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Sweco launches pioneering sustainability assessment tool to support progress of UNSDGs

Engineering, environment, design and regulatory consultancy Sweco has launched a new visual sustainability assessment tool to help organisations track their contributions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and understand how Social value is embedded within their projects and procurement activities.

The ‘Sustainability Sun(TM)’ – a visual sustainability assessment tool developed by Sweco engineers in Sweden and the first of its kind in the industry – enables organisations to rapidly assess how projects correspond to, and support, the 17 UNSDGs and 169 sub-goals. Its introduction follows the recent Queen’s Speech, which detailed plans to introduce a new Procurement Bill that incorporates a requirement to consider social value for the first time.

Using a rigorous multi-criteria assessment (MCA), the rapid evidence process uses qualitative detail such as project ambitions, motivations and potential impact to generate a score which is represented by the Sun diagram. On a project-level assessment, this may include assessment of how a public sector energy efficiency roll-out might support local skill development, reduce fuel poverty or reduce cold-related deaths.

The score ranges from -2, indicating a detrimental impact, up to 3, where the highest possible contribution is made towards an individual goal.

The tool has been developed to support greater awareness of the wider societal and environmental impacts of any project, portfolio of projects and overall organisational performance, and to help reverse the slowdown in progress towards the SDG targets in 2020. Set to be embedded in all Sweco project delivery, it will be used to maximise sustainability in all planning and design, and to provide organisations with a simple, easily shareable overview of a scheme’s green credentials.

The Sun was recently used in the Peterborough Integrated Renewables Infrastructure (PIRI) scheme, the largest smart city energy regeneration project in the UK, to help demonstrate the impact of every project component. It is also being used to identify ongoing opportunities for improvement to contribute to the UN’s SGDs more effectively throughout the project’s lifecycle, including more effective engagement with local stakeholders to leverage complementary projects and initiatives.

2020 was the first year where we saw a slowdown in progress towards hitting the UN’s SDGs – a direct result of the impact of Covid-19. Tools like our Sustainability Sun therefore have a critical role to play in making it as easy as possible to identify how any project, big or small, can play a part in supporting each of the 17 targets. We welcome the Government’s intention to embed Social Value evaluation in all central government procurement, as described in the Procurement Policy Note published September 2020.


Our goal is to champion MCA as an alternative to the more widely-used cost-benefit analysis (CBA), giving organisations the means to demonstrate project viability in its very earliest stages when data for CBA may be limited. For public sector organisations in particular, where procurement processes can be complex and lengthy, this ability to simplify any analysis of a scheme’s sustainability credentials is key to secure stakeholder buy-in at the most critical project stages. By making MCA a core component of day-to-day decision-making, we hope to accelerate the UK’s contribution to the SDGs and cement its position as a world-leader in green initiatives and sustainability.

Dr Tanja Groth Director of urban resilience at Sweco