The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are “a blueprint for long-term planning toward social, economic, and environmental well-being.” Two of the 17 goals – Decent Work & Growth and Sustainable Cities & Communities – are especially relevant to US economic developers.

Economic development organizations (EDOs) can use these two SDGs to measure and communicate the range of work they do to enhance economic opportunity in their communities. The SDGs can also help EDOs promote their locations to young talent and the growing numbers of businesses who seek places that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and well-being.  

Here are three things economic development leaders should know about the SDGs. 

More places are using the SDGs. The US and 192 other countries have adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which were established in 2015. Investment promotion agencies around the world are ensuring their practices are consistent with the SDGs as they compete for foreign direct investment. US cities, including New York, San Jose, Baltimore and Orlando are using the SDGs as a framework for their city planning efforts. Third-party organizations are already rating US locations by their progress toward the SDGs. For example, see the 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report to learn where your city ranks. 

Businesses care. Nearly 10,000 global businesses have signed on to support the SDGs. Expanding and relocating companies are increasingly prioritizing sustainability in their RFPs and RFIs. Other countries and their investment promotion agencies are well ahead of the US and its cities in using the SDGs in their work, and the leadership of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies have made sustainable development a priority. If you haven’t seen it already, you will likely see more queries about your location’s commitment to  sustainable development.

The SDGs can help you do your work. The SDGs do not require a reboot of your economic development strategy. Good economic development practices are already well aligned with many elements of the SDGs. Each SDG has defined metrics EDOs can adopt or adapt. These metrics can help evaluate project opportunities and guide resources to those providing the most long-term benefits. The SDGs also offer a practical framework to communicate otherwise hard to measure activities that most EDOs undertake on behalf of their communities. In this way, the SDGs can help build support for important initiatives with long-term, meaningful impact. 

For more information:
Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Platform
United Nations Global Compact
World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies
Sustainable Development Solutions Network
2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report

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