Is Education the Key to Achieving the Global Goals?

If you consider what it will take to achieve any one of the Sustainable Development Goals, the need for quality universal education becomes clear. Without educating all of the world’s children, how can they be expected to grow up and be responsible global citizens? Without uplifting and empowering the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, Nobel Laureates, and other gifted thinkers, how can we expect to see more innovation, or create those sustainable cities? If 62 million girls continue to be kept out of school, forced to marry, bear children before they are ready, care for family or work low-paying jobs, won’t poverty inevitably persist? PaperSeed is dedicated to helping the world realize goals 4 and 5. In doing so, we believe that we will be helping the other fifteen goals along as well.

Quality public education is an investment in a society’s overall wellbeing. Education has a wealth of proven social benefits, including lowered crime rates, lower mortality rates, better job outlook and stable employment, and an overall increase in a country’s GDP. As noted in a study by Pennsylvania State University:

“Research shows that individuals who graduate and have access to quality education throughout primary and secondary school are more likely to find gainful employment, have stable families, and be active and productive citizens. They are also less likely to commit serious crimes, less likely to place high demands on the public health care system, and less likely to be enrolled in welfare assistance programs. A good education provides substantial benefits to individuals and, as individual benefits are aggregated throughout a community, creates broad social and economic benefits.”

Considering the aggregated social benefits, imagine what might happen if we educate an entire generation of the world’s children? More people enjoying more stable families, being productive citizens, reducing the demand on public health care, and less likely to commit serious crimes.  And consider the consequences if we fail to give all of the world’s children a quality education?

Each of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals is important: eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring good health, clean water, and sanitation; combating climate change. Crowded together in that grid, it’s easy to see that these goals are interconnected. For instance, Goal 13 is to take urgent action to combat climate change, but our ability to combat climate change hinges on making goals 7, 11, 12, 14, and 15 a reality, does it not?

Let’s take a closer look at Goal 12: Responsible Consumption. Recycling, waste reduction and re-use are cooperative, learned habits. In societies all over the world, organizations exert a tremendous amount of effort educating the public about recycling. PaperSeed has worked with a number of organizations to promote environmental education and sustainability. Organizations like Keep California Beautiful educate people of all ages about all aspects of sustainable living including waste management, responsible consumption, and litter prevention. In fact, education is one of their three guiding principles. PaperSeed’s support of their 2015 K-12 Recycling Competition stands out as an example of the power education has to help us achieve the global goals. Thousands of students participated, which means thousands of students learned about how recycling benefits their schools and communities, and what is at stake if we fail to become more responsible consumers.

PaperSeed crosses into other parts of the SDG Grid in our work with organizations like ZanaAfrica. Underprivileged girls often miss school due to their menstrual cycles, which is not only a matter of education but gender equality. Access to clean bathrooms at school is a concern that girls face more keenly than boys, especially when girls hit puberty. Unable to afford sanitary napkins and lacking a clean, private place to manage their hygiene, girls often miss up to 56 days of school per year (UNICEF 2005). By working with ZanaAfrica, PaperSeed has addressed both education and gender equality; all while creating powerful coalitions between community based organizations and socially minded businesses.

The Sustainable Development Goals are the world’s roadmap to a brighter and more just future, but we cannot hope to achieve them without education. We at PaperSeed are privileged to be in a position where we can empower communities to invest in educating their youth and empowering girls to reach their full potential. By using our unique position to create powerful coalitions between businesses and community based organizations, we have the tools to craft the future we all dream of.