UN Sustainable Development Goals – What Applies to Medical Packaging?


If you have ever studied the history of Sustainability, you are bound to come across the work done by the United Nations. As an intergovernmental organization, the UN created a framework to help the nations of our world make sustainability a critical focus. Their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development actually has its roots from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. That’s right … 17 years to do the research and create a framework, then 15 years to promote it and gain adoption. That’s a lot of long-term planning!

The most well-known aspect of the 2030 Agenda is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs for short. Perhaps you’ve seen this familiar diagram:

Sustainability Article goals
Image from: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/news/communications-material/

The SDGs are smartly written goals for our nations to take urgent action. There are 17 specific goals ranging from No Poverty to Gender Equality and helping Life Below Water. Many of the goals specifically address the impact humans have on the planet. In our world of flexible packaging, it helps to study the UN’s framework and look for guidance in specific SDGs.

Here is a summary of the UN SDGs that apply specifically to medical packaging:

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being:

  • Ensure that packaging prioritizes the safety and well-being of patients.
  • Avoid materials that may pose health risks.
  • Ensure high quality so packaging protects its contents.

Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure:

  • Invest in innovative processes to make operations more sustainable.
  • Retrofit infrastructure to align with sustainable practices.

Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production:

  • Minimize packaging waste by adopting eco-friendly materials.
  • Optimize designs to reduce material usage.

Goal 13: Climate Action:

  • Assess and reduce the company's carbon footprint by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions in both operations and the supply chain.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals:

  • Engage in partnerships with other businesses and governmental organizations to share knowledge, resources, and best practices for sustainable packaging solutions.


By concentrating efforts on these specific SDGs, medical packaging companies can address critical aspects of sustainability. It is tempting to think only of the materials in our packaging and how to drive more recycling. Clearly, though, the SDGs are pushing us to think more broadly about how our companies can address environmental impact, waste reduction, health considerations, and collaborative initiatives for a broader positive impact.

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