The 'spillover' effect & the UK's SDGs ranking

Updated: Oct 31

In a previous LinkedIn post, we shared a link to the SDG Index, a fantastic tool to see how individual countries are progressing with sustainable actions to meet the global challenges like climate change, loss of biodiversity and waste. The SDG Index is a useful market intelligence tool for policy makers, SMEs and corporate foundations alike.


As a follow on, we thought we would drill down a bit deeper into how #COP26 host, the UK, is performing.


Where does the UK rank on the SDG index?

The UK’s current global SDG ranking is 17th out of 165 with a country score of 80/100, and a spillover effect of 54.1%.


To put that into context - Finland leads the country ranks at 85.90 followed by a number of European countries including Germany (82.48), Slovenia (81.60) and Ireland (80.97). Myanmar ranks number 1 for 'spillover' effect scoring a very good 99.99%.


Using the traffic light system linked to the indicators sitting behind each goal - the UK scores a green for SDG9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. This is a reflection of the research capabilities of the UK, but it must be noted some of these data sets do go back to 2018*, so it will be interesting to see the impact of Brexit and COVID-19, and whether the Government's focus on innovation and digital transformation can secure the UK's place as a leader in this space.


Climate change (SDG13) remains a critical challenge, as it does for most of the developed world, as does Life on Land (SDG15). Britain has lost almost 50% of its biodiversity since the industrial revolution, more that any other G7 country.


One area not often talked about it the 'spill over effect'. Each country's actions can have positive or negative effects on other countries' abilities to achieve the SDGs. The Spillover Index assesses spillovers along three dimensions: environmental & social impacts embodied into trade, economy & finance, and security. A lower score means that a country causes more negative and fewer positive spillover effects - the UK sits at 54.1%. As a comparison, Canada sits at 64.07% and New Zealand at 70.02%. Britain's position can be attributed to activities such as exports of hazardous materials, financial secrecy and corporate tax haven scores.


How can the UK improve its SDG rankings?

Looking at the progress it is clear that the UK, along with all countries across the global, needs to improve national activities to achieve the SDGs.


Changing consumer behaviour and reducing consumption are critical for the UK to improve it's SDG Index ranking - as these changes will drive markets through consumer demand. National legislation and policies are crucial, as is a nation-wide communications campaign to shift understanding and promote practical action. To improve spillover effects, the UK needs to consider its exports, and tax reforms.


Even without Government legislation or policies, SMEs and corporate foundations can enact tangible change such as adopting sustainable business models, innovating using the challenges set out in the sustainable development goals, and transforming processes with digital, all activities to help us all move from the current linear economy to a circular economy. Corporate Foundations, in particular, can positively influence their parent companies to reduce unsustainable trade and supply chains, use of tax havens and profit shifting which undermine other countries' ability to mobilize needed financial resources to achieve the SDGs.


In this decade of action there is a lot of work to be done - governments, individuals, businesses and not-for-profits, all need to take a leadership role and be responsible.


As a sustainability consultancy we ensure our support to clients is wrapped in collaborations and partnerships (SDG17) which empowers SMEs, social enterprises and corporate foundations to shift rapidly and with focus, to socially, environmentally and economically sustainable business models complemented by strong governance.


To find out more about SDG Changemakers and how we work - get in touch with Felicity or Claire. To understand more about the SDGs, check out these pages: -



* It is worth noting that due to COVID-19, there has been a backward slide in achieving the SDGs and it is likely there is an underestimated in the current reporting with many indicators for 2020 not yet available due to time lags in international statistics.


About SDG Changemakers


SDG Changemakers works with businesses to accelerate the scale of action to deliver against the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


SDG Changemakers challenge and empower businesses to be purpose-driven, take practical action, and mobilise their collective strength to deliver against the Global Goals.