The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved until 2073 without significant international action, according to the Social Progress Imperative, a Washington DC-based non-profit organisation that publishes the Social Progress Index (SPI).

The report found the world is “underperforming” according to its income at several SDGs, with access to water and sanitation underperforming by more than 11 points, more than any other SDG. The world also underperforms in personal rights, nutrition and medical care, as well as shelter.


The SPI aggregates more than 50 social and environmental outcome indicators from 149 countries, which allows analysts to compare different countries’ social outcomes. The average global standard of living has improved overall since 2014, according to the SPI. 

“These qualities – such as better outcomes in health and education or better protection of rights, the environment and minorities – should be of interest to investors looking for lower risk and strong fundamentals for future economic growth,” said Michael Green, CEO of The Social Progress Imperative. “Integrating environmental, social and governance factors, such as social progress, into location decisions helps businesses making long-term investment decisions see the bigger picture beyond short- term economic numbers.”

The US has reversed its progress towards achieving its SDGs, as it is the only G7 country that has not increased its SPI score since 2014. This means that the US is one of the four countries that have reduced their SPI score, alongside Brazil, Nicaragua and South Sudan. Twelve countries, including Kyrgyzstan and Costa Rica, achieved a significantly higher SPI score than the average for their GDP range.

However, 26 countries underperformed according to their GDP range, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar showing the largest margins between their score and their GDP average. European countries made up 12 of the 15 tier-one countries in the SPI; New Zealand, Japan and Australia being the only non-European nations to achieve a ranking above 15.

Since the UN introduced the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, international progress towards achieving the SDGs has been slower than what is required to achieve the UN’s targets for 2030. This caused Unctad to develop an Action Plan for Investment, which aims to encourage FDI that will improve social outcomes globally.

“I believe this is a call to action to double down on a commitment to people, purpose and planet. By using the index, the business community and civil society can help change the current trajectory of the SDGs by working together to find solutions to halt and reverse the impact of climate change and resource scarcity, address diversity and inclusion inequalities, open up access to education, and positively impact society in the process,” said Sharon Thorne, Deloitte Global board chair and Social Progress Imperative board member.