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Catherine Gee of Keep Scotland Beautiful: What’s your goal?

Catherine Gee

This article by Catherine Gee, Director with Keep Scotland Beautiful, is the fifth in the SDG Network’s blog series ‘Scotland’s Goals.’ 

Most of us have goals that we seek to achieve, either set by ourselves, by who we work for, or both. Common, shared goals are important in delivering real change and none more so, in my opinion, than the global ones for sustainable development set by the United Nations in September 2015.

Awareness of these Goals is still troublingly low, given their significance. They are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that 193 UN member states have signed up to – – a truly global approach to tackling climate change, inequalities and poverty by 2030. So what? You might say, here’s another environmentalist ranting on about climate change and sustainable development.

We don’t habitually question how our individual actions, or the actions of the organisations we work for, and with, contribute to global change. In achieving our goals, many of our choices are often driven by convenience, a personal convenience which doesn’t relate to others here or abroad and which aren’t sustainable. Too many of us make decisions that support our busy lifestyles; to buy convenience food which comes prepared and packaged saving time and enabling us to eat on the go; to driving our cars to get to work quickly in the morning rather than cancelling our expensive gym memberships, getting up earlier and cycling or walking.

However, what if we considered our actions and choices based on the impact they could have on others? What if we thought about our sons, daughters, nieces or nephews or grandchildren; those who started school this year, and considered what sort of world they would inherit in 2030 when they leave full time education. Would you change your goals then?

We know the world is facing major economic, social and environmental challenges and that the current development trajectory is unsustainable. The environmental charity that I work for, Keep Scotland Beautiful, has decided that the UN’s Global Goals are important and eighteen months ago, recognising their strategic importance for our work, in particular with young people, we sought to play an active role in supporting the targets of all 17 Global Goals and have aligned the charity’s vision, mission and key activities to evidence our contribution.

The Scottish Government was one of the first countries in the world to sign up to adopt the Global Goals at home and abroad. It has already started to align the National Performance Framework to the Global Goals, and is encouraging collaboration through the Open Government Network, which we support.

The Global Goals are more than just a PR exercise, although that in itself is to be welcomed, because if the language is made accessible and people are encouraged to talk about the issues, they will start to understand the complexities and the challenges in achieving the targets, but also begin to design solutions.

The Global Goals will only work if people know about them, if they have the right conversations about them, and if they ask questions about how governments, businesses and public bodies are working to end to extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.

It is time to get involved and to have these conversations about how our everyday lives touch these ambitious goals – our experience with our employees is that it has opened new discussions and is now starting to feed through to the organisations and communities we work with.

The Global Goals have given us, as a charity, a framework to think on a bigger scale, and it’s important that we encourage everyone to get behind them – make them less scary, more tangible and relevant to us all in our day to day lives.

The third sector, private sector and business community in Scotland can help the Scottish Government and the UN make this happen. We all need to champion the Global Goals, embed them in planning and reporting frameworks and secure real cross-sectoral engagement.

The Global Goals matter to our charity, they matter to those we work with. In fact, meeting the targets set out under the 17 Global Goals should matter to everyone in Scotland.

So, I’ve picked my personal goals, my charity has picked those most relevant to its work, and so has the Scottish Government. Globally, nationally and locally more and more conversations are starting about the Global Goals. We are talking to people about them through our charitable activities them to help them realise how simple, everyday steps are really helping to tackle global problems to save our planet. It’s about time you had a look and picked yours too?

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Catherine Gee, Director with Keep Scotland Beautiful

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