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Insights How is North America embracing the UN's sustainable development goals?

In 2015, the United Nations introduced its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) as a formal call to action to protect the planet and end poverty by 2030. Sometimes called the Global Goals, these integrated objectives were designed to balance environmental, economic, and social progress and address many other pressing social issues. 

AtkinsRéalis believes in the SDGs and prioritizes the UN’s values to make the world a better place for everyone. By working alongside other businesses and governments and utilizing sustainable project management, creativity, and technology, AtkinsRéalis does its part to bring these goals to fruition.

But how are Canada and the United States faring overall? Are they meeting their commitments to the SDGs, or do they have room for improvement? Read ahead to find out how North America is measuring up when it comes to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Why are the UN’s SDGs important on a global scale?

The UN’s SDGs were designed to address many global challenges, including climate crises, unequal access to drinking water and food, child poverty, inequality, and global conflicts. These are all challenges that demand solutions the private sector can create and implement.

If we fail to meet the 17 sustainable development goals, the impacts could be irreversible. That’s why good business practices should always consider the SDGs and implement their core values into operations.

As countries with large landmasses and large resource needs, Canada and the US must be at the forefront of change and SDG leadership. Being wealthy, advanced nations, they have the power to help less developed countries meet their own UN goals.

What progress has the US made?

The US adopted the 17 SDG goals in 2015, and immediately put plans and initiatives into place to meet them by 2030. These initiatives include the construction of wind farms and solar energy technology, policies and laws designed to reduce child poverty, and prioritizing the United States’ international development work to help disadvantaged countries meet their goals. After all, addressing corruption, reducing violence, and eradicating violence are all deeply held American values.

However, many experts believe that the US has some catching up to do when it comes to meeting its sustainable development goals. According to a 2021 Sustainable Development Solutions Network report, states are less than halfway to achieving these goals. The report suggests urgent action is needed to stop climate change and help people achieve food security.

Only three states, Delaware, Maine, and Massachusetts, are on track to meet one goal, while four states, Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Arkansas, are less than a third of the way there. The Covid-19 pandemic set things back even further. However, there is still time to meet these goals, especially if the government treats this report as a wake-up call and catalyst for more assertive change.

What about Canada’s achievements?

Canada is making good headway, setting up a national strategy to hit these goals by 2030. According to the 2021 Sustainable Development Report, Canada ranks 21st in the world out of 193 countries, though the United States sits not too far behind at 32.

The country has launched many initiatives to improve life in Canada, with incentives to use clean energy in engineering and construction projects. Like the US, Canada also funds infrastructure projects abroad to help developing countries.

Of course, Canada also has opportunities for improvement. For example, the country is keenly aware of the improvements to be made around First Nations' human rights and the continued implementation of sustainable energy and transportation strategies to serve its vast landmass.

What sustainability means at AtkinsRéalis

Being a global organization, we are aware of the scale of impact we can have on local communities and national initiatives. The professionals working at AtkinsRéalis get to do what they love, whether it be engineering, project management, or life sciences, whilst also solving some of the most pressing climate issues with clean energy solutions. For instance, we recently launched the Floodmap Desktop - the only publicly available software that evaluates flood risk at specific locations.

We care about sustainability and community and offer exciting opportunities for professionals who want to make a difference. In keeping with the UN’s SDGs, AtkinsRéalis champions Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I), and we implement these values in their hiring and promotion processes.

If you want to make a difference and help North America achieve its sustainable development goals, now’s the time to browse jobs in Canada, explore vacancies in the US or sign up to the talent community to hear about future roles.