Key findings from the 2023/24 Europe Sustainable Development Report | My new site
Forestry in Finland, cut down trees along small forest roads
The Nordic countries have challenges with the environmentally oriented goals.
Photo: Greenpeace Finland

Key findings from the 2023/24 Europe Sustainable Development Report


The 2023/24 edition of the Europe Sustainable Development Report is launched. What are the highlights and what does it say about the Nordic countries? Read the blog post by Hilda Klingvall.

On January 25th, SDSN in collaboration with SDSN Europe and the European Economic and Social Committee launched the 2023/24 edition of the Europe Sustainable Development Report. The report highlights that at the current rate, one-third of the SDG targets will not be achieved by the EU by 2030, and that decisive actions must be taken in the EU to avoid environmental and social “tipping points”.

In light of the upcoming European Elections in June, the report identifies ten priority actions for the incoming EU leadership, covering both what needs to be done to accelerate internal implementation as well as how to strengthen EU’s international leadership on the SDGs.

The European countries performance against the SDGs show large disparities between sub-regions and countries, ranging from over 80% for Finland, Sweden and Denmark, to around 60 % in some Eastern European countries and 50 % in some of the candidate countries.

The SDG index also shows how progress in Europe has stalled since 2020 – the progress on the index was three times as fast over the period 2015-2019 than it was over the period 2019-2022.

Based on this year’s assessment and previous editions, SDSN underlines five major SDG challenges faced by the EU. These include:

  • the stagnation and even reversal of progress on Leave-No-One-Behind indicators,
  • persisting challenges related to environmental and biodiversity goals,
  • negative impacts from international spillover effects,
  • large gaps and a slow pace of convergence across European countries,
  • and too slow progress in order to achieve all the SDGs by 2030.

When considering the aggregated picture, the Nordic countries come out as top performers on SDG implementation. Finland ranks first for the fourth year in a row, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and Iceland ranks number nine.

The Nordic countries perform very well (at least 4 out of 5 countries have achieved the goal) on SDGs 1 (no poverty), 7 (renewable energy), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and 10 (reduce inequalities).

In line with previous reports, SDGs with an environmental dimension, SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land), stand out for the Nordics with all five countries performing poorly and not being on track to achieve any of the goals.

Worth a small note, however, is that none of these goals have a decreasing trend in any of the Nordic countries, although it has in most cases stagnated or is only moderately increasing, which is far from enough to be on track to 2030.

Other goals that reveal common Nordic present and, possibly, rising challenges are SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 4 (quality education). For SDG 2, all Nordic countries have significant or major challenges remaining, in combination with a stagnating or decreasing trend.

Prevalence of obesity and the human trophic level are the main common Nordic challenges to achieve SDG 2. Regarding SDG 4, all five countries show a stagnating trend. Compared to the 2022 edition of the Europe Sustainable Development Report, all Nordic countries have a similar or worsened both status and trend for the SDG, and all countries have challenges remaining to achieve the goal.

In sum, much of what is true for Europe as a whole, such as persisting challenges related to environmental goals, negative international spillover effects, and a too slow overall progress, is also true for the Nordic countries. However, compared to the large gaps between European sub-regions and countries, the Nordics countries are similar, with success factors and many challenges in common, and has a lot to win in collaborating on solving them.