SDG and ISO 50001: the two have an almost direct relationship. Where the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) in Goal 7 calls for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, the international standard ISO 50001 sets requirements for energy management systems in this direction. It primarily aims to increase energy efficiency by continuously improving energy-related performance, especially in the industry. What contribution can ISO 50001 make to achieving Goal 7 of the SDGs?


Called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in English, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent the key messages of the 2015 Agenda 2030. The 17 goals to promote sustainable peace and prosperity are aimed at everyone worldwide: governments, business and science, as well as society as a whole and, last but not least, consumers. The SDGs are to be achieved globally and by all UN member states by 2030, and in some cases have already been achieved by 2020.

The internationally known standard for energy management ISO 50001 plays an important role in SGD Goal 7 "affordable and secure energy".

With a total of 169 individual goals, the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a call for society to integrate the idea of sustainability into every activity. The SDGs are based on the three pillars of sustainability "social", "ecological" and "economic" and address the following topics, among others:

  • Food
  • Work
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Energy
  • etc.

SDG and ISO 50001

Management systems that follow international ISO standards are increasingly contributing to the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These ISO standards can support the sustainable development of our society and the achievement of global goals. This is done by implementing and realizing measures and structures required by the respective standards.

An example of this is the interaction between SDG and ISO 50001.

SDG Goal 7: Affordable and secure energy

The key statements on the sustainability topic of "energy" are formulated in Goal 7. According to this goal, it should be ensured that all people worldwide have "access to affordable, secure, sustainable and modern energy. Three sub-goals briefly specify what is needed to achieve this:

  • A significant increase in the share of renewable energies in the global energy mix (7.2)
  • Doubling the rate of increase in energy efficiency (7.3)
  • Increased international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including investment in energy infrastructure and promotion of clean energy technology (7.a).

SGD and ISO 50001 for energy management

All three sub-targets are to be achieved by 2030 at the latest, according to the United Nations. The management system standard ISO 50001 can make an important contribution to the two subgoals "higher share of renewable energies" and "increase in energy efficiency". Only the third sub-goal is not relevant with regard to the energy management standard.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 "affordable and secure energy" is linked to four other global goals:

  • Agriculture (SDG 2)
  • Sustainable urban development (SDG 11)
  • Sustainable consumption (SDG 12)
  • Climate protection (SDG 13)

SDG 7 and ISO 50001: Increasing energy efficiency

Companies with a certified energy management system (EnMS) in accordance with ISO 50001:2018 contribute to sub-goal 7.3 with the associated increase in energy efficiency and reduction in energy consumption, because it is precisely this aspect that is the focus of the international standard. In this context, it is less important whether the increase in energy efficiency in a company is economically or rather ecologically motivated - or both.

More and more companies worldwide are implementing an EnMS in accordance with ISO 50001 - from the industry as well as service providers and public bodies. The latest ISO Survey of 2018 shows just under 20,000 companies certified to the energy management standard, which includes around 45,000 sites - and the trend is rising.

SDG and ISO 50001: Picking up speed!

ISO 50001 is therefore well suited to the goal of doubling the rate of increase in energy efficiency by 2030. Even the first edition of the standard in 2011 provided companies with a suitable framework for saving energy and significantly increasing energy efficiency. The 2018 revision introduced the common basic structure of all recent ISO management system standards, with uniform basic texts and common basic terms and definitions.

The so-called High Level Structure (HLS) creates the best conditions for the integration of different standard requirements. It simplifies the dovetailing of topic-related requirements into already existing structures and processes and thus facilitates the dovetailing of energy management into an integrated management system.

In addition, the 2018 revision of the standard brought a number of improvements and innovations. These include requirements that are strategically and technically oriented, but also those that focus on the commitment of top management as well as all those involved in the EnMS in general. This with the intention of ensuring the effectiveness and continuous improvement of the EnMS.

SDG 7: Renewable energy as a recommendation

ISO 50001 does not play a major role with regard to Sustainable Development Goal 7.2. The standard does mention renewable energies in a few places as quite recommendable, for example in Annex A.8.2 (Interpretation). However, this is not without expressing the non-binding nature of such a recommendation: "For new facilities/sites, improved technologies and processes, alternative energy types such as renewable or less polluting energy options should be considered."

The standard also specifically emphasizes the unsurprising fact that it does not matter what sources the electricity comes from to increase energy efficiency (A.6.3). In Annex A.8.3 (Procurement), the standard makes a similar statement. There it states, in essence, that a change or increase in the procurement of renewable energy from outside the scope of the EnMS has no effect on energy consumption, nor on the improvement of energy-related performance. However, it is still noted that renewable energy can have positive environmental impacts.

One thing is clear, though. A company will receive a certificate according to ISO 50001 even if it uses only energy from coal. However, this then fulfills all standard requirements for the EnMS with regard to increasing energy efficiency and other criteria. ISO 50001 is purely a management system standard that is not primarily aimed at sustainability. The focus is on the continuous improvement of the performance of an EnMS and the achievement of desired results using suitable processes.

Conclusion: How ISO 50001 pays towards SDG Goal 7

ISO 50001 has what it takes to pay into Sustainable Development Goal 7 - specifically sub-goal 7.3 . Implementing the standard (including certification) can therefore be a viable first step towards meeting SDG 7. ISO 50001 offers companies a suitable framework with a view to substantially increasing energy efficiency and thus reducing energy consumption. The fact that ISO 50001, as a management system standard, focuses primarily on strategic aspects and provides financial incentives is not a shortcoming. After all, lower energy costs and/or tax savings are a veritable advantage for users.

Trust and Expertise

What DQS can do for you: As an internationally recognized certifier for management systems and processes, we audit on more than 30,000 audit days per year. Our claim begins where audit checklists end. Our auditors are specialized in giving you valuable impulses with their comprehensive technical and industry expertise. This enables you to further develop your management system and continuously improve your company's performance. Take us at our word! We look forward to talking to you. Contact us now.

Julian König

Head of Product Management & Accreditation at DQS and also an expert for ISO 50001, Julian König is responsible for accreditation-compliant product support and development for DQS's focus products. The bundling of know-how in his team creates a strong connection to the needs of the market. With his expertise in standards, he is also a sought-after author and moderator.


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