The United Nations has defined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the foundation for its plan to build a better world by 2030. Also known as the 2030 Agenda, it recognizes that economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability must be addressed in tandem in order to achieve universal sustainable development.
In February 2019, with the aim of developing an IEC approach to SDGs, the IEC set up a new group, adhoc Group 84, with the primary objective of educating the IEC community about the SDGs and establishing SDG-related thinking in its standardization and conformity assessment systems.
The Convenor of ahG 84, Vimal Mahendru, provides his thoughts on the role of the IEC in helping to achieve the SDGs.
What is the role of technology in helping to achieve the SDGs?
Technology is a big game changer. Across the world, it has lifted people out of poverty. Going back 130 years when, for the first time, Thomas Edison brought electricity to a small part of New York, technology has been the cornerstone of economic development and, as a consequence, has improved our lives through innovation.
Technology has brought us to this point in development and it will continue to take us forward. I think technology has the power to shift things in our society and the IEC can enable the shift by publishing the relevant international standards.
I see the IEC as a custodian of society’s trust. The IEC assures the global community that products conforming to its standards are safe and that they will work for society, for development and also address environmental concerns. And given this mandate, the IEC must play a pivotal role in developing trustworthy technologies (through its standardization and CA systems), which further help achieve the SDGs.
SDG 7 calls for access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy. Why is electricity so important for development?
About 130 years ago, nobody in the world had electricity. And today, out of a population of 9 billion, 8 billion people have electricity. Almost everything in our daily life – entertainment, work, home – depends on electricity. It is the crux of the issue: there is hardly anything that we can do without electricity. You will be hard-pressed to think of your daily life without electricity.
The challenge also is that, even today, there are around 1 billion of our fellow citizens who do not have access to electricity at all, which is tough. The work of IEC SyC LVDC addresses electricity access based on the definitions provided by the World Bank and this standardization work has commenced.
SDG 12 is about responsible production and consumption. How does this relate to the work of the IEC?
COVID-19 is a sudden shock and a rude awakening. It has reminded us that we need to urgently take better care of our shared planet. COVID-19 has shown utter disregard for geographical borders and notions of developed and developing. Our Earth has certain finite resources and we must use these resources in a sustainable manner by bringing circularity into our economies and not create mountains of waste. So, the IEC is introducing the notions of reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle into its work. I am convinced that this will lead to a more thriving society without compromising on our planet.
IEC Standards will bring a greater sense of responsibility and accountability toward citizens and the planet.
Many companies are also addressing the SDGs. How can the IEC help industry specifically?
Industry is one of key stakeholders in the IEC. It has the motivation and ideas of how technology can be harnessed to make life better. However, IEC is not only about industry but rather about society as a whole and we have to ask ourselves how IEC Standards address the needs of society.
Understanding how IEC Standards help to achieve the SDGs allows industry to invest in appropriate technologies, support standardization and bring about a better world.