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The renewable energy industry is instrumental to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to realize a better and more sustainable future for all. In addition to core contributions to the achievement of SDG 7, which focuses on access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, and SDG 13, on urgent action to combat climate change, the renewable energy sector can also make critical contributions to the other 15 SDGs, including helping to alleviate poverty, fight hunger, increase access to healthcare, education, and clean water, and protect life on land and in water.

Given the urgency and scale at which renewables must be deployed to meet the world’s sustainable development and climate goals, it is critical that the industry understand the full range of its potential opportunities and impacts on all of the SDGs. These opportunities and impacts can stem from provision of renewable energy itself, production practices, supply chain sourcing, and corporate governance. While the industry is critical to the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon global economy, some renewable energy projects have also been linked to allegations of human rights abuse, including labor rights concerns, harm to indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, land, and territories, and attacks against human rights defenders.

SDSN has partnered with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, and Equitable Origin to create a shared understanding of how the renewable energy sector can contribute to the SDGs. For each SDG, the Atlas explores potential opportunities and impacts from renewable energy project development, and provides recommendations for companies to better align conduct to the Sustainable Development Agenda. In doing so, the industry stands to bolster the sector’s reputation, attract and retain investors, and minimize risk. Building on the success of our earlier mapping project, Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: An Atlas, this Atlas also pays special attention to the interconnections of the human rights framework with the SDGs.