Clean Technology Canada

In-Depth
Using standards helps organizations achieve their SDG objectives

January 16, 2023  By CSA Group


A critical challenge associated with the SDGs as aspirational global instruments is to effectively translate and transpose the language of the goals into practical, granular guidance.

Sustainable development is increasingly important in all aspects of today’s society. With the adoption of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, organizations, companies, and governments across the globe are actively developing and implementing strategies to support achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A critical challenge associated with the SDGs as aspirational global instruments is to effectively translate and transpose the language of the goals into practical, granular guidance. While the SDG targets and indicators help focus the action, they are silent on what methods and approaches may be used. That poses a challenge for many organizations as they try to find an effective way to incorporate the SDGs into their policies, programs, and operations. Standards bodies such as CSA Group are well-positioned to assist with this challenge.

How do standards support the SDGs?

Unlike the aspirational formulation of the SDGs, standards are typically detailed, technical documents for which actions can be objectively measured and benchmarked. Thus, if a connection can be made between standards and the goals enshrined in the SDGs, standards can then help provide the complete, concise, controllable, measurable, and understandable characteristics needed to inform the achievement of the SDGs. This approach infers that organizations could take actions to support the SDGs by complying with the requirements and recommendations of standards, whether voluntary or incorporated by reference in regulations.

How are standards connected to the SDGs?

The links between Standards and the SDGs are not always self-evident. Traditionally, standards have not been developed with the SDGs in mind and, therefore, do not directly outline how the technical guidance of the standards matches the intended measurable outcomes of the SDGs.

CSA Group, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Guelph, Niagara College, and Toronto Metropolitan University, has conducted a comprehensive multi-disciplinary research project with the goal of developing a robust and transparent methodology for mapping standards to the SDGs at the target level. Using this methodology to validate any standard-SDG links can provide organizations, governments, policy-makers, and the public with reliable and transparent information and help strengthen confidence in standards as instruments supporting the achievement of SDG-related objectives. Applying the methodology to CSA Group’s own standards portfolio confirmed that 80% of CSA standards support at least one SDG.

To demonstrate the linkages between standards and SDG targets, let’s look at a few examples:

Bioretention systems for stormwater management

Stormwater runoff can carry various pollutants, including oils, pesticides, fertilizers, and heavy metals. If allowed to discharge directly into surface waters, it can seriously impact water quality. CSA Group published two standards that can help manage stormwater using natural systems such as soil and vegetation to remove contaminants. CSA W200-18, Design of bioretention systems, and CSA W201-18, Construction of bioretention systems, address the design, configuration, and construction of these natural systems and help ensure consistent approaches to the development of bioretention systems projects.

With the objective of protecting water quality, CSA W200-18 and CSA W201-18 clearly support SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation, more specifically, SDG target 6.3, which is focused on improving water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally. This has been validated through interviews with industry experts, who confirmed the standards had been adopted by the industry because they address environmental improvements to water quality and support effective water management during major rainfall events.

With the increased frequency of floods in Canada, these standards also contribute to the development of resilient infrastructure and help mitigate flood risks. This links the CSA standards for bioretention systems to SDG 9, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 13, Climate Action.

The CSA W200-18 spotlight study further highlights how this standard supports clean water,  industry innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.

Promoting renewable energy sources

Over the past ten years, CSA/ANSI B149.6, Code for digester gas, landfill gas, and biogas generation and utilization, has been updated to accommodate technological development and emerging sustainability concerns.

Promoting energy efficiency through the use of anaerobic digesters in landfills and agricultural facilities, the Code supports SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy, and its targets 7.2 to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix and 7.a to enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology.

While the Code applies to the safety aspects of the operation and maintenance for handling, storage, and utilization of digester gas in wastewater treatment plants or landfill gas at landfill sites, it also helps reduce and eliminate the release of unburned biogas that is composed of methane and carbon dioxide, both harmful to the environment. This demonstrates that the Code also supports SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities, specifically, target 11.6, to reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management.

The CSA/ANSI B149.6:20 spotlight study provides more insights from industry experts on how the Code supports clean energy in municipal infrastructure while contributing to Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Safer pipeline systems

CSA Z662:19, Oil and gas pipeline systems, is focused on requirements and guidelines for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, deactivation, and abandonment of pipeline systems. While addressing the SDGs was not the original intent of this standard, by its very nature, the standard does support the SDGs.

A key driver for the development of this standard was the technical integrity of pipelines to prevent releases, which ultimately supports the protection, well-being, and health of people. This demonstrates the linkage to SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being, and target 3.9 to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.

The latest revision of the standard also includes language promoting safer environments for workers, tying the Standard to SDG 8 – Economic Growth, and its target 8.8, to protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment.

Pipeline integrity ensures that all components are working properly and that processes to prevent failures are in place. This demonstrates a linkage to

  • SDG 6, Clean Water and Sanitation and, specifically, target 6.3 to improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally
  • SDG 14, Life Below Water, and its target 14.1 to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution
  • SDG 15, Life on Land and target 15.1 to ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

As Canada is set on the path of transition to cleaner energy, additional energy sources that could use pipelines are also being explored. Natural gas is growing in the energy sector, and hydrogen use is also being considered. However, transportation of hydrogen would require setting new requirements for pipelines as the conventional systems are not designed to handle it. Including such new requirements would support SDG 7, Affordable and Clean Energy.

The CSA Z662:19 spotlight study provides further insights from industry and highlights linkages between the standard and SDGs supported by users of the standards today.

SDG-related priorities for future standards development

The SDGs have emerged as important and innovative instruments galvanizing governments, businesses, and civil society toward the achievement of a sustainable future. CSA Group’s SDG mapping work ultimately found that standards can provide foundational support to organizations and governments to assist them in meeting their SDGs objectives. CSA Group’s work focused on identifying and building linkages between standards use and the SDG targets is an important part of a roadmap toward achieving the goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

CSA Group is now continuing efforts to better integrate SDG considerations into its current and future standards development and to educate stakeholders and the general public about the important role standards can play in achieving the SDGs. CSA Group’s SDG website provides additional resources, including a searchable database of CSA Standards and their links to the specific SDG targets they support. This resource will be continually updated as further standards are mapped.

It is, however, important to note that while many standards explicitly support SDG targets such as climate resilience, it is recognized that not all standards link to SDGs. Standards users should always take care and be specific when claiming their support of SDGs through the use of standards. The tools and resources made available by CSA Group as a part of this project are intended to assist users in their evaluation of the degree the application of a standard leads to material changes and SDG achievement.

CSA Group always strives to provide up-to-date and accurate information. However, no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made that this information meets your specific needs, and any reliance on this information is at your own risk. Please contact CSA Group for more information about our services.

© 2022 Canadian Standards Association. All Rights Reserved.


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