Microbiology and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Issue: Oceans

05 February 2019 article


To celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2020, we are launching a wide-ranging programme of events and activities to showcase why microbiology matters and to demonstrate the impact of microbiologists past, present and future.

Microbiologists are involved in addressing challenges that vary from urgent problems demanding immediate solutions, such as new and emerging diseases, through to long-term issues, like antimicrobial drug resistance, food security and environmental sustainability. This was demonstrated by Sir Alexander Fleming, the founder and first President of the Microbiology Society, whose discovery of the world’s first antibiotic has saved countless lives and transformed modern medicine.

The Society is approaching its 75th anniversary year in 2020, and to mark this occasion we are embarking on a project that will celebrate and champion the role of microbiology in addressing the world’s biggest challenges, within the global framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

A Sustainable Future: the role of microbiology in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Science, technology and innovation are recognised in the 2030 Agenda as key to implementing the SDGs. Although the Goals are broad and interconnected, there are specific targets where the expertise of microbiologists is particularly relevant. For example, in recent years the Society has harnessed the scientific knowledge of our membership to inform and influence policy relating to antimicrobial resistance (SDG 3), climate change (SDG 13), biofuels (SDG 7) and food security (SDG 2).












The aims of the ‘A Sustainable Future’ project are to actively demonstrate the value and raise the profile of microbiology in achieving the SDGs with decision-makers within the UK and Republic of Ireland, as well as raising the profile of the SDGs within the microbiology community. Building up to our 75th anniversary in 2020, we will be engaging with members on this project and identifying opportunities to engage with a range of SDG stakeholders.

The ‘A Sustainable Future’ project will promote knowledge exchange and multi-disciplinary collaborations by bringing together members, microbiologists, scientists, industry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and policy-makers, to champion the importance of microbiology in sustainable development. This will drive us towards the Society’s vision of a world in which the science of microbiology provides maximum benefit to society.


The UN SDGs are a collection of 17 global goals and 169 targets, adopted by all Member States of the UN in September 2015. They are the successors to the Millennium Development Goals launched in 2000, but are more comprehensive, covering economic, social and environmental issues, and are far more ambitious. The UN describes them as:

“the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The Goals interconnect and in order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each Goal and target by 2030.”

The Goals apply universally – this means that rather than being framed primarily as a means to aid developing countries, the onus is on all countries, rich and poor, to meet the SDGs nationally as well as internationally. This requires member states to align the 2030 Agenda to their own national policies. Accordingly, SDG national implementation plans have been developed by the governments in the UK and Ireland.

We are currently seeking members’ views on the project scope – if you have a background or currently work in an area of microbiology that relates to sustainable development and would like to contribute to this project, please contact our Policy Team ([email protected]).

Please visit the SDGs page of the website for further details on the ‘A Sustainable Future’ project including opportunities to contribute.

Image: United Nations.