The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a goal focusing on terrestrial biodiversity conservation: SDG 15, dubbed Life on land. There has been little critical social-science analysis of how SDG 15, its targets and indicators understand conservation. This article contributes to closing this gap by analysing in detail SDG 15 and affiliated progress reports. Contravening the SDGs’ stated objective of leaving no one behind, the paper shows that SDG 15 ignores vital connections between human and nonhuman nature, fails to centre people and champion justice systematically, while reaffirming unsuccessful previous indicators. The article argues that SDG 15, its targets and indicators thus perpetuate ideas of conservation which exacerbate inequalities and prevent ‘transforming our world’. These structural shortcomings risk placing SDG 15 in the same intellectual vein as other contemporary large-scale conservation planning efforts in terms of lacking inclusion and recognition of human lives and livelihoods.