Addressing the SDG Measurement Challenge using the Social Progress Index

Many organisations and leaders across sectors, are not only contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also ensuring its long term success through tools such as measurement, while building a society that is both inclusive and sustainable.

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Sep 15, 2017
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The power of education to change lives, unleash innovation and give people control over their destiny is undeniable. Its power is a truth universally acknowledged and can even unite a dizzying array of global leaders from fellow Scot and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown to global popstar Shakira. Yet, despite this, not enough has been done to ensure school-aged children receive the educational tools and skills development they need to succeed in our society.

Currently, 121 million children and adolescents remain outside of primary and lower secondary school – a number that has remained essentially constant since 2007.[1] Perhaps more worryingly, it appears a similar number of children do not have basic maths, writing and literacy skills.[2]

This is of concern to organisations like Deloitte. Business can only prosper if the societies they operate in and serve are prosperous. This is why Deloitte is invested in applying its education and training skills to bridge the education gap and ensure people are prepared for the workplace of the future. It is expected by our people. Firms like ours run on ‘human capital’; that is the skills, creativity and curiosity of our people. We hired more than 70,000 people in our last financial year and to really live our purpose of making an impact that matters we must continue to address global challenges our people feel connected to.

We need and want to recruit a diverse workforce. As many academic studies have indicated, diversity leads to better business results.

In line with this, we need to take into account the changing nature of work and the diverse skills that are required for the workplace of the future. In this way, Deloitte, like many organisations, is not only contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also ensuring its long term success while building a society that is both inclusive and sustainable.

Any successful initiative needs to be measurable. For the SDGs themselves, with their 17 goals and 169 different sub-targets, it will be no different.

Agenda 2030 calls on all businesses to integrate the Global Goals into their business models. If the SDGs are to attract this private sector involvement, progress toward these goals must be made measurable. But how? 

If measurement is made at too high a level, we risk missing both the underachievers, who will require more global support, and the success stories, which can help us identify critical best practices. On the other hand, if measurement is made too granular, we risk becoming bogged down in detail and we fail to get a true understanding of the real level of progress. This is why Deloitte is focusing not only on achieving specific SDGs, like education, but also on the tools that support them such as measurement. 

Social Progress Imperative (SPI) is a non-profit that is changing the way we work to solve the world’s most pressing challenges by redefining how the world measures success and helping actors from across sectors come together, speak a common language and drive measurable change. SPI’s Social Progress Index uses 50+ societal and environmental outcome indicators drawn from official UN data as well as from globally respected research institutions and polling organisations in order to provide a comprehensive, independent estimate of SDG performance.

SPI’s Social Progress Index looks at educational indicators by evaluating access to basic knowledge and advanced education. Its framework takes into account adult literacy rate, primary and secondary school enrolment, and gender parity in secondary enrolment. The framework also measures the degree to which advanced forms of education are made accessible to those in a country. The Index provides a picture of how countries are performing and in some cases now also details progress on a regional and city level.[3]

For the last four years, Deloitte has partnered with the Social Progress Imperative, to measure what matters to countries, regions and communities and understand how to achieve inclusive growth that benefits all citizens. Working together we are helping policymakers, business leaders and social innovators to assess and drive progress towards the SDGs at different contexts – from communities in the Amazon River in Brazil to Boroughs in the City of London, England.

Business leaders increasingly realise the symbiotic relationship they have with the societies and environments that host them and are thus willing to deepen their commitment to sustainable development. At Deloitte, our contribution to education and inclusive growth is a good thing to do and it makes good business sense. But if the private sector is to go further they must have the tools to make a meaningful and measurable contribution. 

And, as the old adage goes “what gets measured, gets done”. Achieving the SDGs will require leaders across all sectors to better collaborate and bring to the table their expertise and skills. SDG 17 is all about partnership to achieve the goals, and like meaningful measurement, it will play a critical role on delivering against the 2030 Agenda.

[1] Global Partnership for Education, Out-of-School Children, 2017

[2] Global Partnership for Education, Teaching and Learning, 2017

[3] Social Progress Index, Methodology, 2017


Go to the profile of David Cruickshank

David Cruickshank

Global Chairman, Deloitte

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