SDG Washing: What is it and how to avoid it

Sep 10, 2021 | by Yosy Christy Natalia

How to Avoid SDG washing? 

Greenwashing is a term that is commonly used among the impact community while emphasizing the importance of sustainable and ethical corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Broadly, it refers to falsely passing off a company’s effort as environment-friendly or sustainable. In this blog, we shall discuss SDG washing, what it is about and how organizations can make sure they are not accused of it. 

First things first, let us understand what are SDGs. A total of 17 global goals were set up by the United Nations in 2015 to achieve a more sustainable future by the year 2030. 

What is SDG washing?

The term ‘SDG washing’ can have two different meanings. The first points to businesses using these goals to exhibit positive impact or contribution to some SDGs while ignoring their negative effect on others. 

For example, a company may commit to promoting renewable energy and cutting down emissions, thereby positively impacting some SDGs, while its operation may be resulting in water wastage, adversely impacting some other goal/s.

The other one points to a situation where businesses associate themselves with SDGs without making any real contribution towards them.

If you are a business that is making a real, positive contribution towards SDGs, you don’t want to be put into either of those categories and want to make sure that your stakeholders can see your actual impact.

How to avoid claims of SDG washing and also make sure that you don’t accidentally end up doing SDG washing.


While most firms may claim to acknowledge the SDGs in some form or the other, it takes a lot of dedication and to actually align your business to the 17 established SDGs and their 169 associated targets. Researching and understanding each goal and sub-goal can help you align with the right goal, therefore avoiding making any unsupported claims. 

Keep targets insight

One of the best ways to avoid SDG washing or its claims is by having a tight grip on the targets which are measured by a set of robust indicators. These indicators will serve as an ideal framework to monitor, measure, and track the progress of your impact project.

Plan and strategize 

A deep understanding of the SDGs and the 169 targets will help assess what goal/s can your business model align with and how. Devise a strategy to achieve your impact without adversely impacting any of the other SDGs or the targets to establish a meaningful sustainability commitment. 

Measure and report

It is important to rigorously measure the outcomes achieved and impact created over just reporting on the activities undertaken and indulging in false mapping. Assess and analyze how the project fared on its commitments – how the stakeholders, the community, and society benefited. Measuring will also allow you to understand if there is any negative impact created by your projects, allowing you to be transparent and look for ways to avoid creating more negative impacts in the future. 


A step further than measuring the outcome or impact created, attribution allows you to measure how much of the impact was a result of your activities & how much might be caused by other players or factors. 

No cherry-picking

In reality, to avoid SDG washing a business must avoid cherry-picking goal/s as per its model, rather try to align itself with the SDGs and targets that need the most attention given the area and region of its operation to achieve a win-win situation.    

As an organization with the right intentions to make a positive impact, you want to make sure you can avoid SDG washing. Measuring and evidence-based reporting is an important key in doing so. Our team at Artemis Impact can help your business with aligning and evidence-based reporting, contact us for more information.

Read also:

How To Connect Your CSR Projects With SDGs?

Contact us on Corporate Solution for more information.

Artemis is an impact service & technology provider that enables companies to reduce their negative impact & create most positive impact. We offer a range of services & technology. 

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