Sustainability of the U.S. Manufacturing Sector: Use of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to improve health and education, reduce inequality, and encourage economic growth, while also preserving or improving the conditions of our oceans and forests. Pursuing these SDGs would mean $12 trillion in economic opportunities for companies, while also improving the lives of all people and bettering the planet. Some manufacturing companies are already focusing on sustainability, but not all. In 2019, almost 30% of National Association of Manufacturers members did not have a sustainable policy, goals, or program in place. Business drivers for sustainability and the SDGs are similar, with focuses on economic growth and consumer demands. Despite the shortcomings of the SDGs, they represent an opportunity for manufacturing companies to further improve energy, material efficiency, and productivity. This report evaluates the SDGs and the manufacturing sector. The manufacturing sector was analyzed using the technology assessments (TAs) introduced in the 2015 Quadrennial Technology Review (QTR) review, which focused on concepts, challenges, and solutions to meet the United States' energy needs. Annual or sustainability reporting of companies performing work in one of those TAs were analyzed for mentions of the SDGs. The call-out boxes throughout this report provide examples of companies making progress toward the SDGs. The possible overlap between the SDGs and the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) was also evaluated. The TAs in the 2015 QTR Review were furthered with detailed targets in the draft Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) for Fiscal Years 2017-2021. Direct and likely relationships between the SDGs and the TAs were established. Positives, challenges, SDG-related literature, and future steps are also discussed in this report.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages39
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-80732


  • manufacturing
  • quadrennial technology review
  • sustainable development goals
  • technology assessment


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