The SDG index, a Tool for a more Accurate Monitoring of Sustainable Development in Latin America

Written by Andrés Melendro, Sustainability Manager

Last Wednesday, June 16th, the Center for Sustainable Development for Latin America (CODS) launched its SDG Index: a measure of the progress of Latin American and Caribbean countries towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report highlights that, overall, the region is not meeting the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda, and that the health and economic crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic also represents a considerable setback in most of the SDGs. If the current trend continues, the goals set in 2015 would not materialize even on a 50-year horizon.

SDG 13, Climate Action, stands out as an exception because widespread quarantines and restrictions on production have led to a considerable drop in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the rebound effect is foreseeable since the reduction is circumstantial. In particular, it is possible that the interest of investing in sustainable projects and green technologies gets delayed by the haste to reactivate or protect sectors of greater importance for the immediate future of a company. In this sense, ALLCOT’s work to develop projects that generate financial incentives to reduce emissions is more relevant than ever.

The methodology advanced by the CODS is based on the one that the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) has been using for several years worldwide to establish international comparisons. The CODS adjusts it to the statistical reality of the countries of the region, given the unavailability of many indicators. In this way, the comparison becomes more valid. In some cases, for some States, there is no available methodology for SDG measurement. Another issue is the lack of data: the index requires figures ex-ante and ex-post 2015 to measure progress since the creation of the 2030 Agenda.

The report also includes a visualization tool called the dashboard. This allows to highlight, through a traffic light code, how close an SDG is to being fulfilled, in order to serve as a prioritization tool in each country.

The publication of the SDG Index, as well as the creation of the municipal SDG indexes in Colombia cities by the Corona Foundation through its network tracking cities’ wellbeing, illustrate the trend towards the appropriation of the SDGs by non-governmental entities and their measurement at sub-national scales. The private sector, and in particular organizations setting standards for corporate sustainability reports, have also included the SDGs in their performance metrics. Precisely, ALLCOT is currently developing statistical tools to quantify the impact of the socioeconomic co-benefits of its climate change mitigation projects, through the 230 indicators associated with the 17 SDGs.

This exercise presents several challenges, given that the project areas tend to be smaller than local political-administrative divisions in the country where the project is developed and usually do not coincide with their geographical limits. ALLCOT, like the CODS, adapts the SDG indicators to the real data availability and to variables that make more sense depending on the specific context. In addition, to mitigate the absence of local data in many rural areas of developing countries, ALLCOT has created mechanisms for collecting primary data to establish a meaningful SDG baseline. In this way, ALLCOT takes a leadership role in measuring corporate impact on sustainable development.

David Poveda