Sustainable Development Goals Resources

On this page you will find: About the SDGs, Where to Start , and Resources.

About the SDGs

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an urgent call for action by the global community to address pressing problems associated with environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. As iGEMers it's your responsibility to participate in these global dialogues and use your innovative capacities to find responsible solutions that help meet the SDGs. This SDG Special Prize will be awarded to the team that best exemplifies iGEMs values, scientific excellence and innovative potential in reaching one or any coherent set of the SDGs.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in 2015 by all UN Member States in order “to promote prosperity while protecting the planet”. The rationale behind these goals is that solving today’s complex global problems requires a holistic approach, to which both economic and societal development as well as environmental sustainability are key. The SDGs demonstrate a recognition that, first, in order to end poverty, economic growth must be realized, and that addressing a variety of other social needs, including education, health, social protection and job security, is instrumental and complementary to this. Secondly, the SDGs demonstrate a recognition that social and economic development is only possible, and worth striving for, if climate change and environmental protection are simultaneously addressed. Put differently, the SDGs manifest the understanding that it should be avoided at all costs that progress with regard to social and economic development is realized only at the expense of our environment – and vice versa. Progress with regard to the one fuels progress with regard to the other.

iGEM has the responsibility and innovation potential to participate in how the world meets the SDGs. iGEM has established the Best Sustainable Development Impact Prize to provide teams a mechanism to participate in global conversations while helping to develop solutions towards meeting the SDGs. Through a team's imagination, innovations, and building on the Human Practices, Safety and Security, and Diversity and Inclusion programs that iGEM has incorporated over the years, iGEMers will take a holistic approach to joining the world in meeting the SDGs.

Where to Start

The task is daunting, yet if we put our collective energies together we can meet all 17 SDGs and their associated targets. Currently there are over 5,000 projects, partnerships and commitments spread across all 17 sustainable development goals. Use the UN framework to help organize your project (description, chosen SDG(s) and targets, deliverables and timelines, and resources mobilized) around the SDGs:

Meeting the SDGs entails recognizing the power of science to understand and navigate the relationships among the social, environmental and economic SDG objectives. To help bring focus to your work, consider the Global Sustainable Development Report, which outlines where we are falling short, where we are close and where we can do better.

Having reflected on the materials referred to above, ask yourself: Will your iGEM project help the global community reach its SDG objectives? Is synthetic biology the right answer to solve these problems? Or might it exacerbate the current situation?

Once you are certain that synthetic biology could be the right technology for the job, utilize the resources below to help your team better understand the underlying metrics of each SDG, identify stakeholders, build partnerships, discover projects currently underway, understand the interconnectedness across all 17 SDGs, and more generally help you succeed in helping the globally community meet its responsibilities towards meeting the SDGs.

But wait! Interested in joining the growing network of iGEMers working towards meeting the SDGs? Join the Just One Giant Lab (JOGL) iGEM program which aims to foster efficient collaboration across iGEM teams and enhance the accessibility to the skills and resources needed to have an impact on the world.


UN Sustainable Development Goals Portal:

Want to see if your project idea is new? Or how it might complement other projects focused on the same SDG? Explore the UN’s Action Network where you can search for current projects and partnerships based on the SDG goal(s) you are interested in. Use this to avoid duplicating projects already underway, help to build upon projects with your own ideas, identify action networks and potential partners, and register your project to help take it from idea to implementation.

Need help to identify UN SDG stakeholders? The UN highlights “a spirit of strengthened global solidarity, focused in particular on the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable and with the participation of all countries, all stakeholders and all people.” Your iGEM project will be evaluated, in part, on these principles. Start here to learn more about the importance of including a broad coalition of stakeholders in the design and implementation of your iGEM project.

Want to learn how to build partnerships with SDG stakeholders? Check out the UN’s SDG Partnership Guidebook and the “learning from practice report” on creating effective dialogue and partnership platforms.

Learn more about the interactions between the various SDG goals and targets and how they reinforce or conflict with each other. A Guide to SDG Interactions: from Science to Implementation

Want to learn more about what the UN is doing to support the implementation of the SDGs? Check out the UN System SDG Implementation online database of actions, initiatives and plans on implementing the SDGs. As an example, learn for instance how Los Angeles is mobilizing stakeholders, citizen scientists and innovators to help align the city’s plans and goals to the SDGs.