Applying the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New Zealand

November 2, 2017

It will be interesting to see whether the new Government makes more use of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide to progress in New Zealand. The SDGs haven’t really been on the political agenda here. The tendency has been for New Zealanders to see them as only applying to international aid and development in ‘poor’ countries overseas. They are, in fact, designed to apply domestically. New Zealand needs to make progress on the goals here, in our communities, as much as in any other country. The goals aren’t just about the global south/developing nations. This places the goals front and centre for any philanthropic looking to shift the dial on social or environmental issues.


Philanthropy and impact investing internationally are increasingly using the goals as a frame of reference to guide contribution locally, while offering the inspiration and convening power of linkage to the global humanitarian agenda. The goals help guide collaboration, measurement, and priority setting. Foundations are also joining in education and advocacy work promoting the goals, talking with grantees, partners and their communities about how the goals might guide the ways we are working.

In the US, the Council on Foundations and SDG Philanthropy Platform’s report From Global Goals to Local Impact highlights ways philanthropy is helping achieve the goals in the States. The report notes: “…philanthropy must take the SDGs seriously and capitalize on the tremendous opportunities they present. Foundations who view the goals as essential and urgent calls to action, for every sector, will have a clear way of connecting their own individual efforts to broader humanitarian goals.”

Interestingly, the private sector is on the bus. This recent State of CSR Report on corporate social responsibility in Australasia noted: “Last year, many (corporate) respondents said they were cross-referencing existing strategies against the SDGs before formulating plans. This year, more than half of respondents report the SDGs have been mapped against business strategy as much as they have been against CSR strategies or reporting. Even better, organisations are assessing their impacts through the lens of the SDGs, setting targets, developing partnerships, and reporting performance.”

I’d be interested to hear if any Kiwi grantmakers or philanthropists are engaging with the SDGs –