Resources to Take Action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

logos for the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals in the background behind the words "Are you ready to change the world?"

The Sustainable Development Goals are also known as the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

Global Goals

In 2015, the United Nations unanimously adopted an action plan to make the world more just, safe, and livable by the year 2030. This plan, entitled "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development" includes 17 goals for countries, industries, and global citizens to work on together to improve our world "for people and planet."

Get Engaged to Transform Our World

In order to achieve these 17 ambitious goals by 2030, everyone needs to be informed and involved!

The United Nations Office in Geneva has just published an excellent brochure of 170 Daily Actions to Transform Our World. Check it out and share it with your congregation! (Find more info & translations at the website #YouNeedToKnow)

You might also like to try some easy suggestions from The Lazy Person's Guide to Saving the World from the UN!

Take some time to learn more about the goals, each of their associated targets, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

About the Sustainable Development Goals

An October 2020 video of UU@UN Director Bruce Knotts speaking about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and why they matter.

Watch on YouTube

Learn more about the connection between the SDGs and this year's United Nations Sunday theme: Climate Justice and the SDGs

Suggested Congregational Action

In each month's Envoy News, the UU@UN provides suggested actions you can take as an individual or in your congregation towards accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals. Check out some of the suggested actions below (some are time-sensitive, but give you a sense of how to take action locally to address these global goals).

