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Ahead of the formal adoption of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit this weekend in New York, Guardian Sustainable Business asks: what are the SDGs, what do they mean for business and what impact will they have?

What are they?

The SDGs effectively replace the millennium development goals (MDGs), which were in place from 2000 to 2015. Whether you believe the MDGs were a success or not, they certainly became a fulcrum for global development. In 2012, at Rio+20, it was agreed that a new set of goals would be drawn up, based on widespread stakeholder engagement.

The final 17 goals as agreed by all 193 member states of the UN cover a 15-year timeframe to 2030 and include 169 targets. “Unlike the MDGs, the private sector has been very involved in their creation,” says Simon Kingston, global development practice lead at Russell Reynolds Associates.

Which goals are most business-specific?

MDG sceptics long argued that the only reason people were lifted out of poverty from 2000-2015 was the economic growth of developing and middle-income markets, most notably China and India. In a sense, the SDGs build on that argument and embrace private sector growth as a means for development and poverty reduction.