What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call to action which all United Nations (UN) member states committed to in 2015. There are 17 goals designed to work toward “peace and prosperity for people and planet” by 2030. They intend to address some of the greatest social and environmental challenges around the world, and the need for economic growth while ensuring environmental protection.
The goals address the following important areas:
To end poverty and hunger and ensure all people live in dignity, equality, and a healthy environment.
To protect the planet from degradation, take urgent action on climate change, and sustainably manage its natural resources.
To ensure that all people enjoy prosperous lives, and that economic, social and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.
To foster peaceful, fair, and inclusive societies free from violence and fear. Peace and sustainable development are not possible without the other.
To mobilise a Global Partnership for Sustainable Development. This strengthened solidarity involving all countries and stakeholders will strive to address the needs of the most poor and vulnerable.
At FSC, we are committed to working toward the SDGs to ensure a brighter future for generations to come. Therefore, our FSC-standards address a lot of the criteria behind the SDGs.
Goal #1: No poverty
The aim of SDG 1 is to eradicate extreme poverty, which is currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day. It will also ensure all people have equal rights to economic resources, basic services, and ownership and control over land, natural resources, technology and financial services.
Over 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, and more than 300 million people live in them. Forest products are a source of economic growth and employment, with the industry generating around $327 billion a year.
FSC is contributing to goal 1 by:
- Combatting illegal logging
Illegal logging is a source of corruption, undermines tax payments, and reduces income for producing countries, which in turn limits the ability to invest in sustainable development. FSC-certified timber helps to crack down on illegal timber trade.
- Supporting smallholders
Smallholders and community foresters may gain additional income through FSC-certification.
- Supporting people who live in forests
FSC rules require reasonable wages, the protection of forest workers, and ensuring local communities’ benefit from forest management. An example of this is building schools and hospitals which contribute to the reduction of poverty.
In the forest community of Ejido Noh-Bec (FSC®C018252), over 90 per cent of income comes from the surrounding FSC-certified forest and sawmill. The community owns the land and everyone gets a cut of the profits, and the sawmill employs around 100 people which generates further income. Abraham Gonzalez Sosa, the president of the community and leader of forest activities says: “The FSC certification has meant access to new markets and extra income for workers. In general, we pay three times the local salary for a worker here at our sawmill.”
Goal #2: Zero hunger
An estimated 821 million people were undernourished in 2017, which increased from 784 million in 2015, and poor nutrition is the cause of death for 3.1 million children under five every year. SDG 2 aims to end hunger and ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all. This includes improving agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, and ensuring sustainable food production systems adapted to climate change, extreme weather, drought, and flooding.
Millions of households depend on food and fodder from forests to feed their families and livestock. Not only do forests directly supply food, they also provide valuable ecosystem services such as supporting the water cycle which can help to sustain healthy agricultural sectors.
Deforestation and degradation can negatively impact on this. However, responsible forest management as set out by the requirements of FSC plays a key role in mitigating global hunger. Additionally, ensuring a reasonable wage for forest workers can allow them to afford food for themselves and their families.
Kallie von Flotow is a farmer with the Friedheim Timbers’ Forest Management Group Scheme in Namibia (FSC®C106184). He chose FSC certification because he wanted to have a clear conscience that he does the right thing for nature and the people working for him. Kallie employs 30 people who live with their families on his farm and he provides weekly meal rations and a piece of land for each family to grow their own vegetables.
Goal #3: Good health and wellbeing
Good health and wellbeing are essential to sustainable development, yet more work is required to eradicate disease and emerging health issues. In order to help save the lives of millions, SDG 3 focuses on funding health systems, improving sanitation and hygiene, and increasing access to medical care.
Forests benefit human health through providing ecosystem services such as clean water and air, and trees have long been used for pharmaceutical products. Spending time in forests can also positively benefit our physical and mental health.
FSC is committed to supporting forest workers’ health by ensuring that health and safety practices are undertaken. FSC-certified companies must provide workers with job-specific training and supervision to ensure safety in both forestry and the upstream production chain. They must also have mechanisms in place to providing fair compensation to workers in the case of occupational diseases.
Gabon’s Precious Wood’s FSC-certified workers village (FSC®C002359) offers their sawmill employees, their families, and people living in the local villages of the forest basic medical services at a small hospital. An FSC certification audit encouraged the hospital to purchase an ambulance to transport patients to a larger hospital nearby in case of emergencies or serious illnesses. They also have a fire engine and provide regular training in case of emergencies and their certification ensures regular fire drills.
Goal #4: Quality education
Major progress has been made in improving access and quality of education. However, 262 million children and youth aged 6 to 17 were still not enrolled in school in 2017, and 617 million youth lack basic literacy and mathematic skills. SDG 4 is working to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Although FSC does not address SDG 4 directly, many FSC-certified forests include access to schools for the children of forest workers as part of their certification commitments. Training and continuous learning for forest workers around the world is also an integral part of the FSC system.
Precious Woods in Gabon (FSC®C002359) is also committed to providing quality education through a day care for small children, who then graduate on to a nearby school which teaches 700 children. A community centre also teaches local languages and reading skills for adults, and works to preserve local culture.
FSC is also passionate about environmental education. The community of the FSC-certifed areas of Petcacab, situated in the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula, run a nature programme to educate their youth. Basilio Rivas Cauiche who leads the programme says: “The lack of knowledge about biodiversity in our forests is one of the biggest threats to nature. FSC has meant that we started taking biodiversity seriously and that we could invest time in this field.”
Basilio takes the community’s children to the forest to look for wildlife, and with more than 169 species of exotic birds and good forest management, Basilio is hoping that Petcacab could become a destination for birdwatchers and ecotourism.
Look out for our next blog in this series to find out about how FSC are addressing the remaining SDGs.