Sustainability Trends: Clean Energy, Gender Equality & Economic Recovery

Tech style illustration of charts and trends

Three months before adopting the historic climate agreement in Paris in 2015, world leaders formulated a plan to transform society for the better through an initiative whose name belies its lofty ambitions: “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs).

While decidedly less ballyhooed than the Paris Agreement, the United Nations’ SDGs strategy, if fully realized, seeks to address generations of socioeconomic inequities. 

The SDGs consist of more than a dozen objectives centered around equity. They range from ending poverty and hunger to improving health and well-being and providing quality education for children—all by 2030. 

The UN has encouraged the private sector to help drive change, stating: “As countries establish and enact national plans for achieving the SDGs, the Global Compact’s Local Networks in over 85 countries provide the platform for business to engage with stakeholders from Government, the UN, civil society and communities to map a shared approach.” 

With the public and private sectors establishing a united front, there’s optimism for sustainable solutions around gender equality, clean energy, improved working conditions, and economic growth, especially with the emergence of more mature, reliable, and contextualized data. Let’s explore these goals, the role businesses can play in shaping a more sustainable path forward, and how data can be effectively leveraged. 

State of U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Campaign

It’s important to identify all 17 SDGs outlined in the campaign. They include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduced inequalities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice and strong institutions, partnerships for the goals. 

While governments and organizations are constantly addressing people’s needs, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has proven to be a game-changer in that it has impacted every institution and citizen on the planet, with very few exceptions. 

Another disconcerting effect of the pandemic has been how it effectively stalled, and in some cases reversed, important gains made in recent years. 

According to the UN’s “Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021,” the pandemic caused the global extreme poverty rate to increase for the first time in two decades, “wreaked havoc” on childhood education, and disproportionately forced women out of work. 

“SDGs were already off track even before COVID-19 emerged” despite the world experiencing gains in critical areas, such as reducing poverty, maternal and child health, access to electricity, and gender equality,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres states in his introduction to the SDGs report. 

In a sign of the UN’s confidence in the business world’s ability to tackle socioeconomic challenges, member states in December 2021 reaffirmed the body’s commitment to the UN Global Compact, a network of more than 13,000 companies committed to human rights and related initiatives. 

UN Global Compact CEO and Executive Director Sanda Ojiambo said in a statement last year: “We will continue to expand our global reach by mobilizing businesses and engaging in strategic partnerships to accelerate progress towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda,” referring to the SDGs campaign. 

While decidedly less ballyhooed than the Paris Agreement, the United Nations’ SDGs strategy, if fully realized, seeks to address generations of socioeconomic inequities. 

Sustainability & Clean Energy 

As governments and institutions push forward with the climate objectives outlined in the Paris Agreement to limit warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the adoption of clean, renewable energy will be critical as we transition away from fossil fuels. And there’s good news on that front. 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s “Renewables 2021” report: “The growth of the world’s capacity to generate electricity from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable technologies is on course to accelerate over the coming years.” 

The IEA, established after the 1970s energy crisis, predicts renewable electricity capacity will increase 60% compared to 2020 levels. 

“Solar PV remains the powerhouse of growth in renewable electricity, with its capacity additions forecast to increase by 17% in 2021 to a new record of almost 160 GW,” states its analysis. “In the same time frame, onshore wind additions are set to be almost one-quarter higher on average than during the 2015-20 period. Total offshore wind capacity is forecast to more than triple by 2026.” 

The clean energy boon comes as governments across the world are committing to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 or later. The same goes for corporations, including the likes of Amazon, Apple, BP, and ExxonMobil, among others, pledging to reach net-zero within the next few decades. 

Labor & Gender Inequality 

The pandemic-fueled economic losses have been seismic. Tens of millions of people around the world lost their jobs, with women disproportionately impacted by unemployment. 

Emerging from the financial wreckage caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be difficult, as the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates global unemployment in 2022 will be 205 million—potentially exceeding 2019 levels.  

As we noted, the impacts haven’t been felt equally. According to the ILO, women have been unemployed at higher rates than men since the pandemic, and taken on a higher proportion of household work—raising concerns about gender roles and potentially deepening pre-existing inequality. 

