What Are Sustainable Development Goals and How Can You Assess Their Impact?
by: Stephanie Hefelfinger and Rebecca Stoops | January 19, 2022
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a popular topic worldwide, and you’ve probably seen organizations displaying their SDG contributions with these colorful icons. How are they justifying their SDG claims? How can you feel confident when purchasing credits, and what are the levels of assurance for SDG claims? What tools do professionals use to analyze their projects?
What are SDGs?
The SDGs are 17 key issues that projects, businesses, and governments must target to improve the world by 2030. They were created by the United Nations (UN) Development Program and include targets like No Poverty, Responsible Consumption and Production, and Clean Water and Sanitation.
This diagram shows how all SDGs are interlinked and depend on each other. Image source: How food connects all the SDGs – Stockholm Resilience Centre
Case Study of The WaY Project and Available SDG Tools
In the voluntary credit market, plastic credits have been established to represent 1 metric ton of plastic waste collected from the environment. Projects like this can also offer other benefits that improve the community’s well-being and the environment – these benefits can align with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The WaY (Women and Youth) plastic collection project in Cote d’Ivoire, developed by Conceptos Plásticos, collects plastic waste that would have otherwise been left in the environment. The plastic is turned into construction bricks, which are used to build schools for local communities. The project focuses on hiring women to increase empowerment and economic opportunities for a heavily underserved population. ClimeCo is partnering with the WaY Project to generate plastic credits from its plastic collection activities.
It is essential for an organization to provide a good faith effort when presenting their SDG impact claims. When purchasing credits from a project with these claims, we highly recommend that you contact them and ask what steps they took to assess their SDG impact. To help you with this, let us walk you through the public SDG tools we used to determine our project’s biggest SDG benefits.
The SDG Impact Assessment Manager Tool is a free resource developed by the UN Global Compact and B Lab. The SDG Impact Assessment Manager Tool measures a project’s current impact and helps identify which SDGs have the greatest opportunity for improvement, with straightforward suggestions for actual changes. Think of this as an SDG personality quiz for a project.
This is an example of a question from SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities, as well as SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth:
The SDG Compass was developed by the UN Global Compact, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Since the UN developed the SDGs at an international and country level, it can be hard to understand how they relate to smaller–scale projects. This tool translates each SDG and all the targets into manageable and realistic goals that a project can achieve. The SDG Compass recommends prioritizing SDGs that could potentially affect human rights.
The Outcome of Our Efforts
We started with the SDG Impact Assessment Manager Tool. This requires the completion of 15-30 questions for each SDG, which usually takes a few hours to complete. The higher the score percentage (see below), the higher the impact on the goal. While The WaY Project has a positive effect on many SDGs, the results of this tool demonstrate that the largest impact is on SDGs 1, 4, 5, 9, and 10.
Next, we used the SDG Compass to study each SDG in greater detail. This explains how our project intends to actively meet the relevant SDGs.
Next, we created a diagram to see what parts of our project are directly quantifiable and measurable. All impacts are important, but it’s easier to prove and certify measurable impacts. Gold Standard recommends this step through their tool.
Leveraging all three tools, we can see where our project has the biggest impact. We’ve also determined where we can improve. For example, The WaY project should continue encouraging women to use the provided Proper Protective Equipment (PPE) and work with the women to choose improved PPE offerings that fit their cultural attire.
For those who want greater assurance on SDG claims, there are several credit registries that offer credits with SDG impacts that a 3rd party has verified – Gold Standard, the American Carbon Registry, the Climate Action Reserve, and Verra. At ClimeCo, we want clients to feel confident in our projects and their SDG claims. We are here to educate and be a resource for understanding SDG claims, finding the right projects for clients’ ESG goals, and helping new projects develop their SDG claims. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions; we are happy to help.
This is an example of certified SDGs from a project listed under Gold Standard’s registry.
About the Author
Rebecca Stoops is a Project Manager at ClimeCo, focusing on plastic credit projects and refrigerant projects for carbon credits. She enjoys hiking, the great outdoors, and cleaning up nature by picking up trash. Stephanie Hefelfinger is a Project Associate at ClimeCo, focusing on plastic credit projects and livestock and composting projects for carbon credits. She enjoys hunting for pretty rocks. They both enjoy getting into the nitty–gritty details of projects to learn how they operate and their positive impacts on the environment.