What is SDG-Washing, and How Can Your Business Avoid It?

Caterina Sullivan
2 min readOct 26, 2018

In September 2015, 193 United Nations member states committed to 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs). These goals have the overall aim of ending poverty, fighting inequality and fixing climate change by 2030.

At the adoption of these goals, it was made known that one of the key players in their achievement was business.

Previously, we have discussed the Global Goals and what your organisation can do to ensure their achievement by 2030 as part of your sustainability commitment.

However, in this, it is important to avoid what is known as SDG-washing. SDG-washing is the term used when businesses acknowledge the existence of the SDGs and point out the ways in which they align with the SDGs without making a meaningful contribution to the achievement of the goals.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has found that 79% of its member companies acknowledge the Global Goals in some way, shape or form, but only 6% have actually aligned their business and / or sustainability strategy to the 17 goals and their 169 targets.

The key to avoid SDG-washing is in the targets. The 169 targets which accompany the Global Goals are also supported by 232 measurable indicators. These targets are where the real change happens and the indicators are the best way in which to track, measure and monitor progress.

Businesses which align their sustainability strategy to the targets of the Global Goals instead of just the goals themselves will not only see a more fruitful sustainability program but will be able to report back on their progress in a more meaningful and more accurate way. Professionals in sustainability will also view these businesses as leaders in the corporate sustainability movement as the commitments go deeper than surface level checking the box.

For companies looking to give back, it is important to take the necessary steps to avoid SDG-washing. At Strategic Sustainability Consultants, our team members are well versed in the 169 targets and how they can apply to your business. Contact us today to create a world-class and more meaningful sustainability commitment!

This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website.



Caterina Sullivan

Chief Executive | Business Founder | Change Agent | Inspirational Leader | High Achiever | Role Model | Award-Winner