SDG3 Target Indicators Transformed into KPIs – Part 1

Evaluating United Nations Target Indicators and Preparing to Create KPIs for Business to Impact the Goal
By:  SDG3 Team On November 14, 2021
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SDG3 Team

Thank you for your interest in Good Health and Well-Being! Did you know that 80% of healthcare problems arise due to non-clinical issues? All types of businesses, not just those in the healthcare industries, are needed to impact the SDG3 Targets. The non-clinical issues affecting well-being are social determinants of health (SDoH) including  education, employment and job security, working conditions, food security, housing, transportation, and more.  Keep these SDoH* in mind, as they are factors that businesses of all types and sizes can impact.

SDG3 has 13 Targets, with 28 indicators for measurement of progress, all simple measures with no compound indicators as some other SDGs have. Around a quarter may be used with various modification for most businesses.  Two have no relevance outside of companies with poisonous or toxic effluent or products.  A handful of the Target Indicators have very limited relevance for our readers. By changing measurements from the national level to within the facility or community, a bit more than half of these Target Indicators can be adapted to be relevant for most businesses.

Given that the United Nations indicators are articulated at a national level, we see the need for adaptation of Target Indicators across all the SDGs.  You might be surprised to learn that the SDGs were ratified in 2015 without any Target Indicators.  Can you imagine launching a strategic initiative in your business without planning to measure progress?   In 2017, the Target Indicators were added; and they are periodically reviewed and updated.  But they are not written for businesses.

In our Corporate Guidebook, chapter by chapter, we propose possible business key performance indicators (KPIs) which are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound (SMART).  Considering the topics in SDoH, the addition of inclusive and equitable (SMARTIE) is a business imperative for SDG3.  We will use industry scenarios as examples to share KPIs that would work in business for each Target.  You have the opportunity to use these examples as guides to create your own KPIs for your own business’s situation and strategy.

You will need to create SDG3 KPIs that are relevant to you and your company, and it is not just SHERPA Institute telling you this.  One of the leading global consultancies, PwC, explains “SDG relevant KPIs the all-important bridge between prioritizing the Goals, embedding them into business strategy and action planning, and, in turn, producing better reporting” (2018, p. 21).

When you’ve prioritized the SDG3 Targets that you can impact, and a strategy with opportunities your team will pursue, you will develop your own SMARTIE KPIs.  This is a strategic activity, with diverse stakeholders from all functional areas and deliberate inclusion of all levels and interest groups.  Consider a PPE manufacturer, whose business objective is to meet the yearly forecasted demand.  The pandemic has thrown a wrench into production plans.  The firm should get advice beyond senior executives, gathering input from sales, customer service and warehouse employees.

Your KPIs should be both leading and lagging, which serve different purposes.  Lagging indicators measure performance after activities have occurred; for example, last quarter’s production.  There is nothing that can be done at this point to change those results.  However, it may influence reactionary short-term plans.   In response to lower output in the previous quarter, a firm could offer overtime for additional shifts, which can be detrimental to health.

While lagging indicators allow us to react, it is also important to have leading indicators. These measure the conditions you’ve put in place to achieve your objectives. This allows you time to make improvements and stay on track.  Using more examples from manufacturing, leading indicators include forecasted state of the supply chain (which suffered in the early parts of the pandemic), days inventory of raw materials, and scheduled factory downtime.  For every business objective, it is important to have a minimum of two KPIs, both leading and lagging.

In our next Insights Article, we will share one example of how SDoH* can apply to any business.  We show how we’ve modified an SDG3 Target Indicator for business producing both leading and lagging SMARTIE KPIs.  If you have any questions or thoughts on this topic, we invite you to share below.  Has your business produced SDoH KPIs for SDG3?  We’d love to hear from you!  Thank you again for your interest.

*To learn more about SDoH, please read the article series by SDG3 Co-Author, Dr. Elissa Torres.  You may also want to read SDG3 Co-Author Marilyn Johnson’s series on how to incorporate SDoH and the SDGs into your career!

PwC. (2018). SDG Reporting Challenge 2018. Price Water Cooper. Retrieved from

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By Carla Holder

Carla Holder serves SHERPA Institute as the Research Director for the UN Sustainable Development Goals Corporate Guidebook Series. She has a long history of involvement and activism in environmental and human rights causes starting in secondary school reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and continuing throughout life, particularly with the Sierra Club but also many other groups. With a BA from Cornell University, double major in mathematics and chemistry, and an MBA with High Distinction from University of Michigan (Ross), double concentration in finance and strategic planning, she has had a long successful career. She worked for MassMutual Life Insurance, General Motors, Unilever and the education industry. Ms. Holder is a 42-year member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), a senior member and past local board member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), and has served in many non-profit boards and as a judge for science and technology competitions for secondary schools. As Research Director, Ms. Holder fills many roles: as SDG Researcher for all SDGs, as Meta-Researcher gathering and analyzing data on Global Compact companies, and as Corporate Liaison. The biggest role is training and coaching the Researchers and Research Interns. In particular, she meets with Interns regularly to provide them requests from the SDG teams, to answer their questions, encourage their dreams, and keep them on track. Ms. Holder’s role as co-author on SDG 3 Good Health is personal. Having had to learn to walk four times as a child due to multiple surgeries, she has spent much time with medical personnel. While still a middle schooler, she presented her own case at grand rounds at a New York City teaching hospital better than many of the residents. She has researched and managed health, accessibility, and insurance issues for herself and family, led support groups on health issues, and knows the importance of being an informed consumer and having an advocate while sick. Her driver for involvement in the Meta-Project overall is SDG 13, Climate Action, due to the climate refugees and deaths that will result if not addressed. This led her to connect with Ms. Andrea Hoffmeier at an ASQ section meeting and join SHERPA. Besides her role as Research Director and co-author for SDG 3, Ms. Holder also recruits new contributors and coaches all the SDG Teams along with Ms. Hoffmeier. The pair also are super admins for the various platforms SHERPA uses. Ms. Holder is originally from New York and now lives in the Huntsville, Alabama area nicknamed “Rocket City” for its contributions to getting to the Moon. She is active in her church, a vocalist, and also gardens, both fruit and vegetables.

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