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Income-based variation in Sustainable Development Goal interaction networks


The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are set to change the way we live, and aim to create, by 2030, a sustainable future balancing equitable prosperity within planetary boundaries. Human, economic and natural resources must be used in tandem to achieve the SDGs; therefore, acting to resolve one SDG can impair or improve our ability to meet others that may need these resources to be used in different ways. Trade-offs arising from these SDG interactions are a key hurdle for SDG implementation. We estimate the network of SDG interactions—the sustainome—using global time series of SDG indicators for countries with different income levels. We analyse the network architecture to determine the hurdles and opportunities to maximize SDG implementation through their interactions. The relative contributions of SDGs to global sustainable success differ by country income. They also differ depending on whether we consider SDG goals or targets. However, limiting climate change, reducing inequalities and responsible consumption are key hurdles to achieving 2030 goals across countries. Focusing on poverty alleviation and reducing inequalities will have compound positive effects on all SDGs.

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Fig. 1: SDG and target sustainome including all countries.
Fig. 2: Topological centrality of SDGs depending on the sum of their positive (positive strength) and negative (negative strength) associations.
Fig. 3: Sustainome, SDG contributions to reactivity, and fates of each SDG for high-income countries.
Fig. 4: Sustainome, SDG contributions to reactivity, and fates of each SDG for low-income countries.

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Data availability

All of the data used for these analyses are freely available from the World Bank SDG indicators via the website ( or the World Bank API.


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We thank the United Nations Department of Public Information for making the 17 SDG icons available, the World Bank for curating and collating the SDG indicator data and making them easily accessible, and A. Douglas for fruitful analytical discussions.

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D.L. conceived the study. D.L. and F.M. designed the statistical models. D.L. carried out the analyses. D.L. and F.M. wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to David Lusseau.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Figures 1–10

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Lusseau, D., Mancini, F. Income-based variation in Sustainable Development Goal interaction networks. Nat Sustain 2, 242–247 (2019).

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