The Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University has undertaken a preliminary research project which searches for, and evaluates, UK data that corresponds to (i.e. sharing underpinning standards in a way that allows for comparison) to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators and targets. The preliminary findings of this study are available to download and include:

  • Around 173 SDG indicators are applicable (in the widest sense) to the UK domestic context.
  • Of these 173 indicators, a direct equivalent, or else a readily and broadly corresponding measure, can be identified and used for a high proportion – 125 indicators or 72%. This gives an initial indication of the size of the UK data availability “gap”. These initial findings suggest that the gap is largest and most significant around Goals 10 and 16 where some indicators are especially novel and complex.

Gauging UK performance in terms of the SDGs targets and indicators is not straightforward, given the diversity of the targets themselves and issues of interpretation; in all areas there is the need for further technical work around the data. From the available data and clear, unambiguous, SDG targets the research demonstrates a clear need for UK progress across all of the Goals and specific targets.Some of the salient findings present stakeholders in the UK with an idea of performance gaps against the SDGs. 

By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
16.8% of people are living in poverty according to our national definition
By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
3 million people in the UK are undernourished and 1.3 million of them are elderly
By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
Approximately 40,000 premature deaths were caused by air pollution in 2014
By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
47% of young people fail to achieve the minimum expected outcome of 5 GCSE's when they leave school
Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
19% of women in the UK aged 16-59 have been victims of sexual assault in their lifetime
By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity
Of 24 water authorities 9 are reported as having serious stress levels and 14 report moderate stress levels
By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
8.3% of energy in the UK is from renewable sources, the UK is on track to miss its own target of 15% by 2020
By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
17.5% of young people in the North East are not in employment, education or training compared to 10.9% in the South East
By 2030, upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes, with all countries taking action in accordance with their respective capabilities
We do not have sufficient data to understand our performance against this target 
Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard
21% of people in the UK live on less than 50% of average income 
By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
20% of homes failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard
By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses
In 2013, 15 million tonnes of food and drink were wasted in the food chain 
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Goal 13 deliberately refers to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. According to the IMF, EAC and OECD the UK has substantial subsidies for fossil fuels
By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics
Some UK fish stocks and areas fare better than others: cod, especially, is coded red for "reduced capacity"
By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements 
Over 20% of the "habitats of importance" and over 10% of species, are in both unfavourable and declining condition
Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
UK public institutions do not mirror constituents they represent and trust in national government is very low at 31%

UKSSD and the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University want to work with the network and partners to develop this research and draw on collective expertise to analyse the gaps in more detail and identify policies or programmes to fill them. If you'd like to take part of in this or can support this work please contact us.