[Translate to English:] Demonstration

What have we achieved?: Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development

Armed conflicts, trade wars, climate change, migration, nationalism and populism are all making it more difficult to implement international treaties and agreements. This is also true of the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which was adopted on September 25, 2015, by all 193 United Nations member states. By signing the agreement, the heads of state and government committed themselves to an ambitious undertaking meant to be realized within 15 years. The Sustainable Development Goals agreed upon at the UN Summit supplement the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000, whose primary objective was to combat hunger and poverty in developing nations.

SDG Index & Dashboards – analytic tools for the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Immediately before the UN General Assembly was held in 2015, the Bertelsmann Stiftung published the first worldwide analytical tool for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals: the SDG Index & Dashboards. They have been assembled and released every year since 2016 by a team of authors as part of a comprehensive economic report produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) under the direction of UN Special Adviser Jeffrey Sachs. Since the Agenda 2030 goals are not legally binding, actors from civil society are needed to draw the attention of decision makers and the public to the process. They must also urge that progress be made and develop solutions. Through their joint project, SDSN and the Bertelsmann Stiftung are thus making an important international contribution to reaching the UN’s global goals.

[Translate to English:] UN-Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon
Last year’s agreement on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals brought together representatives from the political sphere, civil society, the private sector and academia to chart a truly sustainable path towards a future of dignity for all. Sound data must be at the core of our efforts to assist nations in achieving the SDGs. I am confident that the SDG Index launched by SDSN and the Bertelsmann Stiftung will add value to the process of putting the world on a more peaceful, just and sustainable path.
Ban Ki-moon- former UN-Secretary-General

A LOOK BACK: The path to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development

Agenda 2030 combines two formerly separate global processes to create a holistic strategy: the poverty and development agenda of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainability Agenda (“Rio Process”).

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The MDGs have shown that development successes are possible. Improvements have been achieved in many areas since the MDGs were adopted. From 2000 to 2015, for example, poverty has been halved worldwide and there is better access to drinking water and education. Mortality rates for mothers and children have also been reduced by half.

Sustainability Agenda

The concept of sustainable development was first advanced at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio Conference). After the gathering, virtually all international resolutions, treaties and action programs relating to development acknowledged that economic growth which does not consider the three sustainability dimensions – social, environmental and economic – results in incalculable ecological threats and political risks.

In September 2013, both processes – the MDGs and Rio – were combined to form a joint basis for Agenda 2030. This allowed social, environmental and economic goals and their related aspects to be anchored in the agenda in a balanced manner.

The SDG Index in the Agenda 2030 monitoring system: The first tool for measuring achievement of the SDGs

Agenda 2030 was adopted by all member states at the UN Summit held in September 2015. It was developed with the broad participation of civil society and represents a milestone in the UN’s recent history.

Presented on September 8, 2015, two weeks before the decisive UN Summit in New York, the study Sustainable Development Goals – Are the rich countries ready? included the world’s first SDG Index und Dashboards for measuring the 17 SDGs. The publication was initially focused on the 34 OECD member states, since they were generally the leaders in terms of realizing the MDGs. The study and its expert analyses were well-received worldwide by policy makers, the academic community and the media.

Video: Sustainable Development Goals - Launch of the SDG Index in New York


The results of the analysis were sobering: Most industrial nations still have far to go if they want to serve as role models for sustainable development. For many indicators, the danger even exists that the relevant goal will not be reached at all. According to the analysis, the greatest shortcomings can be found in barely sustainable systems of production and consumption. Moreover, economic systems often exacerbate the trend towards social inequality.

The countries that could most readily reach the new UN goals are the four Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, followed by Switzerland. Countries least likely to achieve the goals are the United States, Greece, Chile, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico.

Germany was ranked a respectable sixth. It was a leader for 12 of the 34 indicators in the study, especially for economic growth, employment, research and development, its relatively low poverty rate, comparatively favorable levels of social security, low murder rate, and numerous nature reserves. Its shortcomings included the large amount of waste it produces and the overfertilization resulting from its agricultural practices.

Publication: Sustainable Development Goals: Are the rich countries ready?

The Millennium Development Goals have led to tangible progress in many developing countries. Once adopted, the United Nations' new global Sustainable ...

[Translate to English:] Kofi Annan
I would like to thank the Bertelsmann Stiftung for drawing attention to this topic in such detail. Hopefully this study will spark a debate in many industrialized countries about reforms for increasing sustainability and social justice. We owe it to our planet and its people.
Kofi Annan- former UN Secretary-General

Expanding the SDG Index under the direction of UN Special Adviser Jeffrey Sachs


Following publication of the study, the UN secretary-general’s special adviser for the sustainability goals, Professor Jeffrey Sachs (director of SDSN), approached the Bertelsmann Stiftung about leading production of the report and expanding the list of countries included in it. Thanks to the close cooperation with SDSN and its over 500 research institutions, the team of authors was able to further optimize the methodology used for the report.

