Sustainable Development Goals: the role of industry

1 de December de 2020

The year 2020 is coming to an end and with it the first 5 years of the deadline agreed by UN world leaders to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This global agenda aims to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new paradigm of sustainable development.

In this context, the industry plays a fundamental role. Goal 9 specifically addresses industry, innovation and infrastructure. We have 10 years, until 2030, to radically change our system and, although much progress has been made in these first 5 years, we are still far from achieving the goals set, especially after the impact of Covid-19, which has greatly affected manufacturing industries and is causing disruptions in value and supply chains worldwide. In fact, there was talk of the 20% target for 2020, which would mean that industry would account for 20% of our GDP, but this has not been achieved in Spain or in many other countries.

Why is ODS 9 important?

Inclusive and sustainable industrialization, as well as investment in infrastructure and innovation, are key drivers of economic growth and development. It has been shown that regions with more industry have been more resilient to, for example, the Covid-19 crisis, and generally enjoy greater stability and better employment. Moreover, with more than half of the world’s population living in cities, transport, energy and telecommunications are taking on an increasingly strategic role.

We are experiencing this at the present time, where technological progress is being fundamental to finding a vaccine and producing it massively in record time, but it is something that is present in an economic model that is moving increasingly towards collaboration and innovation, together with the challenge of sustainability so as not to leave anyone behind.

The challenge in figures

While in more developed countries we look into the future of technology with artificial intelligence, 5G or new energies, the truth is that in many developing countries there is a lack of basic infrastructure such as roads, information and communication technologies, sanitation, electricity or water, which hinders access to markets, jobs, information and education.

  • 2.3 billion people in the world lack access to basic sanitation and almost 800 million people lack access to clean water.
  • 2.6 billion people in developing countries do not have permanent access to electricity.
  • More than 4 billion people still do not have access to the Internet; 90% of them are in the developing world.
  • Renewable energy currently employs over 2.3 million people; this number could rise to 20 million by 2030.
  • In some low-income African countries, infrastructure constraints reduce business productivity by about 40%.
  • Globally, investment in research and development (R&D) as a percentage of GDP increased from 1.5% in 2000 to 1.7% in 2015, and continued at almost the same level in 2017. However, in developing regions it was less than 1%.
  • Disparities in industrial productivity between rich and poor nations remain large. In 2018, per capita value added by manufacturing (MVA) in the least developed countries was only $114, compared with $4,938 in Europe and North America.

Goals to achieve

  • Reliable, sustainable, resilient and quality infrastructure: including regional and cross-border infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with particular emphasis on equitable and affordable access for all.
  • Inclusive and sustainable industrialization: by 2030, significantly increase the contribution of industry to employment and gross domestic product, according to national circumstances, and double that contribution in the least developed countries.
  • Access of industrial SMEs: particularly in developing countries, to financial services, including access to affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets.
  • Modernizing infrastructure: Adjusting industries to be sustainable, using resources more efficiently and promoting the adoption of clean and environmentally sound industrial technologies and processes, and ensuring that all countries take action in accordance with their respective capabilities.
  • Increase scientific research and improve technological capabilities: in particular developing countries, including by encouraging innovation and substantially increasing the number of people working in research and development per million people, as well as increasing public and private sector research and development expenditures by 2030.
  • Facilitate the development of sustainable and resilient infrastructure in developing countries: with increased financial, technological and technical support for African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states.
  • Technology, research and innovation: in developing countries, including by ensuring a policy environment conducive to industrial diversification and value addition to commodities, among other things.
  • Access to information and communication technology: strive to facilitate universal and affordable access to the Internet in the least developed countries.

What can you do from your company?

  • Business culture of innovation: transform your products, facilities, services, production processes and internal management with sustainability criteria.
  • Sustainable, resilient and quality facilities and factories: invest in these strategic infrastructures throughout the supply chain to ensure the well-being of employees and suppliers, especially people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
  • ICT access: to all employees and encourage its use throughout the supply chain, to ensure smooth communication throughout the value chain and prevent situations of stock-outs and lack of supplies in critical situations such as that experienced during the covid-19 crisis.
  • Alternative renewable fuels to fossil fuels: promote their use in the activities and operations of your company, adopting environmentally sound industrial processes.
  • Low carbon economy: reduces CO2 emissions and pollution and promotes energy efficiency and a circular economy based on the reuse of materials.
  • Support for SMEs: promotes business relationships with small and medium enterprises throughout the value chain to encourage the industrialization of all.
  • Efficient and sustainable technologies: big data, artificial intelligence or the internet of things can help us to promote sustainability.
  • Infrastructures and sustainable materials: especially in construction companies or activities with a large environmental footprint, bet on innovation in this field.
  • Investing in R+D+i: to promote technological development and innovation.
  • Expansion to developing countries: prioritizing sustainability at the economic, social and environmental levels, promoting the sustainable industrialization of all regions.
  • Skills: promote the training of workers, share your knowledge through technical training at universities and workshops, host scholarships and doctoral students who seek to promote research and innovation.
  • Public-private partnerships: join forces with NGOs, universities, public sector and other companies to carry out social and economic CSR projects that contribute to generating a sustainable industrial fabric in your region and in developing countries.

How do you measure your contribution?

There are some indicators that can help you evaluate your company’s progress in terms of ODS:

  • Total expenditure and investment in environmental protection.
  • Development and impact of investments in infrastructure and services.
  • Number, type and impact of technological assets.