A regional forecast
We divided the world into five regions, characterized by their size and economic development status. The world’s two largest economic powers, USA and China, are defined as regions on their own. OECD (minus the USA) is defined as a third economic region.
Large emerging economies are assembled in another region – named BRISE after Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, and the other ten large Emerging economies – the common trait being that these have shown fast growth for some time, and have climbed out of widespread poverty. The final region, Rest of the World, ROW, mostly cover nations that struggle to provide their citizens with high standards of living, but additionally also represents smaller countries that would not fit in to the other categories. The regional double spread at the end of this global forecast gives the full overview of the five regions.
None of the Sustainable Development SDGs will be met in all regions of the world
Moreover, not even half of the SDGs will be met in any of the regions. The report shows that we need to step up our collective efforts to reach the goals.
The world is making progress towards most of the global goals
The goals for Health (3), Education (4), Water and sanitation (6), Energy (7) and Industry (9) have the most positive outlooks. We are also moving in the right direction on several other goals, particularly those around human development such as Poverty (1), Hunger (2) and Gender Equality (5).
The progress is not fair enough
One area where the world will make the least progress is on Goal 10: Inequality. Our forecast shows red indicators in all regions. Within countries, the inequality gap will continue to widen. Between countries, developing nations will continue to lag behind. A key objective of the SDGs is that no-one gets left behind: on the forecast trajectory, the world will fail.
The transition from fossil fuels to clean energy will not be fast enough
The replacement of fossil fuel with renewable energy sources is underway. However, this shift is too slow. In order to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, accumulated carbon emissions cannot pass 2900 Giga tonnes CO2: our ‘carbon budget’. On the current trajectory, we will exceed this carbon budget by the year 2037, entering increasingly dangerous climate change territory. Note: The COP21 agreement in Paris set a new global warming ambition of 1.5 degrees Celsius, making this transition from fossil fuels to renewables even more urgent and difficult.
The energy demand will level off
Global energy demand will level off from 2030 onwards. At that time, improvements in energy efficiency will outweigh increases in population and productivity. Our population forecast is lower than the UN’s average estimates. We predict fertility rates will be lower as a result of increased urbanisation and improved female education. Productivity growth in both the developed world and in China will come to a halt as these regions become mature service economies.
Lack of climate action is a showstopper
Climate change is a global challenge: we succeed or fail as one planet. Lack of sufficient progress on climate action forms a barrier towards achieving most other global goals. It will be increasingly difficult to achieve most of the global goals in a world with increased climate change.
Business is ready to take the extraordinary action needed to prove our assessment wrong
Our assessment proves that the world’s current rate of action is not enough. To reach the global goals, we need extraordinary efforts. The private sector has a key role to play, representing 60% of the world’s GDP. Business can be the swing factor: the actions companies choose to take have the power to amplify change – for good and for bad. The business case for sustainable development is showcased in the report with examples from frontier companies taking extraordinary action for the global goals.
What can we learn from this cooperation between the 17 frontier companies?
- Optimism: A ‘can do’ attitude is strongly in evidence amongst companies taking action on the SDGs. They are not seeing the SDGs as a series of trade-offs, but as an integral whole – hence seeing the possibilities of combining growth with sustainability, raising productivity and taking climate action. These firms have transformed their business models to include elements from the circular and sharing economy, and have developed their businesses through cooperation and partnerships.
- Power of connectedness: Many of the most effective actions on the SDGs are related to or build upon the dramatically increasing connectedness of the world. For example, mobile-based solutions enable end users to leapfrog knowledge-related barriers to development. Embracing the social role of technology allows companies to co-innovate with consumers and suppliers in near-real time and is a defining feature of the age of digitalization; it also has profound effects on transparency, the sustainability of supply chains and in creating new forms of demand in under-served markets.
- What people want: The SDGs are the most comprehensive description yet of the future that humanity desires. In some ways, they may be the greatest piece of market research ever. Those companies who use the SDGs as an approach to understanding current needs and anticipating future ones, and who then bring a service mind-set to the market demand arising from those fundamental needs, seem to be companies not just at the forefront of sustainability thinking, but market leaders within their industries. They are also the companies most likely to enjoy regulatory and policy support, and most able to participate in successful public-private partnerships.