SDG Index: Findings from the reports, 2016 to 2018

Findings from the three comprehensive SDG Index reports, which were each presented at the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York, showed that the world’s agenda for a sustainable future is still not having the desired impact. According to the reports, the G20 nations in particular are not living up to their role as global leaders, and the spirit of cooperation has now evaporated. Growing protectionism and nationalism are threatening implementation of the goals, they noted, and a key obstacle is that the goals are insufficiently embedded in national regulatory frameworks.

The findings also showed that industrialized countries often increase costs for developing and newly industrializing nations as a result of their resource-intensive consumption, insufficient funding of development aid and the protection they offer tax havens. This negative role can be seen particularly clearly in the area of weapons exports, which can fuel conflicts in crisis-prone regions. This is making it harder for poorer states to reach the ambitious sustainability goals by 2030.


In terms of the SDG Index rankings, very little has changed over the last four years. For example, the more affluent Northern European countries are the ones most likely to reach the UN goals, with Sweden, Denmark and Finland taking the top spots in the 2018 ranking. The performance of the US (35th) and China (54th) shows that the world’s major economies still have a long way to go when it comes to sustainable development. Germany was ranked fourth and is, along with France (5th), one of two G7 nations in the top 10.

In September 2019, the heads of state and government came together again for the first time to review the progress made in implementing the SDGs. A glance at the results was sobering: The SDG report presented on June 19, 2019, in New York shows that no country is on track to reach all the goals by 2030. The report noted for the first time that Agenda 2030 could indeed fail.

The reason for this continues to be the ambivalent role that the industrialized countries are playing in implementing the agenda. On the one hand, they are the ones closest to reaching the goals. On the other, their consumption preferences and living standards are generating major environmental and economic costs for other countries. According to the report’s authors, the areas where the most catching up is needed are climate protection and sustainable consumption. In addition, the authors criticize the mismatch between malnutrition and the overproduction of food. For example, one-third of the world’s food ends up as waste or is otherwise disposed of unused, even though the planet is home to over 800 million undernourished people. 


An international comparison shows that Germany is ranked sixth here as well. The two areas where it could do better are climate protection and sustainable consumption and production. Like its peers, Germany does not yet commit the targeted amount of 0.7% of GDP to development aid and is challenged by the high nitrate levels of its soil and groundwater. Another example of where it lags behind is waste production. Germans produce approximately 22 kilograms of electronic waste per capita each year – almost three times as much as in Turkey or Mexico and roughly the same as in the US.

partnership with the Sustainable Communities Monitor

Numerous regional and national spin-offs have been created based on the SDG Index & Dashboards originally developed in 2015 and on the affiliated interactive Internet portal interactive Internet portal. This process has been supported and promoted both methodologically and conceptionally by the SDG Index authors. The spin-offs include the SDG Index for European Cities, the SDG Index for Africa and numerous national activities (e.g. in the US, Italy and Spain). Since 2018, a German portal – the Sustainable Communities Monitor – has been providing important information for implementing the SDGs at the local level.

Seven partners worked together to build the portal and are collaborating to develop it further: the Bertelsmann Stiftung, the Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development, the Association of German Cities, the Association of German Counties, the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, the German Institute of Urban Affairs, and Engagement Global together with its Service Agency Communities in One World.

While the SDG Index is primarily geared toward decision makers in the globe’s centers of government, the monitor is designed for the relevant actors in Germany’s cities and towns.

While the  SDG Index is primarily geared toward decision makers in the globe’s centers of government, the monitor is designed for the relevant actors in Germany’s cities and towns. The  SDG portal, which was presented to the public for the first time in November 2018, is increasingly proving to be a valuable aid for communities committed to implementing Agenda 2030 locally. The portal offers data (where available) on a total of 47 SDG indicators for the over 3,000 communities in Germany with 5,000 inhabitants or more.

Preliminary results and impact of SDG Index

The project has been firmly embedded in the UN’s official Agenda 2030 process, not least thanks to the partnership with the UN special envoy for the SDGs and with the SDSN under the auspices of the UN secretary-general. Moreover, the SDG Index plays a key role in the system for monitoring who is reaching the goals.

As a recognized measurement tool developed by a civil society organization, it is much more effective than official monitoring mechanisms, such as the annual UN report on the SDGs and the individual member states’ voluntary national reviews.

The yearly release of the SDG Index findings at the UN High-Level Political Forum is much awaited and has received considerable attention from policy makers, the international media and social media.

A concrete example of the ongoing interest in the SDG Index and its impact is the Spanish parliament’s decision to use it to measure the progress the country is making in implementing Agenda 2030. A range of individuals and institutions use the index for their work, including numerous governments and ministries, international organizations, NGOs, journalists, investors, businesses and, above all, researchers. In just a few years, over 500 academic studies have been published which cite the SDG Index – a figure that is increasing rapidly.

[Translate to English:] Klaus Schwab
The SDG Index will increase the accountability that is urgently needed when it comes to Agenda 2030 and will promote its implementation. The vague hope that the 17 SDGs can be reached will thus become concrete reality.
Klaus SchwabFounder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum