Can the Sustainable Development Goals green international organisations? Sustainability integration in the International Labour Organisation

Led by Francesco S. Montesano

In global sustainability governance, many actors have emphasised the need for policy integration across the economic, social, and environmental dimensions. In 2015, the UN agreed on the 17 SDGs to advance such integration. But have international organisations responded to this call, and can we observe any integrative effect of the SDGs?

We draw on International Relations theories and develop an analytical framework to assess change through the lenses of ideas, norms, and institutions. We use this framework to assess sustainability-oriented change in the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO is traditionally an organisation with a primarily socio-economic mandate and hence an ideal case to study whether the SDGs had any impact after 2015 in strengthening the environmental dimension of sustainability in the ILO’s institutional settings and policy development.

We focus on the 2010 -2019 period and conduct a systematic qualitative content analysis of primary documentary sources, complemented with expert interviews and data on operational developments. We find that there is a significant yet instrumental greening trend in the ILO’s approach to sustainable development, but also a bidirectional influence between the ILO and the SDGs.

This project resulted in a research article published in the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning.