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Embedding sustainability into our organisations

From 'Transforming our World' to 'SDGs in our Backyard' and now 'Thirst for Action', the focus on sustainability in the water industry is all around us. But how do we embed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the language of our organisations and focus our work on achieving these goals?

The SDGs, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, provide a framework to support a "blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all" [1].

In the five years since the SDGs were adopted, awareness of the goals and their objectives has certainly increased. To many people, though, they are more of a concept, an intangible goal that doesn’t have meaning in their daily work.

As an industry, and perhaps broadly across engineering, environment and science, there is more we can do to draw links to the SDGs and demonstrate how projects and people are contributing to the SDGs every day.

The water industry immediately affiliates to SDG 6: Clean Water & Sanitation. Indeed at QWater last year, there were some great examples of how the Queensland water industry is contributing to this goal, both in Australia and abroad. There are great examples of water supply and sanitation projects, drought and resilience projects, drinking water safety, recycling and reuse.

But there are also some direct links we can draw to many of the other goals. These are just some of the the linkages we can draw from Ozwater’20 presentations and papers:

  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy – waste to energy, renewable energy production
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production – biosolids reuse, waste to energy facilities, reuse of materials and waste products, nutrient and resource recovery
  • SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities – diversity and inclusion, supporting vulnerable customers, indigenous engagement
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities – planning to support sustainable cities, smart cities, community engagement and participatory management
  • SDG 13: Climate Action – resilience, adaptive planning, climate / carbon policies and reporting
  • SDG 14 & SDG 15: Life on Land / Life Below Water – catchment management, protection and enhancement of environmental values

These are real and practical examples of how our industry is making change and driving the sustainability agenda every day. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we should also celebrate and recognise the gains we are making.

Every change takes time, and it starts by making things real and tangible to the people who will drive the change.

"By defining our goal more clearly - by making it seem more manageable and less remote - we can help all people to see it, to draw hope from it and to move irresistibly toward it." [2]

How can you make the Sustainable Development Goals part of your language?

Let’s inspire the industry to take action. Think about how your water story contributes to the SDGs.

Communicate and celebrate your stories so that we can continue to drive solutions to meet the challenge of sustainability.

1 "About the Sustainable Development Goals". United Nations Sustainable Development. Accessed 16/06/2020
2 “American University Address”, John F Kennedy, 1963.