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Sustainable Development Goals and Capitalism

Can we ever achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) under Capitalism?

In this article we will talk about SDG under capitalism and if it is possible to ever achieve the SDG under capitalism. We will take a close look at some of the studies and articles on the topic. SDG is the Sustainable Development Goals used by the United States back in 2015 to fight against poverty, aim to protect the earth, and provide peace and unity. There has been a lot of debate around whether the goals can be achieved under capitalism, though there are 17 SDGs, and each of them has a goal to be achieved by 2030.


Capitalism being one of the largest economic systems in the world, which is based on private owners and create profit, studies have shown how much capitalism impacts society, “Capitalism is one of the largest economic systems in the world, which is based on private owners and creates profit, studies have shown how much capitalism impacts society, “After colonialism ended in the 20th century, there was an acceleration in GDP per head occurred as many countries became independent, based their currencies on the Gold Standard and then later the principles of the Washington Consensus”. The competition around pricing in the markets and self-interest increases the value of capitalism.

Many people's standards of living have arisen from the increase of capitalism, but it has also been a major problem in poverty, inequality, and climate change. Most importantly discussion of capitalism concerning the SDG it’s biased toward maximising profits instead of addressing environmental problems. Companies are more motivated by the profit than the goal; they only care about profitable activities that increase shareholder values. This means SDG becomes less achievable under capitalism because companies are not keen to invest in SDG activities unless it’s very profitable.

For example, SDG 7 provides access to Affordable and sustainable modern energy for all but solar and wind power is increasing in fossil fuel, meaning people will be required significant upfront investments to obtain solar, “The Sustainable Development Scenario assumes that concerted policy efforts speed up innovation timelines for new energy technologies so that innovation happens at least as fast as it has ever done before. This requires the efficient transmission of knowledge from first-mover countries to those that follow, particularly in the most critical early adoption phase”. In the system of Capitalism, Companies do not invest in renewable energy unless there is a major return from it even if it helps the achievement of SDG 7, which is a negative impact on its progression and becomes viable.


Furthermore, capitalism inequality has been a challenge in achieving the SDGs, meaning It is hard for SDG to achieve anything in society. Capitalism also leads to environmental degradation such as pollution and deforestation due to prioritising profits from economic growth. It has generational consequences on our planet which SDGs has mentioned countless time, such as human health, biodiversity, and climate change. However, even though capitalism is a significant issue in achieving the SDGs, it also has many positive aspects such as Unilever which is the number for sustainability leadership for the tenth year in a row “This geographic spread of leadership is a notable step-change from previous years. It indicates that our strategy to democratize sustainability through our Compass is being recognized externally on the ground where it matters.”, and Patagonia who are businesses and entrepreneurs?

The company’s dedication to sustainability can be seen through its use of environmentally friendly materials, responsible production practices, and support for environmental causes. Through its sustainability efforts and activism, Patagonia has created shared value for both the company and society., they help with the reduction of its environmental footprint. From different perspective capitalism can progress the SDG, some argue that energy technologies and digital communication have the potential to help SDG. To fully realise capitalism's potential to contribute to the SDG, capitalism will have to change some of its way of operation. The reduction of carbon pricing and the practice of a more sustainable method of promotion to profit from. For example, a big focus on externality, and the cost of living, ”The concept envisions income earners living beyond the precipice of cyclic poverty, which can be easily entered by those living just above the poverty line. Living income in this sense particularly links with SDG 1's targets related to resiliency and development strategy”.

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