In a separate policy brief, the ILO projects only 43% of working-age women were expected to be employed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic, compared to 69% of their male counterparts. 

The women hardest hit by pandemic-fueled unemployment live in the Americas, according to ILO’s analysis, followed by Arab nations, the Asia-Pacific, and Europe. 

As governments and organizations continue the economic recovery, the ILO estimates in its 2021 “World Employment and Social Outlook” report that there will be a global shortfall of 23 million jobs in 2022, underscoring the need for action. It also expects labor productivity growth to suffer, especially in low-income countries, and warns that the shift toward self-employment “is yet another sign of deteriorating work quality.” 

The ILO states two particular groups have been particularly hit hard: women and migrants—underscoring how the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated historic inequities. 

“Women have suffered disproportionate job losses while seeing their unpaid working time increase,” states its report. 

“The COVID-19 crisis has further highlighted the vulnerable situation of migrant workers,” it continues. “Many migrant workers experienced an abrupt termination of their employment along with non‐payment or delayed payment of wages, and at the same time often lacked access to social protection benefits that could make up for their income losses.” 

The ILO states two particular groups have been particularly hit hard: women and migrants—underscoring how the COVID-19 crisis exacerbated historic inequities.


State of the Economy 

The global economy remains in a precarious position. After posting what the United Nations states was the “highest growth rate in more than four decades” in 2021, momentum slowed as governmental financial assistance waned and supply chains strained. 

“Global recovery in output in 2021 was largely driven by robust consumer spending and some uptake in investment. Trade-in goods bounced back, surpassing the pre-pandemic level,” reads its “World Economic Situation and Prospects 2022” report. “But growth momentum slowed considerably by the end of 2021 including in big economies like China, the European Union and the United States of America, as the effects of fiscal and monetary stimuli dissipated and major supply-chain disruptions emerged. Growth impetus generally has been weaker in most developing countries and economies in transition." 

While charting a path toward a more sustainable future won’t be easy, an analysis by the international non-governmental organization World Economic Forum titled “8 Steps Towards a Sustainable Economic Recovery” offers a sensible road map for governments and organizations that includes investing in future technologies, incentivizing the development of clean energy, making infrastructure more efficient and resilient to combat climate change, and streamlining government, particularly to accelerate climate policies. 

“By using the momentum prompted by the global pandemic, a ‘can do’ attitude from our political leaders, global businesses and local communities, provide awesome opportunities to build a sustainable future globally now,” it reads. “It is, perhaps our biggest opportunity to do good across the world.” 

Using Data to Meet Sustainability Goals 

While businesses and governments boast talented workforces that are more than capable of leading their respective organizations to a more sustainable future, the need for reliable, informed, and contextualized data is clear. 

Traditional data-gathering methods, which include commissioning comprehensive reports and studies, often take too long to produce and require additional time to develop an effective strategy. Whether gender equality, climate, or migrant and workers’ rights issues, it’s critical to have timely information that policymakers can address immediately. 

As the United Nations states in the aforementioned SDGs report: “The pandemic has brought to the forefront the critical importance of such data. It has also accelerated the transformation of data and statistical systems and how the public perceives and uses that information.” 

“As the pandemic continues to unfold, and the world moves further off track in meeting the 2030 SDG deadline, timely and high-quality data are more essential than ever,” it continues. “Indeed, data are being widely recognized as strategic assets in building back better and accelerating the implementation of the SDGs.” 

Citibeats collects, aggregates, and analyzes unstructured data from social media, forums, blogs, and other public sources to provide actionable insight within minutes. Meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals requires understanding your current position, monitoring progress, and taking necessary actions. Through our state-of-the-art, ethical AI platform, we can equip you with the data you need to make informed decisions quickly.

In addition to guiding your efforts related to meeting the UN SDGs, Citibeats offers customer solutions to address other major issues, including gender equality, sustainability, vaccines, and more. 

Schedule a demo to see how insights from the Citibeats platform can steer your progress toward meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals.