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Introducing the UN SDGs as a Tool

This article prepares you for the UN SDG Assesments game. It describes how the SDGs can be used as a tool when analysing sustainable design.
© Luleå University of Technology

The UN SDG Impact Assessment Tool puts theory into practice. The tool offers an approach for performing self-assessment and identifying how the SDGs are impacted by, for example, a system or organisation.

With your own knowledge as a base, you can use to tool to identify positive impacts (opportunities), negative impacts (risks), and knowledge gaps.

When it comes to creating sustainable production systems, detecting gaps is important as it will help give a better understanding of how your system relates to the SDGs. You will also be able to prepare and be better equipped for challenges that might arise further ahead.

The tool utilises a lot of qualitative reflection but it also includes quantitative data where available. To get the most out of the tool, assessments should follow a five-step process:

Step 1: Gather your forces

Since the SDGs include many different topics, understanding them fully requires many different competencies. It is recommended to work with the tool in a group setting in order to allow for discussion and collaboration that can help gain new insights.

Step 2: Define, refine and draw the line

In the second step, you should provide a general description of what you are assessing. The description should be formulated so that it can be understood, even by those outside of the context. This gives the assessment scope and helps with identifying specific circumstances, and their impact on the SDGs. The description should be detailed but not too detailed. It can also be valuable to compare the impacts of, for example, a system you are assessing to similar systems elsewhere, to help with the framing and description.

Step 3: Sort the SDGs

In the third step, you will sort the SDGs based on their relevance to the system you are assessing. The aim with this is to kick-start discussions about the relations between the system and the SDGs. You can then focus on the SDGs you find the most relevant.

Step 4: Assess your impact

The fourth step is about assessing the SDGs. Reading through the targets can help in understanding the individual SDGs. For every SDG, impacts are categorised as having positive, negative or no impact. To assess SDG impacts, relevant relations also need to be considered and described. A direct (positive or negative) impact will have an immediate one-step effect on an SDG. An indirect (positive or negative) impact is a secondary effect further down a chain of events.

Step 5: Choose strategy forward

The fifth and final step is forward-looking and encourages you to formulate a strategy on how to make the object of study more sustainable going forward. Based on your result you can describe how to strengthen positive impacts and eliminate or minimise negative impacts.

It is encouraged to use the tool with common sense, providing reasoning for the presence or absence of impacts, and being transparent about the knowledge used.

There are many more nuances to the tool. If you think it sounds useful we encourage you to check it out. It can be found here (opens a link on a separate page):

© Luleå University of Technology
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Exploring Sustainable Production Systems

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