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Government not fulfilling commitments to create a sustainable and fairer society says leading UK business network
By: Serena Mitchell
Last updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2022
A new report released today (28 September 2022), featuring analysis from the University of Sussex Business School, has highlighted the Government’s continued lack of progress towards meeting its commitments to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK.
It calls on the UK’s Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Cabinet Office to ensure the SDGs are fully integrated across government.
Measuring Up 2.0: Key findings
Measuring Up 2.0 is the second report in the series and shows the worsening state of many of the SDG Goals in the UK, particularly those related to poverty and inequality. It highlights the significant danger of quality of life getting worse in the UK if action is not taken, particularly considering the energy and cost-of-living crisis and of the increased risks of climate change. Highlights of the report include:
- The UK is only performing well (green) on 17% of the targets relevant to the domestic delivery of the Goals.
- Compared to 2018, these results suggest improvements in 23 Targets, regression in 18 Targets, and no change in 65 of the Targets which were rated amber or red four years ago.
- Poverty and inequality continue to deepen. One in every five people are currently living in poverty and it’s estimated that workers on the national living wage will need an extra £800 this year - the difference of 13 weeks of food - to meet the cost of living.
- Respiratory infections (aside from COVID-19) primarily impact those living in the most deprived areas and air pollution is estimated to reduce life expectancy by 7-8 months in the UK.
- Progress has been made in increasing both the scale and scope of our efforts to tackle climate change, but both government and business are missing an opportunity to use the holistic framing of the SDGs to address systemic challenges.
Measuring Up 2.0 comes from the UN Global Compact Network UK, a network of over 850 organisations including the University of Sussex Business School, dedicated to driving sustainable growth through responsible business practices including the Sustainable Development Goals.
Expert analysis from the Business School
Measuring Up 2.0 is the result of a multi-stakeholder process to show the UK’s current performance against the SDGs, the opportunities, and challenges ahead, and top-line recommendations for achieving the SDG Targets. The Business School was one of 19 expert organisations that led the SDG chapter analysis within the report.
The report looks at each of the 17 SDGs and 169 targets and uses both existing public policy and published data to understand the UK’s performance. This wide-ranging and in-depth performance assessment has been developed as the UK Government has not undertaken its own Voluntary National Review since 2019.
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
Dr Murtaza Faruqee, Lecturer in Supply Chain Management at the Business School, was the chapter lead for SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth (pages 56-61 of the report). This SDG promotes sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
Dr Faruqee reported that most of the UK’s SDG 8 targets were rated amber with gaps in policy or underperformance, with the target to take immediate and effective action to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and eliminate child labour rated as red, meaning there is abysmal performance or little or no policy in place.
Dr Faruqee said:
“The UK has marked a few notable achievements under SDG 8; however, it will take far more work than is currently being delivered to achieve the Targets by 2030.”
This report also comes at a time when the UK economy is still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has posed several challenges in the progression of SDG 8.
He continued: “There has been some good progress in policy development and implementation. This has led to performance improvements for Targets related to economic growth, economic productivity, sustainable tourism, and strategy for youth employment. On the other hand, ensuring diversity and equality in employment, job safety and security, developing the future workforce for higher-level economic activities and service economy, and access to financial services will require more effort to achieve the Targets in the time frame.”
Call for clear leadership and urgent action
The UN Global Compact Network UK believes the links between targets and the need for cross sector collaboration to tackle issues are not being considered to best effect.
The UN Global Compact Network UK is asking for clear Government leadership supported by action from businesses to ensure the UK achieves the SDGs as quickly as possible.
Businesses have a critical role to play, and some UK businesses have already responded to the SDG agenda in a positive way, recognising the economic opportunities as well as the social and environmental need for action. However, the Goals must be integrated as part of core business strategy to help the UK meet the SDGs.
“Measuring Up 2.0 provides a vital assessment of the UK’s progress towards the future we want. Unfortunately, it’s not a success story yet, but there is cause for hope. The report features inspiring examples of work already being done by the business community, investors, civil society, academia, and governments to advance the Goals” said Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network UK. “This agenda has support across the political spectrum. With strong leadership, there is tremendous potential to mobilise the resources and deliver the change we need to achieve the SDGs by 2030.”
The report is available to download from www.measuringup.org.uk