SDGs must drive a fairer society after UK leaves the EU says businesses & charities

3rd July 2018

Urgent action is needed to prevent UK slipping behind other nations on poverty, equality and the environment
A new report released today (3 July 2018) has highlighted why the UK should place the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the heart of its Brexit strategy to galvanise support for a positive vision of the country and build the foundations for future prosperity.
It calls on Theresa May to appoint a Cabinet-level SDG minister to spearhead the Government’s approach to meeting the UK’s SDG commitments to reduce poverty, tackle inequality and protect the natural environment. It also says UK businesses and charities must play a much greater role in realising the goals.
The report is the first comprehensive assessment of the UK’s performance against the SDGs and highlights a significant danger of the UK quality of life getting worse if action is not taken.
Highlights of the report include:
  • The UK is performing well (green) on only 24 per cent of its targets.
  • Poverty and inequality continue to deepen. The number of people in insecure work (zero hours, agency employment, low-paid self-employment) has risen to 3 million
  • The UK is struggling to address malnutrition in all forms, with food insecurity and obesity rising.
  • Despite progress only 65 per cent of UK bathing waters are rated excellent compared to a European average of 85 per cent and almost all forms of pollution in our coastal waters is increasing.
  • The report, Measuring Up, comes from the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD), the network for organisations working to advance sustainable development and the delivery of the SDGs in the UK.
Measuring Up is the result of a multi-stakeholder process to show the UK’s current performance against the SDGs, the opportunities and challenges ahead, and topline recommendations for achieving the SDG targets. More than 100 organisations have taken part, including businesses, charities, academia, trade unions, professional associations and government agencies.
The project looks at each of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets, and uses both existing public policy and published data to understand the UK’s performance. This wide-ranging and in-depth performance assessment has been developed as the UK Government has not yet produced a Voluntary National Review. As a result, UKSSD believe the links between targets and the need for cross sector collaboration to tackle issues are not being considered to best effect.
The report will be presented in to MPs at the House of Commons today (3 July) and in New York on 17 July 2018, where the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is taking place.

Michael Izza, Chief Executive of ICAEW and UKSSD partner, said: “Meeting the SDGs gives us the best chance to deliver on promises of fairness and equality in the UK after we leave the European Union.
“These commitments must not be seen as a burden, but as a way of addressing some of the most urgent issues we face. This is a positive vision of a UK with a future very few could argue with.
“The UK has already made good progress towards some of the SDGs – but we are in danger of slipping behind in other areas. By looking at UK performance across every aspect of our country, the need for cross sector action becomes clear. Today we are calling for a united, national effort to meet all our targets by 2030.”
UKSSD is asking for clear Government leadership supported by action from businesses, charities and individuals in order to ensure the UK achieves the SDGs as quickly as possible. Government needs to place responsibility and ownership for the SDGs within the Cabinet Office, with the Prime Minister herself or with a minister who has a domestic policy role.
Businesses have a critical role to play and some UK businesses have already responded to the SDG agenda in a positive way, recognising the economic opportunities as well as the social and environmental need for action. However, overall awareness of the Goals is low and recognition of the business opportunities they represent is limited.
Charities are encouraged to consider how their individual goals sit within the broader SDG agenda and where they might be able to amplify results by working with partners across different targets. Every individual needs to consider their responsibility across all aspects of their lives; from decision making at work to behaviour at home.
UKSSD Network Director Emily Auckland said: “We believe this report provides a solid platform for the UK Voluntary National Review to the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in 2019. We hope it makes a valuable contribution and a starting point to the UK Government’s official approach to implementation of the SDGs. As Measuring Up shows, the consequences of not taking action are damaging for both people and places across the country.”
Film writer and Director Richard Curtis, who founded Project Everyone to drive achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, said: “Now is the time for the UK to lay out how it will be a key player in achieving what the Goals set out: a rigorous plan to make us the first generation to end extreme poverty, the last generation to be threatened by Climate Change, and the generation most determined to end injustice and inequality.”
The full report is available from
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