The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), like the sustainable development (SD) concept itself, are open to multifaceted interpretations, and the same is true for their ethical implications. While SDG values are widely accepted as universal, the ethical structure of the SDGs is complex, with differing interpretations and ideas, e.g., on how to regard and value nature. This article is a conceptual attempt to clarify and structure ethical interpretations based on an environmental ethics framework consisting of two branches: anthropocentrism and biocentrism. The aim is to provide an overview of SDG positions and locate them in the wider field of environmental ethics, addressing the human–nature relationship as a recurring topic in the SDGs. Section 1 of this article presents environmental ethics and briefly discusses anthropocentrism and biocentrism. Section 2 outlines ethical similarities of SD and the SDGs and locates representative SDG interpretations within the environmental ethics framework. Section 3 summarizes findings and suggests a possibility of integrating biocentrism and anthropocentrism with regard to the further interpretation and discussion of SDG ethics. Insights from this article will aid researchers in adopting a better overview on ethical positions in the SDG debate.
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