UN SDGs - Goal 3

Sustainable Investment
August 10 2018 - ,

Goal 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Ensuring health and well-being for all is essential to sustainable development. Life expectancy has been increased significantly; common killers associated with childhood and maternity have declined; and major progress has been made on access to clean water and sanitation, reducing malaria, TB, polio and the spread of HIV/AIDS. However, more efforts are needed to eradicate a wide range of diseases and address persistent and emerging health issues.

What is Goal 3?

Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeks to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for, all at all ages, by addressing some of the most basic needs of people.

Specific targets of Goal 3 aim to tackle major global health challenges and include, but are not limited to, reducing global maternity and new-born mortality (targets 3.1 and 3.2); fighting communicable and non-communicable diseases, including AIDS and malaria (targets 3.3 and 3.4); strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse (target 3.5); halving the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents (target 3.6); and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services (target 3.7).

It is an arduous task that governments alone cannot achieve and largely depends on the strength of public-private partnerships and contributions from the private sector.

Why is Goal 3 important?

Although the world has made a significant progress on reducing maternal and infant mortality rates, and the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases since 1990s, more than 6 million children still die before their fifth birthday every year; 16,000 children die each day from preventable diseases, such as measles and tuberculosis, hundreds of women die during pregnancy or from child-birth related complications every day, and AIDS is now the leading cause of death among teenagers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Goal 3 is important because it aims to meet a basic human need - good health and addresses all major health priorities. Good health in turn has a positive effect on development and can help to drive productivity and economic growth.

Preventing unintended pregnancy and reducing adolescent childbearing through universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services are essential to further advancing the health of women and achieving gender equality (Goal 5). Acute and chronic diseases are also one of the main factors that push households into poverty. Good health is important because it enables access to education (Goal 4), which can then lead to access to employment, and help bring people out of poverty (Goal 1).

How can companies contribute to Goal 3?

From our company analysis we have found that the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, healthcare, consumer goods and insurance sectors are some of the best placed to address Goal 3, through their product and service offering. These include research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases and the provision of essential medicines and vaccines.

For example, in the pharmaceutical sector, GlaxoSmithKline's R&D division is working on the development of vaccines for a number of diseases, including HIV/AIDS, infectious and rare diseases. The company's vaccines business operates in developing countries, following a tiered pricing approach, based on gross national income and ability to pay. By developing, commercialising and providing access to medicines to treat some of the world's most common acute and chronic diseases, GSK makes a major contribution in the fight against communicable and non-communicable diseases. While specialty pharmaceutical company Indivior, which focuses on researching and manufacturing medication and therapies for those suffering with opioid or alcohol addiction, through its core activities addresses the target of strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

In the consumer goods sector, there are major opportunities for companies to contribute to Goal 3, through their core product offering, similar to how Unilever has promoted its handwashing and sanitation programmes. The company's Lifebuoy soap is one of the brands which is sold at a very low price point in developing countries where Unilever has targeted hand-washing and hygiene projects in partnership with governments and charities. In 2017, Unilever reported that 601 million people had been reached by its various health and hygiene programmes. Through its handwashing and sanitation programmes Unilever has been contributing towards achieving the target of ending preventable deaths of new-borns and children under 5 years of age and under-5 mortality.

In their own sphere of influence, supermarkets and food producers can help achieve the goal by providing and promoting healthier and more nutritious food and drink offerings. Mondelez International, for example, has set a number of health-related targets for 2020, which include reducing sodium and saturated fat in its products by 10% and increasing the use of whole grains by 25%.

Insurance companies, like Prudential and Aviva, too can contribute much towards achieving Goal 3, through the provision of financial risk protection and access to quality essential health-care services.

Companies whose product and service offerings are not health or safety related, can also contribute to the goal, by making investments in health a priority in their business operations and adopting any of the following initiatives: increasing access to health services for women and men workers and their families, including access to vaccinations, sexual health and family planning services, aligning human resources policies with principles of human rights, including policies for HIV/AIDS.


As the world continues to face major health-related challenges, such as the spread of life-threatening diseases and high infant and maternal mortality rates, SDG 3 aims to ensure good health and well-being for everyone. Although companies operating in the healthcare, pharmaceutical and consumer goods sector, can make major contributions towards achieving Goal 3 through health-related products and services, any business can contribute towards achieving the goal by making health a business priority.

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