The outcome of the 2015 United Nations resolution was to set a series of 17 sustainable development goals, also known as the 2030 Agenda. Each of these goals can be associated with societal, economic, or environmental improvements:
- Society. These goals prioritize satisfying the diversified needs of the population, such as food, health, and education being among the most basic. Maintaining human capital (knowledge, skills, and capabilities) is mostly the responsibility of educational systems, but corporations also provide substantial training opportunities to their workforce.
- Economy. These goals promote improvements in the welfare of populations. Key concepts are related to achieving or sustaining economic growth, maximizing profits, increasing competitiveness, and expanding markets. Globalization has given a new dimension to economic development by enabling an extended range of comparative advantages. However, like all economic processes, globalization promotes growth differently as regions and social classes capture their opportunities differently. This has led to inequalities.
- Environment. These goals concern the footprint of human activities on environmental systems, notably their carrying capacity. The overarching issue of climate change remains salient, particularly over the issue of carbon emissions.
Two goals are more general. One considers the institutional setting, particularly the rule of law and the efficiency of government services. The issue of international partnerships is particularly paradoxical. It implies aid mechanisms to help nations cope with temporary disruptions such as a drought. Still, in some cases, it has become a systematic and enduring redistribution mechanism leaning on international aid and a bureaucracy managing this aid. Although all these issues can be conceptualized, most of them are highly complex in their nature and interrelation, and they cannot be easily quantified, particularly from a comparative perspective. Still, an impressive list of 247 indicators has been proposed to monitor progress. A challenge remains the respective meaning of these indicators and which indicators should be considered of prime importance and which are of lesser importance.