What is the role of governments in meeting sustainability goals?

3 Minutes
The urgency for a unified, collaborative, and scientifically-grounded approach has reached its zenith.

Recognising the pressing nature of this concern, the United Nations introduced a comprehensive framework in 2015, encapsulating 17 aspirational Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Crafted for adoption by governments, industries, and global stakeholders, these goals ambitiously strive to eradicate poverty, shield our planet, and pledge prosperity and peace for all by 2030(1).

The Imperative of Green Chemistry

A standout feature of the SDGs is their pronounced emphasis on environmental sustainability. Within this context, the significance of Green Chemistry (GC) is undeniable. GC is delineated as the "invention, design, and application of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances" (1). This approach dovetails seamlessly with other branches of chemistry, notably environmental chemistry, which sheds light on the intricate interplay between nature and human actions.

To illustrate, while environmental chemistry is often viewed as the 'chemistry of the environment', GC positions itself as 'chemistry for the environment'. This nuanced distinction, though subtle, carries profound implications. By championing eco-friendly chemical practices, GC becomes instrumental in realising numerous SDGs, encompassing Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-being, Clean Water and Sanitation, and Climate Action (1).

Traditional Institutions and Security

Venturing beyond the realm of environmental challenges, the SDGs also address wider societal issues. Take Nigeria as a case in point, which has faced pronounced security challenges since its democratic resurgence in 1999 (2). Traditional rulers, frequently sidelined in mainstream dialogues, are pivotal in upholding security at the grassroots. As the torchbearers of culture and community ethos, they command significant clout, enabling them to rally communities against looming threats. By weaving these traditional institutions into the national security tapestry, nations like Nigeria can amplify their strides towards sustainable development (2).

Organisational Resilience and Sustainability

In the corporate sphere, the odyssey towards sustainability hinges on the dynamic capability to nurture organisational resilience(3). A case in point is Brazilian manufacturers, who have showcased that strategic long-term planning, cohesive inter-departmental communication, benchmarking, and forging partnerships are quintessential for cultivating resilience geared towards sustainability. This resilience not only anchors business continuity but also harmonises corporate aspirations with overarching societal objectives (3).

Localisation of SDGs

The clarion call by the UN in 2019 for a "Decade for Action" underscored the imperative to localise the SDGs (4). While overarching global strategies hold their merit, tangible, on-ground action predominantly unfolds at the national and grassroots levels. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development champions a multilevel governance paradigm, breaking free from the traditional nation-state mould. This model mandates a cohesive vertical alignment spanning international to local governance tiers, coupled with a lateral synergy amongst public, private, and societal entities(4).

For instance, China, with its demographic heft, is poised to play a pivotal role. While official tallies estimate road traffic fatalities at 58,539, the World Health Organisation's assessment paints a grimmer picture, pegging the number at a staggering 261,3675. Addressing such disparities is paramount for nations to register meaningful advancements towards the SDGs.


The sustainability discourse, brimming with visionary aspirations, often finds itself wrestling with the tangible intricacies of real-world implementation. While the SDGs enjoy universal endorsement, their realisation demands a bespoke approach, tailored to the distinct socio-political and economic landscapes of individual nations. Governments, as the primary custodians of public welfare, are tasked not merely with policy formulation but also its efficacious execution. This calls for a holistic strategy, melding cutting-edge scientific innovations, such as Green Chemistry, with age-old traditional wisdom and contemporary organisational tactics.

As we navigate the intricate maze of a looming global sustainability crisis, the urgency for a unified, collaborative, and scientifically-grounded approach has reached its zenith. The horizon, though shrouded in uncertainty, beckons with boundless potential, challenging governments globally to envision and craft a legacy of sustainable prosperity for posterity.


  • Sharma S.K., "Green Chemistry and its Role in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals", 2022. (1)
  • Joseph I. Igwubor, "Traditional Institution and Nation Building: The Role of Traditional Rulers in the Maintenance of National Security for Sustainable Development", 2021. (2)
  • Ana Augusta Almeida de Souza et al., "Resilience for sustainability as an eco-capability", 2017.
  • M. Biggeri, "Editorial: A “Decade for Action” on SDG Localisation", 2021. (3)
  • S. Billingsley, "Making the road safety SDG targets count: delivering quick wins for road traffic injury prevention", 2016 (4)

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