Government not fulfilling its commitments to create a sustainable and fairer society says leading UK business network

 London, United Kingdom, 28 September 2022 – Urgent action is needed to ensure the UK achieves the ambitious commitments it made to end poverty, inequalities, and reduce the risks of climate change and ecological decline

A new report released today (28 September 2022) 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 Prime Minister Liz Truss to show leadership by placing responsibility for the SDGs in her own office to ensure they are fully integrated across government.

This 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 in light of 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 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.

The report, Measuring Up 2.0, comes from the UN Global Compact Network UK, a network of over 850 organisations dedicated to driving sustainable growth through responsible business practices including the Sustainable Development Goals.

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. More than 100 organisations and individuals have taken part, including businesses, charities, academia, and professional associations.

The project 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.

As a result, the UN Global Compact Network UK believe the links between targets and the need for cross sector collaboration to tackle issues are not being considered to best effect.

In her address to the UN General Assembly last week, Prime Minister Liz Truss expressed that “[o]ur commitment to hope and progress must begin at home - in the lives of each and every citizen that we serve”.

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. Government needs to place responsibility and ownership for the SDGs within the Cabinet Office, with the Prime Minister herself or with a minister who has a domestic policy role.

Lord McConnell, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the UN Global Goals, said: "No one doubts that the economic and security situation facing the world is very serious, but that is a reason to use the Sustainable Development Goals as the framework for recovery, not a reason to roll back on our ambitions agreed in 2015. National and local government in the UK need to up their game, setting out clear targets and measuring their impact. We cannot afford to leave more people behind, at home or around the world."

The report will be launched today at a business event (28 September 2022).

Rachel McEwen, Chief Sustainability Officer at SSE, said: “The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a fantastic framework for businesses to align to in the pursuit of creating value for both shareholders and society. But it's not enough just to be inspired by them – we must act on them and transparently demonstrate to all stakeholders the progress that is being made. That's why this Measuring Up report is so important”.

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. We need more action, by more organisations, and at a more strategic and ambitious level, to help the UK meet the SDGs.

“The report includes just a small sample of what is already being done by the business community, investors, civil society, and academia that have embraced the Goals” said Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact Network UK. “This agenda has tremendous potential to mobilise action across the political spectrum, but to achieve the SDGs we need bold leadership from everyone.”

The report is available to download from www.measuringup.org.uk on 28 September 2022.


 Notes to editors

About the UN Global Compact Network UK

The UN Global Compact Network UK is part of the world’s largest responsible business initiative connecting UK companies and other organisations in a global movement dedicated to driving sustainable growth. Through an extensive programme of activity, we promote practical sustainability leadership, share knowledge across sectors, and actively shape the responsible business environment to create a world we want to live and do business in.

The United Nations Global Compact’s universally recognised Principles, rooted in UN treaties, provide a robust foundation from which we lead UK business action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We use our power to convene business and other organisations to find practical solutions to global challenges.


For further information, an advanced copy of the report or interviews, please contact Clare O’Keeffe, Global Goals Project Manager, UN Global Compact Network UK clare.o’keeffe@unglobalcompact.org.uk