Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

15 February 2017


The Victorian Branch 2017 Program Launch was held on Tuesday, 15 February 2017. The theme was Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) and how the water industry can adopt these goals as this is an emerging priority for businesses, customers and clients. The seminar partner was Cardno and took place at their Melbourne office. Cardno has a 40-year history of working in partnership with developing countries to deliver solutions for sustainable development. The event was also supported by AECOM and CMP Consulting.

The three key speakers were:

  • John Thwaites - Chair of Melbourne Water, Professor at Monash Sustainable Development Institute
  • Grace Rose-Miller - Sustainability Manager, Yarra Valley Water
  • Tim Costello - Current chief advocate of World Vision Australia

Sustainable Development Goals 

What are they?


  • The SDGs follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which had targeted success (patchy) however in 1990 47% of the world population were poverty stricken, living on less than $1.25/day. In 2015, that figure was down to 14%.
  • Review of MDGs during the Rio +20 Conference (2012)
    o The goals should apply to all countries, not just developing nations
    o The goals should be broader
    o Use Triple Bottom Line approach
  • 193 countries have signed up to the SDGs, committing to 17 goals and a total of 163 imbedded targets
  • The SDGs provide a benchmark, spur network development and motivate the community

Why should we care about them?

  • The area covered by cities is predicted to double over the next 15 years – goals focus on how we will manage this growth sustainably
  • Inequality within countries has worsened 
    o The 8 wealthiest people in the world have the same wealth as the bottom 50%
    o 1% of the US population own 40% of the US
    o 20% of the Australian population own 60%

How can we implement them?

Yarra Valley Water has aligned their business strategy with the SDGs. So far they have:
  • Identified 40 targets (out of 163) that related to their business
  • Used the SDGs as a way to review their business strategy to achieve their purpose
  • Developed a Restorative Environmental Strategy which focuses on greenhouse gas neutrality and a net neutral impact on waterways (both are SDG targets)
  • Identified that 50% of their customers were struggling to pay water bills and established a Vulnerability Roundtable 


The water industry would benefit greatly from reviewing and aligning to these goals, not only to provide services that our customers and client’s value, to provide services to those who need it most. The UN SDGs provide a benchmark for global sustainable development until 2030.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals


Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation Targets

The SDGs are interlinked and the water industry can adopt a number of targets from a range of goals, however Goal 6 aligns most directly to the sector. Goal 6 has the following imbedded targets:

1. Access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
2. Access to sanitation and hygiene for all
3. Improve water quality (halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase recycling)
4. Improve water efficiency
5. Implement integrated water resources management at all levels
6. Protect and restore water-related ecosystems

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

Understanding the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals event

With thanks to our sponsors:

Cardno      Cardno        CMP Consuting Group