  • SDG 1 (PDF): End poverty in all its forms everywhere
    • August 2020: suggested action related to the First Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 1.2 (By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions)
      Even before COVID-19, the world's progress toward to ending poverty by 2030 was slowing. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the first increase in global poverty in decades, pushing more than 71 million people into extreme poverty in 2020. Unitarian Universalists and congregations can take action locally to combat poverty by collaborating with local elected leaders and community organizations that are working to address this issue. In Canada, UUs can read the Canadian Unitarian Council statement on Guaranteed Livable Income, including a sample letter to send to your MP, resources for education, and more. In the United States, UUs can urge their national representatives to settle on a meaningful COVID-19 relief plan, and get involved with UU the Vote to make sure that this November we elect leaders that will prioritize ending poverty when they take office.
  • SDG 2 (PDF): End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
    • March 2021: suggested action related to the Second Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 2.4 (By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.)
      As UUs, we insist that the transition to more climate-friendly agriculture also responds to pressing social problems like land loss, racism, unemployment, and hunger. We are urging Senators to support legislation that would make progress on both climate change and social ills, such as the Justice for Black Farmers Act (recently introduced as S. 300) and the Climate Stewardship Act (just re-introduced as S.1072).
      The deadline to send letters has been extended to May 10: Take 5 minutes and send your letter now!
  • SDG 3 (PDF): Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
    • October 2020: suggested action related to the Third Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 3.3 which includes combatting communicable diseases like COVID-19.
      Depending on where each of us lives, we're either inside or on the cusp of another huge spike in coronavirus infections. This pandemic is a clear example of how interdependent our world is. Central to the UN Sustainable Development Goals strategy is each country's working to address the goals locally, while the UN organizes support and resources for global action. The coronavirus pandemic is no different. While the World Health Organization and other UN bodies convene countries and offer best practices to address the pandemic through policy and individual actions, local communities need to also be taking action to stop the spread in their population.
      So the "Time to Act" suggestion for this month is simple: Take care of yourself, your loved ones, and those in your community. You know what to do. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, don't travel if you can avoid it, and avoid large gatherings (except in the event of a coup, in which case get out in the streets with mask and be safe and smart.)
  • SDG 4 (PDF): Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
    • November 2020: suggested action related to the Fourth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 4.5 (By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.)
      In the time of pandemic, ensuring equal access to education has new and critical dimensions about safety and access. Shifts to fully or partially online learning have widened already existing inequities between students. Unitarian Universalist congregations can take action by learning about the families in their communities. Look for ways congregants can support teachers, parents, and students in getting access to the resources they need. Contact school district officials to make sure they are taking action to support the needs of all learners, especially those with disabilities, those whose first language is not English, those who do not have easy access to devices, those whose families are experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, and others.
  • SDG 5 (PDF): Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • SDG 6 (PDF): Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
    • January 2021: suggestion action related to the Sixth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 6.2 (By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.)
      Today, 3 billion people worldwide lack basic handwashing facilities at home - the most effective method for preventing covid-19. By 2030, water scarcity could displace 700 million people. Funding for water and sanitation measures has decreased in recent years, leading several countries to have a 61% gap between available funding and what is needed. Prepare for action around World Water Day on March 22 to launch "Spring for Change: A Season of Sacred Activism" with UU Ministry for Earth. This year's theme is The Path to Healing and Regeneration - and what could be more needed for our people and our planet? Advocate for increased funding locally and internationally towards the water and sanitation targets listed in SDG 6.
  • SDG 7 (PDF): Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
    • February 2021: suggested action related to the Seventh Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 7.1 (By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services.)
      We saw last week in Texas and the Gulf Coast the risks of energy systems that are deregulated to the point of posing extreme and long-term danger to residents. As climate change disrupts the predictability of weather patterns, we need energy systems that are reliable, efficient, and built to last. And as we increasingly rely on electricity for all aspects of life during and beyond the pandemic, energy services must be affordable as well so that no one is left behind. What can UUs do? Put pressure on elected officials to properly regulate energy services to ensure that all regions have access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern services. Survey your congregation - are there areas in the church building or congregants' homes that need updating? Are there neighboring regions that have less reliable access to affordable energy services? Identify where your attention can be most impactful and work with your local community to ensure equal access for all.
  • SDG 8 (PDF): Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
    • September 2019: suggested action related to the Eighth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 8.5 (By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.)
      Support restaurants and companies that treat their workers ethically with fair wages and benefits. (Download ROC Diner’s Guide Free App for Android or iPhone to see full write-ups of the wages, benefits, and promotion practices of 150 of the most popular restaurant chains in the U.S.) Check out MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to see whether your county provides a living wage to workers in various fields based on family size and type. Use this as a basis for discussion in your congregation or for planning to boycott or petition companies that don’t respect the right to a living wage. Support small businesses in accordance with the Goal 8 target 8.3 by sourcing the goods for coffee hour, events, and fundraisers from small businesses in your area instead of large chain stores.
  • SDG 9 (PDF): Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
    • October 2019: suggested action related to the Ninth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 9.1 (Develop quality, reliable, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure, including regional and transborder infrastructure, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all...)
      Think about how industry impacts the lives and well-being of congregants and community-members, and use social media to push for policymakers to prioritize the SDGs. Are the buildings in your town fully accessible to people with disabilities? Are the restrooms accessible and inclusive for people regardless of gender identity or expression? Are new buildings being built, and are they being built sustainably? Rally the community to ensure that local infrastructure is both sustainable and inclusive.
  • SDG 10 (PDF): Reduce inequality within and among countries
    • November 2019: suggested action related to the Tenth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 10.2 (By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, or economic or other status) 
      Even focusing on this single target, it's still a huge goal. Let's focus on political inclusion:

    • In the U.S.? Get involved with the UU The Vote campaign! In this critical election season, it couldn't be more important to empower and promote the political inclusion of all. (For the record, when the UN says "or other status", that includes sexual orientation & gender identity/expression.) There are abundant resources to find or add a #UUtheVote event, form a team, or otherwise get involved with the campaign.

    • In Canada? This summer's report from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls includes a number of concrete action steps that must be taken for empowering and promoting inclusion. As the report notes, "Each person has a role to play in order to combat violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA [two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual] people. Beyond those calls aimed at governments or at specific industries or service providers, we encourage every Canadian to consider how they can give life to these Calls for Justice." Read the Calls for Justice and consider incorporating into congregational actions. Of particular note: 1.3 Pursue the measures required to eliminate the ...political marginalization of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people when developing budgets and determining priorities. 1.4 Ensure that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people are represented in governance.

