Tackling the Sustainable Development Goals

29 May 2018

Ending poverty, fighting inequality and tackling climate change are challenges that many put in the too hard basket. When these wicked problems are so big and widespread, it can be difficult to know where to start, difficult to rally support and difficult to know if your efforts are making a difference.

At the Green Building Council of Australia, we’re committed to doing our part to build an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future. With this in mind, we have been working closely to support and understand Australia’s progress in helping meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

I along with support from Jonathan Cartledge and Helen Bell, have been proud to work as part of the newly established National Sustainable Development Council, Chaired by Professor John Thwaites (former GBCA Board Director), which has launched the www.sdgtransformingaustralia.com website as a shared resource to track Australia’s progress against the SDGs.

The GBCA was responsible for collating the data for Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities. SDG targets in relation to housing affordability provide a powerful lens through which to view data explaining Australia’s progress in relation to Goal 11.  The target for 11.1 is “By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums.” Data illustrating house price increases; household financial stress & increasing use of homeless services clearly illustrate the challenge here. Other data explores proximity and use of public transport, and pollution.

I encourage you to visit this website, explore the data, understand how Australia is tracking and share your thoughts and feedback as it is developed further in the months ahead. This resource has been produced through a unique model, where industry and the academic world collaborated to track Australia’s progress. It is exactly this type of ongoing collaboration that will be essential to our success in delivering the SDGs for all.

The goals align well with Australia’s interests – especially in promoting regional stability, security and economic prosperity. Many are interrelated and cover environmental aspects, such as energy, consumption and production, climate change, gender equality, oceans, and terrestrial biodiversity and ecosystems. The links between the 17 goals ensure the environmental aspects support the economic and social goals.

The World Green Building Council is also supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and believe green building can contribute towards meeting the SDGs, producing three infographics (http://www.worldgbc.org/green-building-sustainable-development-goals) to help visually demonstrate this.

The GBCA’s ambition to drive industry to a carbon positive, sustainable future is well aligned with the SDGs. Our Carbon Positive Roadmap discussion paper will be released in June, and we have ensured that the roadmap assists in achieving those targets set by the SDGs.

In July this year, the government will share their evaluation of how Australia is tracking against the SDGs, when the first Voluntary National Review is published. The report card will highlight which goals Australia is performing well against, but most importantly it will tell us where we need to pull our socks up.  We are pleased to share our work through the National Sustainable Development Council to feed directly into the government’s review.

What is clear is that the SDGs are not just another bureaucratic report. At the GBCA, we’re seeing firsthand the manner in which the SDGs are influencing the way businesses think about sustainability issues. Having just held Green Building Day 2018 in Sydney and Melbourne, it was clear from the discussions throughout the day that there is a sharper focus in our sector on getting the balance right in our cities, communities and buildings. And within businesses, the importance of delivering gender equality and fostering inclusive workplaces is increasingly well understood.

I’ve been promoting the SDGs a lot recently, because I’m personally invested in them. I encourage businesses to get on-board and work out how you can align your business goals with the SDGs. And I think everyone should jump on the UN’s own Sustainable Development website and have a read of The Lazy Person’s guide to Saving the World.  We are all part of the solution, and luckily there are some easy things that we can all adopt into our routines which can make a big difference.

With Green Building Day set to visit Perth on 7th June and Brisbane on 14th June, we’ll continue to explore the strategies that will help us to reach our sustainability targets. I’m excited to hear from the great speakers that we have lined up for the remaining conferences. Green Building Day is a fantastic opportunity to hear from sustainability pioneers and to network with fellow industry professionals. I hope to see you there.