water, 795 million people do not have enough to eat, 100 million people still lack shelter, 1.3 billion people live without electricity. Sadly, this list goes on and on. This is why Design for Need exists, to tackle these problems and to create a positive future for all.
A co-founder of a sustainable design company without any design experience. Sounds ideal right? Hey ho, that’s not why I’m here. I’m the chief editor of the blog and I do plenty more (non-design related) jobs too.