• 22nd Aug 2022
  • Company News Industry Insights

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

By Grant Leslie, Co-Founder and COO.

Whether you’re scrolling news apps, watching TV, or maybe even reading ye olde print newspaper, there is a somewhat apocalyptic feeling to our daily diet of news – war, pestilence, climate change, poverty, hunger….

It’s so overwhelming it’s tempting to feel hopeless and / or powerless.

But the human spirit perseveres.  Take the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for example. In their 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the UN has outlined the 17 key actions needed at every level of society – from governments to individual citizens – for the world to find its way back onto a more resilient and sustainable path.

The aim is to bring together all UN member states into a partnership to work towards ending poverty and other deprivations by improving health and education, reducing inequality, and spurring economic growth, in tandem with tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.


“Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.”

Infrastructure, industrialization and innovation – yes these concepts are more frequently associated with rampant capitalism than humanitarian efforts. But I think the opposite is true: we need to harness tech innovations and disruptive business models to resolve some of the biggest societal, economic, environmental and industrial challenges of our time.

What role can industry play?

According to the UN, global manufacturing fell by 6.8% in 2020(1), and has struggled to recover ever since. Constraints in supply chain, available technologies and materials have all contributed to this slump.

Yet, the manufacture of medium and high-tech products fuelled the economic recovery in late 2020.

This goes to show that continued investment into the research and development of new technologies will kick-start the global economy, particularly in those industries which typically exist on tight margins.

How can SEM contribute?

Our vision is a waste-free, circular economy in the future, securing our planet’s health and wealth for generations to come.

Our mission always has been, and always will be to minimise the impact of waste on the environment, and – where possible – create value from its co-products.

Noble ideals, but how do we get there in the real world? By developing and bringing pioneering tech to market? Yes, that’s an important part of it, but it is only one part of the bigger picture. We take a holistic overview of the challenges that individual markets experience in building a sustainable, resilient infrastructure and industry.

We work with our partners to design individual, end-to-end solutions that help their businesses – and the natural environment – to flourish.

Sustainability is an over-used word, but the drive towards achieving it is genuinely what gets us out of bed in the mornings!

Sustainable transport

Electric, hydrogen, hybrid vehicles are certainly being embraced, but many would argue that the infrastructure to slot these seamlessly into our lives isn’t quite there yet.

Biofuels are a quick win here. Our PLUTUS technology is being rolled out in our ground-breaking site in Shetland, to process fish waste from local salmon fish farms, and transform it into biofuel for use in vehicles, and we are now working towards producing a jet fuel grade. It’s a masterclass in sustainable aquaculture.

Biodiesel reduces CO2 emissions by up to 74% compared with petroleum diesel. As well as doing their bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fish farm operators can increase revenue streams by generating high-value biodiesel that can be sold into the market, or used in the production process.

Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation

This is one of the cornerstones of SDG 9, but we will only achieve it by putting the theory of a circular economy into practice.

To spark this new industrial revolution, we need to re-think how we design, build, grow and use everything we need for modern life, from food to fuel, clothes to concrete.

A pipe-dream, right? In actual fact this is just a re-set based on some fairly common principles:

  • Eliminate waste and pollution
  • Circulate products and materials at their highest value
  • Regenerate nature

The biogas industry is a prime example of this. It offers on one the greatest opportunities of modern industry, to not only create more from captured carbon, but also to generate valuable by-products.

A well-established treatment technology for the conversion of various organic waste streams into biogas, Anaerobic Digestion (AD) sounds like the ultimate sustainable solution. However, increasing volumes of the process’ by-product – digestate – are leaving the industry with a huge challenge: how to handle, store and transport the material in an economical and environmentally responsible fashion.

Our solution is leading the way in resolving these challenges by treating digestate in-situ, and maximising the recovery of precious nutrients to produce saleable by-products, and clean water for reuse or safe discharge.

Build a resilient infrastructure

The UN emphasises that manufacturing is a key driver of global economic growth. But the manufacturing industry needs to take a long-term view to build their resilience against the slings and arrows of increasingly outrageous fortune.

How businesses manage their waste, and work to drive down CO2 emissions will determine whether they succeed.

In particular, the challenge of responsibly – and economically – reducing and treating organic slurries, manure and food waste is an ever-growing concern for many industries.

Our H2OPE technology is at the front line of tackling this challenge. Revolutionising how businesses recycle their waste, whilst simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint.

Each H2OPE system processes a minimum of 12,500 tonnes of slurry per year, contributing to a minimum saving of 656 tonnes CO2e. How is this possible? The system works on-site, minimising the requirement for transportation and storage.  

Working across industries such as agriculture, biogas, distillery, and ports and harbours, the H2OPE system removes volatile contaminants and extracts water, optimising valuable ingrained nutrients to produce a premium grade pelletised fertiliser.

Given the steep rise in the cost of fertiliser, this is a huge boost for farmers and growers, not to mention the significant carbon reduction of 95% in comparison to that of a synthetic alternative. It also delivers on waste reduction, optimised waste management and disposal and pollution control – adding value as part and parcel of the process.

And just like the circular economy, we’re back where we started, talking about infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation. SEM is committed to playing our part in driving real change that will help us to realise the UN’s SDGs, but here is where we feel we can make the most impact.

Check out all 17 SDGs to see how you can make a difference.

  1. Source: https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2021/goal-09/