How cake helps us achieve a sustainable world

Annalise Kerr
4 min readSep 20, 2021

Arguably one of the most recognised desserts across the planet, cake brings people together. Why? Because it’s delicious, shared amongst many and can be the key to the planet achieving a better and more sustainable world… Wait, what?

Ok, let me back up. To be totally honest, what we really want to share with you are the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (aka SDGs), why they are important and how your favourite brands can contribute. But the problem is there’s 17 of them, no to mention the 169 related targets AND 232 measurable indicators. That's a lot of numbers! Which can make the SDGs complicated, kinda boring and hard to remember.

So instead we’re sugar-coating the boring bits to help us all become better acquainted with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals!

What do cakes and SDGs have in common?

While it may seem far-fetched, cake and SDGs (and ogres for that matter) have more in common than you think. As an icon of our time once put “Everybody loves cake, cakes have layers!” And as it turns out so do the SDGs.

Similar to a wedding tier cake, the 17 SDGs can be broken up into three layers. The environment as the first tier of the cake serves as the foundation (chocolate mud flavour, obvs); this supports society as the second tier (which is probs red velvet), and then the economy as the third tier (honestly would be a coin toss between caramel mud or funfetti).

Visualising the sustainable development goals in this way is important because it demonstrates that the goals are interrelated and interdependent. The cake helps us recognise that our economy must serve society while operating within the boundaries of the biosphere.

For example, to achieve decent work and economic growth (Goal #8) in developing nations, we must aim for economic policies which contribute to reducing poverty (Goal #1), while not causing degradation to the land (Goal #15).

The iconic ‘wedding cake’ figure, developed by Carl Folke and his team gives us a new way of looking at the SDGs. Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

How to bake an SDG cake

In September 2015, the SDGs were created as part of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development during the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York. The recipe was simple:

Step 1: Gather 193 United Nations Member States.

Step 2: Unanimously agree to adopt the 2030 Agenda by recognising that solutions to sustainable development must consider social, economic and environmental dimensions at the same time.

Step 3: Commit to the 17 SDGs (and 169 related targets) as the ultimate game plan for collectively focusing effort to achieve global sustainable development all before 2030.

Easy as, right?

If this seems like a massive undertaking to you, you’d be right. Never before have world leaders pledged common action and effort across such a broad and universal policy agenda, hence why Goal #17, Partnership for the Goals, was a vital addition.

Pretty aspirational stuff. But how is this massive international commitment made by governments put into practice and how can your favourite brands contribute?

Serving up the cake, one slice at a time

While implementing the 2030 Agenda will require significant national policies and development strategies, the Agenda was also created with businesses in mind.

No matter the size, all businesses can contribute to helping achieve these goals by devising solutions to help spark greater innovation, efficiency, and scale, while taking advantage of the projected $12 trillion in business opportunities.

Since the launch of the 2030 Agenda, the adoption of purpose-driven “impact business models” has grown significantly. Businesses are considering their impact and influence across their value chain and industry to lead the transition.

From pioneers like Patagonia with decades of environmental activism and a mission to “ be business to save our home planet”, to newer businesses like Who-gives-a-crap’s support for higher sanitation standards for all, business models seeking to enable the creation of environmental and social value while also generating great profits are on the rise.

Patagonia’s missions statement, 2018: In the business to save our home planet
Patagonia’s mission statement, 2018.

How to know if your favourite brands are throwing themselves into the mix

Global research by PwC found that 78% of customers are more likely to buy the goods and services of businesses that had signed up to the SDGs.

This is great news, however with increased hype sometimes comes exploitation, so beware of SDG-washing. This is where businesses claim to consider and align with the SDGs without making a meaningful contribution to the achievement of the goals… its a half baked approach if you ask us.

So, how do we avoid it? Say it with us: it’s all in the targets. The targets are where the real magic happens!

Businesses who seek to align with the 169 targets and track, measure and monitor their progress using the 232 indicators as part of their sustainability strategy are more likely to achieve meaningful contributions towards the SDGs and empower their customers to be involved.

The number of targets adopted will depend on the ability of a business to contribute, however, innovative business models are enabling businesses to get creative, collaborate and contribute more than ever!

This is why we created Peekoeco. We are inspired by businesses that are making meaningful contributions towards the SDGs and we love sharing them with you! Check out our latest Peeks here!

By working together with the government, other businesses and engaging customers, the 2030 Agenda and SDG’s are guiding us all to have our cake and eat it too!

Originally published at on September 20, 2021.



Annalise Kerr

Exploring all things sustainability and enjoying life’s adventures along the way!