The elevation of sustainability from being one of the more peripheral goals in the MDGs to titular status in the SDGs could be interpreted as a sign that the international development sector has finally recognized the gravity of the ecological challenge facing humanity. Similarly, the geographic and conceptual shift from the MDGs’ focus on the developing world to SDGs’ global framing could be read as an acknowledgement that sustainability is not a problem that needs to be tackled ‘out there’ but systemic in nature. Nevertheless, the paper argues that the SDGs are unlikely to bring about the necessary transformations as long as the primacy of economic growth is not challenged. This cannot be achieved by simply recognizing the validity of environmental limits and adapting a degrowth position. It is also necessary to recognize that transformation to sustainability is inherently a conflictual process.