10. Reduced Inequalities

How business leadership can advance Goal 10 on Reduced Inequalities

Equality is fundamental to a stable, just, prosperous, and peaceful society. In recent years, the benefits of economic growth have disproportionately favoured the world’s richest. In OECD countries, income inequality is at its highest level in the past half century. In developing countries, it has increased by 11 per cent between 1990 and 2010. Further, while there has been a narrowing in the average incomes between developed countries and some developing countries, average incomes in other developing countries have fallen further behind those in developed countries. Many groups, such as women, racial minorities and indigenous populations, still do not have equal access to opportunities - facing exclusion from business ownership and corporate decision making and discrimination related to wages, employment, and access to financial services. Intergenerational inequality is also a critical challenge – ensuring that future generations do not inherit a far-more polluted planet.

Contrary to the perception of many businesses, the private sector has a crucial role to play in addressing the systemic challenge of reducing inequality. Business impacts inequality through the decisions it takes on how to distribute the economic value it generates, including by deciding whether it pays living wages and how it structures executive pay; by paying or not paying taxes (in different countries) that are essential for funding inequality-reducing social security and public investment in health, education, and infrastructure; through the way it uses its economic and political influence to shape the marketplace and its regulatory environment. At the same time, the systemic challenges underpinning attainment of this Goal illustrate the need for collaborative action bringing together all stakeholders, especially Governments. In support of these collective efforts, all companies should pay their fair share of taxes, practice non-discrimination, comply with social and environmental regulation, and respect and support human rights. Responsible tax practice also involves progressive alignment of economic activities and tax liabilities (tax planning), country-by-country reporting on tax-relevant information, and transparent and responsible engagement with tax authorities.

Leadership takes these activities further. Leading companies can assess how they impact the distribution of economic value across stakeholder groups and implement policies and practices to make it more equal. They can support the establishment and expansion of social protection measures at the national level, where they may complement government efforts with their expertise and resources. Business can lead through the implementation of policies and practices to support equality of opportunity, treatment, and outcome for all across own and supply chain operations, and it can have a leading impact on the reduction of inequality through design and implementation of products, services, and business models that target the needs of vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Reducing inequalities benefits businesses as it helps create a more stable and predictable business environment. It also introduces greater diversity of thought into the workplace, boosting innovation and profitability. Economic research shows that reducing income inequality boosts economic growth.

Action on Goal 10 is deeply linked to other Goals. Reducing inequalities can contribute to peace-building efforts (Goal 16), improve the condition of women (Goal 5), and foster stronger and more sustainable economic growth (Goal 8), which can in turn, help reduce poverty (Goal 1), hunger (Goal 2), and lack of access to education (Goal 4).

Definitions: equality of opportunity means equality of access and life chances; equality of treatment means equality in how people are treated in day-to-day affairs and zero discrimination based on sex, race, gender and other non-work related characteristics; equality of outcome is equality of income and wealth.

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 10? 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

Addressing inequalities may require action that implies a reduction in profitability in the short term. Top-level leadership and a strategic commitment are needed to successfully drive such action, and explain results to others.

  • 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 10?

Key Considerations

Ambitious action on inequality acknowledges the crucial role that business can play in addressing inequality affects lasting change across workplace, marketplace, and community

  • Is support for Goal 10 embedded across all organizational functions?
  • Are staff and board incentives aligned with achieving Goal 10?

Key Considerations

Action on inequality should be consistently backed by all departments, especially where they concern changing internal and supply chain policies and practices (including related to adequate wages and pay gaps), and where intensive collaboration with Governments and other stakeholders are involved.

  • 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 10?

Key Considerations

Inequalities are often due to systemic issues that cannot be addressed by one company alone. Collaboration, especially in multi-stakeholder partnerships including Governments, is key to successful delivery on the company’s goals.

  • Do you publicly express your commitment to advance Goal 10?
  • 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

Companies should identify stakeholders that are most vulnerable to economic and social inequalities on which their action can have an impact, find ways to integrate their perspectives into actions, and be publicly accountable for outcomes – both positive and negative.

Business Actions


Assess the distribution of economic value


Support social protection measures


Support equality of opportunity


Target the needs of disadvantaged populations

How taking action on Goal 10 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:

Action to reduce inequalities is deeply linked to other Goals. Reducing inequalities contributes directly towards greater levels of gender equality (Goal 5). It also helps build more stable and peaceful economies (Goal 16) by abating the social tensions that emanate from inequality. Evidence shows that reduced inequality fosters stronger and more sustainable economic growth (Goal 8) because it helps unlock the population’s working potential, increases diversity of thought, and creates a more stable environment for businesses. This in turn helps reduce poverty (Goal 1), hunger (Goal 2), ill-health (Goal 3), and lack of access to education (Goal 4). A reduction in inequality can also benefit planet-related Goals indirectly. For example, bringing marginalised communities into the formal economy can reduce their dependence on activities that are harmful for the environment such as logging and illegal poaching.

Minimise risk of negative impact on:

In the short term there is a risk that efforts to decrease inequality contribute to environmental degradation. For example, increasing equality of access to energy resources using fossil fuel sources power can negatively affect efforts to combat climate change (Goal 13). For long-term success, action to reduce inequality should respect the environment. This will also contribute to inter-generational equity

Goal 10 Targets

Targets of Goal 10

  1. Achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population at a rate higher than the national average
  2. Empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, respective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other statuses
  3. Ensure equality opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome
  4. Adopt policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies, and progressively achieve greater equality
  5. Improve the regulation and monitoring of global financial markets and institutions and strengthen the implementation of such regulations
  6. Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions
  7. Facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies