How the dairy sector supports the UN sustainable development goals

The UN has formed 17 sustainable development goals that aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for the earth and its people. Currently, there are 7.6bn people on earth and the UN expects that there will be 9.8bn in 2050 – a population growth that mainly occurs in developing countries. With so many people on earth, we face great global challenges that the UN's global sustainable development goals can help resolve.

The dairy industry assumes responsibility

In 2016, the International Dairy Federation (IDF) together with FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, signed a joint declaration, the Rotterdam Declaration, on the dairy industry's contribution to the development of the planet. The declaration determines that the global dairy sector is committed to working towards fulfilling the UN sustainable development goals. 

The declaration states that the dairy industry helps supply the world's population with healthy and safe food. The declaration emphasizes the dairy sector's social and economic importance – especially in the third world. Here are about 80m women employed in milk production and the industry forms the basis of 240m jobs worldwide. This means around 1bn people's livelihoods are supported by the global dairy industry.

With the signature of the Rotterdam Declaration, FAO recognizes that the dairy sector has a legitimate place in a sustainable future.

Jørgen Hald, director of Danish Dairy Board, has also signed the Rotterdam Declaration on behalf of the Danish dairies. The Danish dairies, therefore, helps to support the sustainable development of the globe. The dairy industry's efforts apply to most of the UN's sustainable development goals. In the following, some of the goals in which the dairy sector plays a major role are examined. 

Goal 1: No Poverty

Milk and dairy products help end poverty and hunger. On the global level, there are about 120mn dairy cattle farms. Most of these farms are very small and are located in developing countries. Here, the small family-run farms own two or three cows, which form the basis of for a regular income. The cows supply milk every day, and some of the milk is sold to the surrounding dairies. The income from the milk helps to feed the inhabitants of rural areas in the developing countries.

The global supply chain - right from the care of the cow and to the finished products in the supermarket's refrigerated counter - the dairy industry ensures work for many people. As mentioned above, around 240m worldwide people are employed in the dairy sector. The dairy industry is, therefore, making an important contribution to the fight against world poverty.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Many third-world farming families can keep hunger away with a few cows. The cows produce a daily portion of milk, which is part of the family's own household. The milk is thereby a regular supply of food for the family. Milk is a nutritious food that helps to give satiety - and contains many nutrients which are important to the family's overall nutrition. When it comes to hunger, a cow or two can make a big difference to the many families living in the third world.

Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

Milk and dairy products contribute to the health of the world's population. The reason is that milk and dairy products contain many nutrients, for instance, important proteins, vitamins and minerals that both children and adults need. Many of the nutrients are important for children's growth and are of great importance for the development and maintenance of vital parts of the body such as the bones, muscles, brain, etc.

Dairy products also help prevent a number of the various lifestyle diseases, that primarily appears in the industrialized countries. A number of scientific studies have shown that dairy products can help prevent osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes. Therefore, dairy products also have a beneficial effect in the long term, and can advantageously be included in a healthy and varied diet.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

In developing countries, milk production helps supporting women's equality and independence. The reason is that it is typically the women, who are responsible for the care of the family's cows and are therefore primarily responsible for the milk production in the rural areas. The women make sure that the cows get water, feed and that they are milked. The women also sell excess milk on the local market or dairy. In this way, the women get an income that allows them to buy the most necessary things for the family.

In a male-dominated world, women, through their jobs as dairy farmers, get a room for manoeuvre, both socially and economically. Overall, it contributes to women's empowerment and better gender equality. 


The global dairy sector wants to help solve some of the world's great challenges. The dairy industry takes responsibility for this and, through the Rotterdam Declaration, has committed itself to make the milk and dairy production even more sustainable - for the benefit of the entire world's population.