Championing the SDGs: Irish organisations driving change

In Ireland, 26 organisations have been selected as part of the country’s SDG Champions 2023-2024 programme to raise awareness of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. 

Ireland’s SDG Champions range from the public, private, community, voluntary, youth and NGO sectors and showcase how everyone in society can contribute to sustainable development. Here we profile five of the 26 organisations. 

Celebrating Ireland’s natural environment

Students hold a WalkforWater event to raise awareness
Students in Ireland hold a ‘WalkforWater’ event to raise awareness about water scarcity in developing countries © An Taisce

An Taisce, Irelands oldest environmental NGO established in 1948, is on a mission to protect Ireland’s natural and built environment for present and future generations. It manages, for example, heritage properties and nature reserves in trust for the Irish public, such as a vast mountainous wilderness in Glenveagh National Park.  

Through its environmental education programmes, An Taisce contributes to SDGs linked to education, but also innovation, the circular economy and building partnerships and has a wide reach across Ireland. Its Green Flag for Parks Award Scheme acknowledges best practice in the sustainable management of parks and green spaces in the country.  

Cathy Baxter, Director at An Taisce’s Environmental Education Unit, said they were delighted to be chosen as an SDG Champion: “These types of programmes are important as they reinforce the connection between the SDGs and real actions and positive steps we are all taking.”  

Tackling poverty, inequality and climate change through global citizenship  

Development Perspectives is a national NGO that uses education and active global citizenship to tackle poverty, inequality and climate change. 

Their SDG advocate training brings together 26 adult and community education practitioners for eight months to learn about the SDGs and then design and implement action projects. Former participants have gone on to work in politics, or as senior lecturers, diplomats, in international organisations and NGOs. 

“Our impact has been immense when you consider the investment made,” says Bobby McCormack, the organisation’s Co-founder and CEO. 

Taking action on climate by living more sustainably 

The Sustainable Life School (SLS) is a female-led social enterprise based in Dublin with a mission of helping people at work and in their communities to take action on climate by living more sustainably. Last year, they reached over 1,000 people through their work. 

Their signature programme focuses on areas such as reducing waste, energy, active travel, food and fashion. “Many of our participants have lightbulb moments when they discover the environmental or social impact associated with our lifestyles, whether that’s finding out for example that over 22,000 coffee cups are disposed of every hour in Ireland every year,” recounts Nathalie Pavone a co-founder of SLS. 

Co-founder Nathalie Pavone at the Clothes Swap Pop-up
Co-founder of The Sustainable Life School Nathalie Pavone at the Clothes Swap Pop-up © The Sustainable Life School

Participants are given a set of changes that can lead to picking up new sustainable habits which ultimately help to change behaviours. SLS is also piloting a circular economy initiative for workplaces called ‘The Clothes Swap Pop-Up’, which introduces a circular economy activity at work and helping employees source clothes sustainably through swapping. 

The tourism sector can contribute to the SDGs 

Cliffs of Moher
Ireland attracts millions of tourists every year, visiting sites such as the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare © Pixabay / Ieva_K

Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors, with the country receiving over 10 million tourists in 2019. Fáilte Ireland is the country’s National Tourism Development Authority and is building awareness of tourism’s impact on many of the SDGs. 

“We are strategically identifying and building the SDGs into our work programmes and our support of the tourism sector to enable the delivery of the SDG targets,” says Geraldine Cusack, Sustainability and Climate Action officer at Fáilte Ireland.    

Fáilte Ireland promotes sustainability through its Climate Action Programme, which offers support and investment advice for tourism businesses and helps them develop an action plan to become more sustainable. It funds a scheme to provide new employment opportunities for workers and communities that were heavily dependent on peat in Ireland’s Midlands by diversifying the local economy, which will include new opportunities for sustainability focused tourism developments. 

Sports as a tool to develop healthy and sustainable communities 

The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is Ireland’s largest sporting organisation and promotes Gaelic games such as hurling, football, handball and rounders. They have 108 clubs across the globe and an estimated 3,000 members.  

The GAA was named an SDG Champion for their work on health, education, biodiversity and partnerships.  

Their clubs have been innovators in addressing many of Ireland’s social concerns, and Jimmy D’Arcy, GAA Sustainability and Youth Leadership Manager, believes sports can be used as a vehicle to promote the SDGs through opening dialogue on sustainability: “Sports naturally provide a context for social cohesion and as such can support the creation of relationships and contexts that provide opportunities for difficult conversations.” 

SDGs cannot be reached alone 

Over 80% of the 169 targets linked to the SDGs have been fully achieved in Ireland, with the most progress in education, hunger reduction and health and wellbeing. Areas including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, partnerships and climate action are lagging behind.    

The Irish Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, recognised the work of the 26 SDG Champions as leaders in driving forward Ireland’s progress towards the Goals.  

“The SDG Champions Programme recognises that the SDGs are for everyone and that everyone can make a contribution to their success,” he said at the launch of the Programme. 

The inclusion of an organisation on the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) website does not necessarily reflect the views of UNRIC and does not imply its endorsement.

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