In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was launched after the agreement of the 193 member states of the United Nations. It is a 15-year plan of action that aims to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives of all the population. It has 17 objectives, the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which are defined in a list of 169 SDG Targets, and their performance are tracked by 232 indicators (UN, 2018).

The complexity of the SDG framework, and the challenge of measuring and monitoring the SDGs, has limited their implementation. In this regard, GRI and the UN Global Compact (2018) published a guide for businesses to be able to integrate the SDGs into their reporting. This guide proposes a three-step method (see Figure 1). First, to define the priority SDG targets, meaning to select those SDGs that are being affected or benefited by the activity of a company; second, to select indicators and collect data in relation to each indicator in order to analyze the performance on the SDGs; and, third, reporting, integrating and implementing change.


Figure 1: The steps of reporting SDGs from the guide of UN Global Compact (2018)

Nevertheless, it must be kept in mind that SDGs are interdependent and their achievement will require actions, not just by businesses, but also by governments, civil society and science. Sachs et al. (2019) proposed six transformations to organize SDG interventions (see Figure 1):

1.- Education, gender and inequality

2.- Health, well-being and demography

3.- Energy decarbonization and sustainable industry

4.- Sustainable food, land, water and oceans

5.- Sustainable cities and communities

6.- Digital revolution for sustainable development.

Figure 2. Contribution of each SDG transformation towards the 17 SDGs. Source: Sachs et al. (2019)

The SDGs in food supply chains

Focusing on supply chains, they must reshape to be greener and more competitive in order to adopt the 2030 Agenda for sustainable transition. They should be flexible as well as sustainable. Bai et al. (2020) defined the concept of Sustainable Supply Chain Flexibility (SSCF) as the supply chain that has the ability to react to market dynamics with minimal penalties in time, cost or performance; but also that helps to respond to evolving greening requirements, the environmental regulations and the achievement of Circular Economy (CE) goals. Geissdoerfer et al. (2018) defined Circular Business Models (CBM) as the sustainable business models that specifically promotes CE through a circular value chain and stakeholder incentive alignment; and Batista et al. (2018) defined circular supply chain as “the coordinated forward and reverse supply chains via purposeful business ecosystem integration for value creation from products/services, by-products and useful waste flows through prolonged life cycles that improve the economic, social and environmental sustainability of organisations.” Nevertheless, little has been published on how sustainable/circular supply chains are integrated within the SDG framework.

Reverse logistics play a crucial role in circular food supply chains for minimizing food losses and waste and reducing packaging usage (Kazancoglu et al., 2021). Within ARECO, the three food logistics companies, which provide pooling services with their reusable packaging, have defined the key SDGs that they can have an impact (see the table below). The common and key SDGs for the ARECO partners are to ensure decent work for all (SDG8), responsible consumption and production (SDG12), climate action (SDG13), and establishing partnerships to achieve the goals (SDG17). Next key step for ARECO’s partners is to ensure the establishment of measureable indicators to be able to analyze the performance on the SDGs and their contribution to the overall SDG targets.


By Laura Batlle Bayer, researcher of the ARECO postdoctoral fellowship at UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change.


Bai, C., Sarkis, J., Yin, F., Dou, Y., 2020. Sustainable supply chain flexibility and its relationship to circular economy-target performance. Int. J. Prod. Res. 58, 5893–5910.

Geissdoerfer, M., Morioka, S.N., de Carvalho, M.M., Evans, S., 2018. Business models and supply chains for the circular economy. J. Clean. Prod. 190, 712–721.

GRI & UN Global Compact (2018) Integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into Corporate Reporting: A Practical Guide.

Kazancoglu, Y., Ekinci, E., Mangla, S.K., Sezer, M.D., Kayikci, Y., 2021. Performance evaluation of reverse logistics in food supply chains in a circular economy using system dynamics. Bus. Strateg. Environ. 30, 71–91.

Sachs, J.D., Schmidt-Traub, G., Mazzucato, M., Messner, D., Nakicenovic, N., Rockström, J., 2019. Six Transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Nat. Sustain. 2, 805–814.

UN, 2018. Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.