Getting Serious about Sustainability

 The year 2022 will be decisive as to whether the world can meet its sustainable development target by 2030. A recently published United Nations (UN) progress report for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) describes mixed progress, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic, and then geopolitical instability, have diverted attention away from the SDGs. This means that society has to get back on track. “The Sustainable Development Goals are more important now than ever. Now is the time to secure the well-being of people, economies, societies and our planet,” remarked António Guterres, the UN’s Secretary-General.

Indices are a valuable tool for monitoring, and monitoring is essential for tracking progress. In June, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) launched a Quality Infrastructure for Sustainable Development (QI4SD) Index, designed to measure the contribution of a national quality infrastructure towards meeting the SDGs.

The indicators within QI4SD are classed under the headings of prosperity, people and planet, collectively known as “the three Ps”, to support economic growth, society and the environment. UNIDO calls the QI4SD a reboot for quality infrastructure, to align it with the rapidly evolving needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, more importantly, to boost the role that quality infrastructure has in meeting the UN SDGs. ISO was a key partner in developing the QI4SD, because ISO and its members add value to national quality infrastructures by developing standards and having conformity assessment mechanisms.


One of the most pressing global issues is climate change. Last September 2021, ISO cemented its pledge and contribution through the London Declaration to combat climate change by 2050 using International Standards.

ISO standards play a crucial role in driving these reductions. For example, standards ensure the quality and consistency of monitoring, reporting and verification for GHG emissions, and are specified in EU regulations for these activities. Additionally, the EU ETS requirements for accreditation and verification of GHG emissions specify ISO standards for verifying reported emissions of GHGs, and accreditation of verifiers, whilst recommending standards for management systems.

Countries around the world are noting success in the use of ISO standards and emissions trading to drive down GHG emissions, and are following suit. In 2020, for example, the International Energy Agency reported that there were 23 emissions trading schemes worldwide, representing 9 % of the world’s GHG emissions. Related to this, the International Carbon Action Partnership, in its Emissions Trading Worldwide – Status Report 2020, makes numerous references to ISO standards, both explicitly and implicitly, all of which have enabled cuts in GHG emissions.

ISO’s climate action will accelerate and enhance the synergies between climate initiatives and International Standards. “The London Declaration is a critical international commitment that will enable businesses and organizations across the global economy to accelerate their climate action by using trusted standards aligned with robust net-zero targets,” concludes Nigel Topping, the UN’s High Level Climate Action Champion.

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