  • SDG 11 (PDF): Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
    • December 2019: suggested action related to the Eleventh Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 11.2 (By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all... notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities, and older persons.) 
      This is a classic example of how communities can adapt for climate justice! Make sure that any adaptations your city or town is making towards sustainability and improved public transportation (which lowers carbon emissions!) is accessible for all! So many public transportation systems are inaccessible for people with disabilities, older people, and families with strollers. Reach out to local organizations that work on disability rights and see if you can join an existing campaign. Organize a letter-writing campaign during coffee hour for people to write to the public transit board calling for inclusion & accessibility. Visit the office of your local elected officials and make sure they know how important this issue is for the community.
  • SDG 12 (PDF): Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
    • January 2020: suggested action related to the Twelfth Sustainable Development Goal: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns - focusing on target 12.5 (By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.) 
      This is a great opportunity for congregational action towards sustainability! Is your congregation already a Green Sanctuary? If yes, you'll likely have already done many of these suggestions; but are congregants following suit at home? Invest in reusable storage containers at your congregation and use those to store leftover coffee hour snacks instead of using plastic wrap or tin foil. When the congregation buys supplies, always choose the ones with the least amount of packaging especially plastic. For example: avoid tea bags in individual wrappers, and candy or granola bars with wrappers that are not recyclable.

  • SDG 13 (PDF): Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts*
    • February 2020: suggested action related to the Thirteenth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 13.3 (Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning.) 
      Register to attend the Intergenerational Spring Seminar, All In for Climate Justice: People, Power, Planet (Registration closes March 2):; Organize your congregation and local partners to participate in a global Climate Strike on April 22, the 50th Earth Day! Make climate justice a key part of your UU the Vote activities
  • SDG 14 (PDF): Conserve and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
    • April 2020: suggested action related to the Fourteenth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 14.1 (By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.) 
      You may have seen the news in the last week that the U.S. Supreme Court voted to maintain the integrity of the Clean Water Act to protect all rivers, lakes, and oceans from pollution. This is great news for the effort to reduce marine pollution, removing a loophole the Trump administration was trying to exploit to allow polluting industries free reign. In order to make larger systemic change, we must take action locally to make sure that such policies are enforced and our streams and waterways are fully protected from pollutants. Do research locally to identify the areas in your county, province, or state that are home to waste treatment or power plants that have chemical or hazardous waste. Learn about their procedures for disposing of the waste and work with local partners to ensure pollutants are not threatening community water sources.
  • SDG 15 (PDF): Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managed forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
    • May 2020: suggested action related to the Fifteenth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 15.5 (Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.) 
      In the spirit of Biodiversity Day on May 22, we lift up a Call to Arts from the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth. UUMFE is inviting UU communities to learn about threatened and endangered species in their local areas, and to co-create an artistic representation of one or more local endangered/threatened species. Answer the Call to Arts and be part of a procession of species!
  • SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
    • July 2020: suggested action related to the Sixteenth Sustainable Development Goal - focusing on target 16.7 (Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.) 
      While many of the Sustainable Development Goals - assessed every year by the office of the Secretary-General - are making positive progress towards being achieved, SDG 16 is moving in the opposite direction, with institutions and governments around the world becoming less transparent and less inclusive since 2015. Unitarian Universalists can make a huge difference toward accomplishing target 16.7 by investing time and energy towards the UU the Vote campaign. Increasing voter turnout at all levels and expanding participation in democracy beyond the ballot box will mean that more voices can be represented at decision-making tables (and Zoom rooms).
  • SDG 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

*Acknowledging that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

SDG Resources from CVSA

On Sept. 26, 2017, the UU@UN hosted a training webinar for Envoys, presented by Susan Angus at CVSA (Commission on Voluntary Service & Action). The webinar was focused on how we can bring the Sustainable Development Goals to our local communities. CVSA has shared their SDG action toolkit as a resource for Envoys!

And finally, the video of the webinar itself is online and you can watch it (MP4) if you missed the live session.