Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are a set of goals and targets to be reached by 2030, agreed upon by, and requiring action from all United Nations (UN) member states. Soil functions play an important role for the realisation of multiple targets and underpin the achievement of the SDG agenda as a whole. Although the UN indicators for measuring progress on these targets are designed at the global level, successful achievement of the agenda requires national, regional and local efforts. It is therefore important to also connect the sustainable development goals to effects of policy and management options at these levels. The BonaRes Assessment Platform supports the operationalisation of the SDG targets by defining linkages to soil related ecosystem services and agricultural resource use efficiency.  

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were adopted in 2015 by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There are 17 SDGs in total which include goals to end poverty and hunger, combat inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030. The SDGs are further broken down into 169 individual time-bound targets and there currently exist 230 indicators against which they can be measured. The goals are not binding under international law but UN member states have a legal obligation to issue progress reports up to the 2030 target date.

The SDGs are universal in nature meaning that they apply to and should be achieved in all countries. Furthermore, the 17 goals are “integrated and indivisible”, designed to balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental (UN, 2016). Efforts to achieve one goal should not hinder progress in other areas.


The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which were adopted by world leaders in 2000 to be reached by 2015. These were eight goals aimed primarily at reducing extreme poverty and the related consequences.

Despite only 4 explicit references to soils in the 169 SDG targets (targets 2.4, 3.9, 12.4, 15.3), soil functions play an important role for the realisation of a vast number of targets and underpin the achievement of the SDG agenda as a whole (Montanarella & Alva, 2015). Not only do they have a clear role in achieving SDGs related to the biophysical system (e.g. SDGs 2, 3, 6, 7, 12–15), they are also important to the achievement of socio-economic goals due to the multifunctional benefits they provide (Keesstra et al., 2016).

Unlike the MDGs which focussed on the donor recipient relationship between more developed and poorer countries, the SDGs are universal in nature, meaning that they apply to all countries and should be achieved in all countries. In Germany, Agenda 2030 forms the basis of the latest Sustainable Development Strategy (German Federal Government, 2017), which presents measures to implement the 17 SDGs across the economic, social and environmental spheres. 

The UN indicators for measuring progress towards SDGs are designed for impact assessment at the global level and therefore do not directly relate to local, regional or even national decisions. However, successful achievement of the agenda requires efforts at every level in all UN member states. It is therefore important to draw connections between management options and the relevant SDG targets. The BonaRes Assessment Platform supports this by highlighting 25 SDG targets that are directly connected to agricultural management and impact areas under the assessment perspectives of soil related ecosystem services and agricultural resource use efficiency. Table 6 lists the SDG targets for which connections are drawn and provides the codes for the respective impact areas, Table 7 lists the impact areas supported by the BonaRes Assessment Platform to which these codes refer to. The highest numbers of connections were found for target 2.04 (sustainable food production and resilient agriculture) and target 6.06 (protect and restore water related ecosystems).

On the platform, users may first select one of the SDG targets and then choose from a list of connected impact areas. A factsheet for the chosen impact area is then created which provides information on indicators, strengths & weaknesses pertaining to measurements, correlations with agricultural management and examples of published research. 

Additional SDG targets and assessment perspectives, such as equity or human health impacts, may be added in future updates to the assessment platform.



Table 6: SDG targets related to agricultural management and impact areas under the perspectives of resource use efficiency and ecosystem services.


Tabellen noch eintragen!!!!

German Federal Government. 2016. German Sustainable Development Strategy. Online: (accessed 09 August 2019)

Keesstra S D, Quinton J N, van der Putten W H, Bardgett R D, Fresco L O. 2016. The significance of soils and soil science towards realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Soil 2, 111–128. DOI:10.5194/soil-2-111-2016

Montanarella L, Alva I L. 2015. Putting soils on the agenda: the three Rio Conventions and the post-2015 development agenda. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 15, 41–48. DOI:10.1016/j.cosust.2015.07.008

United Nations. 2016. Resolution 70/1. Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Online: (accessed 09 August 2019)