Student Opinion: Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.  

There are 17 Goals that are an internationally agreed set of goals focussing on elements of sustainable development. Each government has signed up to, and are responsible for, taking action to achieve them both nationally and internationally.  Each month we'll be canvassing the views of students on a number of issues related to each goal as well as tracking opinions on the most pressing issues linked to the goals facing the UK and the world today. 

So far we've found...

  • 67% hadn't heard of the SDGs prior to answering a survey about them, but 61% say they would like to learn more about the SDGs.
  • 81% agree that the UK government should actively lead and support achievement of the SDGs.
  • Goal 13, climate action, is seen as the most important goal, and climate change is reported as being the most important issue facing the world today.
  • Inequality (in terms of income and discrimination) is the most important issue facing the UK today.  Government accountability and transparancy, a lack of healthcare services and a lack of economic opportunity and employement make up the top three most issues.

SDG1 - No poverty

  • When considering the most important issues facing the world today, respondents rated climate change as their top concern.  Poverty, religious conflicts and large scale conflict/war make up the top three concerns.
  • Focusing on SDG goal 1 - no poverty - 86% say they are concerned about world poverty, and 69% are concerned about poverty in the UK.
  • Contributing financially to charities or other appeals is the most common way to personally support people living in poverty (49%) followed by buying Fairtrade products (46%).

SDG2 - Zero hunger

  • Respondents reported reducing the amount of food they waste (71%) and buying locally produced food (47%) as ways they personally support making sure food is produced in a sustainable way.
  • 23% report skipping a meal in the last 12 months because they didn't have enough money to buy food, and 10% have gone without eating for the whole day because of a lack of money.

SDG3 - Good health and wellbeing

  • 65% say their physical health to be good or very good, and 57% say the same about their mental health.
  • 52% say they eat the recommended 5 portions of fruit or vegetables a day.
  • 8% find it difficult to go without smoking for a whole day.

SDG4 - Quality education

  • 60% say they have personally faced financial barriers to accessing learning opportunities, and 34% say they have found a lack of information about opportunities to be a barrier.
  • Work placements or volunteering are reported by respondents (48%) as the best learning experiences during their time in education so far.
  • Respondents are less likely to prefer role play activities or simulations (15%).

SDG5 - Gender equality

  • 95% agree that men and women should get equal pay for the same role.
  • 91% agree that, in the world as a whole, more needs to be done to ensure men and women are equal.
  • 28% say they know they have been discriminated against because of their gender and a further 13% think they have experienced this but cannot be sure if gender was the cause of the discrimination.
  • Of those who say they know they have experienced gender discrimination, 65% say they have felt unsafe in public places and 60% say they have experienced sexual harassment.

SDG6 - Clean water and sanitation

  • 88% agree that we should all try to save water regardless of the weather, and 72% disagree that we don't have to worry about the amount of water we use.
  • However 30% say they don't pay much attention to the amount of water they use at home.
  • 51% are not aware of the amount of water needed to make the products they buy, such as food, clothes and electronics
  • 66% are supportive of a government that helped tackle access to clean water and sanitation around the world.
  • The most commonly reported personal behaviours that conserve water or prevent water pollution include turning the tap off whilst brushing their teeth (84%) and taking showers instead of baths (76%).

SDG7 - Affordable and clean energy

  • Student respondents report taking a range of actions to minimise their energy use, including 75% who always only wash clothes when they have a full load.  Similarly, 73% say they rarely or never leave lights on when they are not in the room.
  • Thinking back to the winter of 2017-18, respondents reported limiting their energy use due to concerns about cost by turning down the heating (50%) or turning it off (47%) even though they would have preferred otherwise.
  • Support for renewable energy (for heating, electricity and fuel) is almost universal at 91%.

SDG8 - Decent work and economic growth

  • 54% say they are concerned about finding a job after they finish their course, and 57% are concernd about finding a job that matches the skills and knowledge they have developed during their course.
  • 73% are concerned about finding a job that pays a wage that meets the cost of living. Job security (65%), long term prospects (64%) and fair treatment (62%) are also key concerns amongst respondents.
  • 87% and 75% agreeing respectively that companies should prioritise human wellbeing and social equity and environmental protection over profits.

SDG9 - Industry, innovation and infrastructure

  • 36% say the costs of travel influenced their decision on what university or college to study at.
  • 10% say they have missed course commitments due to the reliability of transport services.
  • 50% would like to see improvements to social learning / study spaces if facilities and infrastructure at their place of study were being improved

SDG10 - Reduced inequalities

  • 59% think the economic situation globally is somewhat or very bad.
  • 47% think the gap between rich and poor in the UK is a very big problem, and a further 35% say it is a moderately big problem.
  • 39% indicated they think governments should take more responsibility to ensure everyone is provided for.
  • 43% indicated they think we should aim for a more equal distribution of wealth, even if the total amount is reduced.

SDG11 - Sustainable cities and communities

  • 33% think air quality in the area they live in during term time is a big problem.
  • 83% think the government should be doing more to tackle air quality.
  • 55% say they live less than 5 minutes walk away from a green space (e.g. parks, playing fields, community gardens, woods or other natural areas).
  • 62% say they find it easy to get around on a day to day basis without a car.

SDG12 - Responsible consumption and production

  • 67% say they'd like to be able to afford to buy more ethical and environmentally-friendly products but it's not a possibility for them at the moment
  • The biggest source of food waste from respondents is ingredients or products they open but don't finish (32% say they do this for at least some of they food they cook and eat
  • 76% say it is important to them that their university or college makes sure the things it buys have been produced in  way that limits damage to the environment
  • 86% say it is important to them that their university or college makes sure the things it buys have been produced by people who have been fairly treated

SDG13 - Climate action

  • 91% support increasing the use of renewable power to tackle climate change
  • 82% support regulating heavy industry to reduce emissons also to tackle climate change
  • 48% say they want to hear politicians discussing the loss of wildlife when thinking about the impacts of climate change
  • 75% say they think their university or college should consider and address climate change in every aspect related to how it is run
  • 74% say their institution should ensure all students have an opportunity to learn how they can be part of the solution to climate change


Read the full research report here.