9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

How business leadership can advance Goal 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

Industry, infrastructure and innovation are key drivers of economic growth and social value creation. Sustainable industrialization can lift communities out of poverty but needs to be managed carefully to avoid additional pressures on people and planet. In developing countries alone this requires a $1 trillion gap in annual investment spending needs to be addressed. Industrialization and, more broadly, economic development crucially depends on quality, reliable infrastructure. Without it, communities and businesses remain deprived of access to markets, quality products and services, and jobs. Globally, 2.6 billion people cannot access a reliable electricity source and over 4 billion do not have internet access. As these gaps are filled, industry and infrastructure assets must be resilient to changes in social, economic, and environmental conditions. To achieve inclusive and sustainable industrialization and deliver quality, resilient infrastructure, technological and process innovations must be developed and deployed at scale.

As producers, employers, investors, and innovators, businesses are fundamental to achieving Goal 9. Business delivers through its research, development and deployment of technologies and processes, and its financing and production of capital assets and infrastructure. But business is also instrumental in creating an enabling environment for innovation and investment through its engagement with other stakeholders such as Governments on innovation, policy, and accessibility to their intellectual property and other assets. Business, of course, has an obligation to comply with relevant laws designed to protect people and the environment. However, responsible business practice moves beyond strict legal compliance toward supporting internationally recognized standards of conduct.

Leading companies contribute to Goal 9 with actions that impact both their own practices and those of others. Internally, they foster intrapreneurship and ethical leadership to create a corporate culture that supports innovation and business activities with inclusion and sustainability at their heart. Companies can lead through research, development and deployment of products, services, and business models to deliver sustainable and resilient infrastructure; particularly those tailored for challenging conditions in developing countries where the need is greatest. They can support inclusive and sustainable upgrading of industries in developing countries through global value chains, by focusing on transferring technologies and skills to build local capabilities. Leading companies can create innovation systems for sustainable development by providing access to finance, fostering entrepreneurship, and pooling financial and research resources in a global knowledge base. They can also lead in upgrading and retrofitting of infrastructure and industry assets across own and supply chain operations to make them sustainable and resilient.

Leadership on Goal 9 represents a significant market opportunity for businesses. Retrofits and installation of new infrastructure is a market worth $3.7 trillion annually. Delivering this infrastructure can allow businesses to access new markets for their products and services, as well as access to underserved labour markets and resources, while respecting international standards for environment and social impacts. The transition to a green, resilient industrial and infrastructure base globally represents a significant investment opportunity with large rewards for businesses that can position themselves at the leading edge of the sectors that must deliver it.

Action on Goal 9 is strongly interconnected with many other SDGs, most notably Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities, and Goal 12 on responsible consumption and production. Efforts to create new opportunities for innovation and employment in developing countries directly relate to Goal 8. Infrastructure-dependent SDGs including those relating to food (Goal 2), water and sanitation (Goal 6), energy (Goal 7), and climate action (Goal 13) will also benefit from action on Goal 9. Leading action must be managed such that it does not risk exacerbating existing inequalities, or creating new ones, and so that it is not contributing to any form of corruption and violation of human rights that would negatively impact on a range of SDGs.

Do your actions satisfy the Leadership Qualities?

Guiding Questions to apply to the Leadership Qualities to your business






  • Is your company committed to supporting the achievement of Goal 9? Have you developed a holistic strategy that reflects this commitment, covering end-to-end operation and the wider community?
  • Are you committed to learn from your actions and do you have processes in place to improve them accordingly?
  • Is your strategy supported by the highest levels of management, including the Board of Directors?

Key Considerations

Leading on Goal 9 requires activities to be carried out over the long-term, necessitating continuous, strong backing and clear explanation of benefits to all stakeholders of the company. This requires a top-level strategic commitment.

  • Do your actions achieve long-term outcomes that greatly exceed those resulting from current industry practice?
  • Are your actions aligned with what is needed to achieve Goal 9?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action on industry, infrastructure, and innovation focuses on the areas of greatest need where the company’s capabilities most strongly complement the capabilities of other actors. Actions have the potential to achieve impact at scale through inspiring others to replicate it.

  • Is support for Goal 9 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 9?

Key Considerations

A full commitment to Goal 9 means that the company consistently maximizes sustainability of all its assets and throughout all its innovation activities. It is important that all staff are appropriately incentivized for doing so, as cutting on sustainability can be an attractive way to control budgets.

  • Do you proactively look for opportunities to partner with Governments, UN agencies, suppliers, civil society organizations, industry peers and other stakeholders to inform how to advance Goal 9?

Key Considerations

Large investment projects always need to be delivered in close consultation with all affected stakeholders, due to their complex nature, high levels of impact, and long lifespans. Care must be taken to align projects with national development plans, especially in least developed country contexts.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 9?
  • Do you identify, monitor, and report on impacts, including potentially adverse impacts?
  • Do you mitigate risks associated with your action?
  • Do you remediate negative impacts associated with this action?
  • Do you engage stakeholders in a meaningful way?

Key Considerations

Making commitments public, and monitoring and reporting on progress, is key in the context of Goal 9 given the significant development impact of large projects. Any risks of negative impacts on people and planet associated with actions should be managed carefully, and safeguards should be in place.

Business Actions


Support the development of sustainable infrastructure


Support inclusive industries globally


Create innovation systems for sustainable development


Upgrade and retrofit infrustructure

How taking action on Goal 9 is interconnected with other Goals

The Global Goals are inherently interconnected. Action taken toward one Goal can support or hinder the achievement of others. Identifying and addressing these interconnections will help business to build holistic and systemic solutions that amplify progress and minimize negative impacts. To help build a greater understanding, we have illustrated some of the ways in which the Goals connect. These are not exhaustive, and we encourage business to consider how they apply in their own operations.

Maximise likelihood of positive impact on:

Sustainable infrastructure is core to the development of sustainable cities (Goal 11), and these goals can be pursued in tandem. Developing more sustainable industrial processes and products through R & D investments will further enhance efforts to improve sustainability in the production of goods and services (Goal 12). Sustainable infrastructure can support more productive agricultural practices (Goal 2), greater access to WASH (Goal 6), and clean energy (Goal 7). Resilient infrastructure in vulnerable communities also increases adaptive capacity to climate change (Goal 13).

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

Infrastructure investment and industrial development involve large financial flows, which can involve risks of illicit business conduct, including corruption and bribery, in all markets. Relatedly, there is a risk of increased inequalities if the economic benefits flow only to a small group, particularly in cases where there may be corresponding negative impacts on livelihoods of other communities (Goal 10). This in turn could lead to injustice and an erosion of institutions (Goal 16). Displacement of communities for large infrastructure projects tends to disproportionately affect women and children (Goal 5) and vulnerable communities. If projects do not adhere to stringent environmental performance standards they may cause serious harm to life on land (Goal 15), life below water (Goal 14), and the climate (Goal 13).

Goal 9 Targets

Targets of Goal 9

  1. Develop quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure
  2. Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization
  3. Increase access of SMEs to financial services and markets
  4. Upgrade and retrofit existing infrastructure to make industries sustainable
  5. Enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries