Sustainable Development Goals

Balancing the value of nature with development


The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 broad goals calling for countries to "end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity."


Nature is the key to sustainable development

© Jessica Scranton

The Sustainable Development Goals explicitly recognize the intimate connections between the economy, society and the environment. The SDGs provide an unprecedented opportunity to protect and maintain our "natural capital" — the sources of the benefits that nature provides to humanity, such as climate regulation, fresh water and biodiversity. Nearly a third of SDG targets depend on nature to be achieved.

As countries consider how to achieve their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals and their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, it is critical to consider how to maintain the essential natural capital needed for sustainable development and a healthy climate.

Critical linkages between nature and human well-being are enshrined within targets across nearly the full range of the SDGs. For example, improving the sustainability of fisheries under Goal 14 can help countries to reduce hunger under Goal 2, improve the resilience of the poor under Goal 1, and improve responsible production and consumption under Goal 12.

Visit the United Nations Development Programme to peruse the full array of Sustainable Development Goals.

What we do

© Jessica Scranton

Conservation International gives policymakers the language and tools they need to communicate exactly how important nature is to achieving the SDGs. We help countries sustainably manage their natural capital to achieve these goals through science and policy.

Tools we use

An Ethiopian man turns a team of two ox that he uses to plow a hilltop field under dark cloudy skies.
© David Hanson/Aurora Photos

Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa

The Gaborone Declaration for Sustainability in Africa (GDSA) is a commitment to a new model of development that for the first time takes into account the role of natural capital in development by bringing the value of nature from the periphery to the center of all economic decision-making. As Secretariat of the GDSA, Conservation International advises decision-makers from member countries on how to value and incorporate nature into their plans to achieve the SDGs. Learn more »


Bapak I Nyoman Yasa working on his seaweed farm, Kutuh, Bali, Indonesia.
© Matt Oldfield

Ocean Health Index

Founded by Conservation International and partners, the Ocean Health Index (OHI) is a comprehensive framework that scientifically measures key elements of the ocean’s health — biological, physical, economic and social — to guide decision-makers toward the sustainable use of the ocean. The OHI is a management tool for all of SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development), and is used as an indicator tool for SDG 14.2, which seeks to sustainably manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems by 2020. Learn more »


© CI/Tristan Schnader

Vital Signs

Vital Signs provides near-real-time data and diagnostic tools to leaders around the world to help inform agricultural decisions and monitor their outcomes. Launched in Africa with a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Conservation International, Vital Signs helps countries better collect data, monitor outcomes and make informed land-use decisions. The data collection and analysis are used as indicators for SDG 15.3, which seeks to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods. Trends.Earth, a new tool created by Conservation International in partnership with NASA and Lund University in Sweden, and funded by the Global Environment Facility, was launched in 2018 in support of the SDG 15 target to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030. Learn more »


A closer look

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