Three out of four adults (74%) globally have some awareness of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new survey commissioned by the World Economic Forum.
The survey, conducted for the Forum by Ipsos Group, asked almost 20,000 people aged between 16 and 74 from 28 countries how familiar they were with the SDGs and which SDGs they thought were the most important. The 17 SDGs represent the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development plan calling for global collaboration to address pressing world problems including the climate crisis, poverty and the gender gap.
In terms of familiarity, however, a large gap exists between the 28 countries. In Turkey, for example, 92% of respondents have heard of the SDGs, with 56% either very familiar or somewhat familiar. Likewise in China, 90% have heard of the SDGs, including 52% who were either very or somewhat familiar. By contrast, Great Britain and Japan ranked as the two countries that are least familiar, with 51% of respondents having never heard of them. These two countries were closely followed by the United States, home of the UN, where 50% have never heard of them.
“We are living in a time when governments and businesses that understand the need to deliver the sustainable development goals are searching for the very same thing as many activists: a social, or multistakeholder movement capable of making systems change happen. None of them can do it alone. What we need is a worldwide movement for change, on the street, across the boardrooms or in cabinets,” said Dominic Waughray, Managing Director, Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods.
There was also a significant demographic variance in responses. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the survey found respondents under the age of 35 were the most aware of the SDGs, with 9.6% reporting that they were “very familiar” with them, compared to 6.3% of those aged 35 to 49 and 2% of those aged 50 to 74. Only 23.1% of under-35s said they have never heard of the goals, compared to 25% of 35- to 49-year-olds and 29% of those aged between 49 and 74.
The survey also found that the global public prioritized SDGs related to immediate human needs, such as zero hunger, clean water and good health, whereas goals such as gender equality, reduced inequality and industry, innovation and infrastructure, were among the lowest ranked.
Globally, the top-ranking SDGs in perceived importance are:
- Zero hunger (SDG2)
- Clean water and sanitation (SDG6)
- Good health and well-being (SDG3)
- Affordable and clean energy (SDG7)
- Life below water (SDG14)
The lowest-ranked SDGs globally, in order of lowest ranked, are:
- Gender equality (SDG5)
- Reduced inequality (SDG10)
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG9)
- Responsible consumption and production (SDG12)
- Peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG16)
However, each of those in the bottom half of the ranking are prioritized in one or more of the countries. For example, gender equality is ranked number one in Sweden.
The World Economic Forum has a strategic partnership with the UN to collaborate on the SDGs, with a focus on financing the 2030 Agenda and acting on climate change, health, digital cooperation, gender equality and the empowerment of women and advancing educating and skills.
The Sustainable Development Impact Summit takes place in New York, 23-24 September. This year’s meeting will convene more than 800 regional and global leaders from government, business, civil society and academia. The meeting will explore four themes: transforming markets; accelerating climate action; financing sustainable development; and mobilizing action for inclusive societies.