Complex and interconnected. These words apply equally to global supply chains and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
And this is hardly a coincidence.
Because in our hyper-connected world, where news can spread in an instant and where global supply chains are frequently multifaceted and opaque, that factory fire in Bangladesh or mining disaster in Brazil is everyone’s business.
This influences the decision making of everyone from the consumer purchasing a pair of shoes to the investor assessing their exposure to financial risks.
If there is one lesson to be gleaned from climate change, it is that we simply cannot operate in isolation anymore.
Similarly, the UN’s 17 goals, which collectively aim to “end poverty, and ensure prosperity for all” cannot be tackled one-by-one or in a piecemeal fashion.
We cannot ensure the health and wellbeing (SDG 3) of all the world’s citizens without eliminating poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2), for example. We cannot achieve gender equality (SDG 5) without decent work and economic growth for all (SDG 8). And we cannot take climate action (SDG 13) without delivering affordable and clean energy (SDG 7).
The SDGs are increasingly influencing the way businesses operate, and the type of investments available to them. And in time, we’ll understand that the SDGs are as important to the sustainable transformation of the built environment as the Paris Agreement.
The temptation may be for us to simply point to Goal 11 – sustainable cities and communities – and argue that we are addressing the SDGs. But that’s not how to maximise their value or deliver the best outcomes.
At the Green Building Council of Australia, we understand this, because the best outcomes for the built environment are projects that achieve a balance of all nine Green Star categories. A building that is energy efficient but uncomfortable for occupants is not a green building. Nor is a water-wise wonder sited on land of ecological value, or a low-emissions masterpiece built on the back of modern slavery.
This is how we’ve been thinking about the SDGs. Green Star and our work at the GBCA is obviously at the heart of some SDGs, such as sustainability cities and communities (SDG 11) and climate action (SDG 13). And Green Star clearly plays a central role in good health and wellbeing (SDG 3), clean and affordable energy (SDG 7), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) and industry innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), not to mention responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and life on land (SDG 15).
In the case of some goals, like gender equality (SDG 5), we are making headway by creating workplaces and providing career pathways that allow both men and women to thrive. In other cases, such as peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG 16), a bit of creative license is required to make Green Star align.
But at the GBCA, we intend to spend the next few years working to make the link between Green Star and each goal more explicit. This is about making sure our frameworks, benchmarks and rating tools align so that our industry can help meet the targets.
For many years, we’ve talked about how green building delivers on the ‘triple bottom line’ without always having the framework to demonstrate it. But now we do.
We have an integrated, holistic and global strategy for sustainable development. It’s up to us, now, to get on with the job of delivering true sustainability – political, social, economic, and environmental.
Jorge Chapa is Head of Market Transformation at the Green Building Council of Australia
How are green buildings helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? Read our blog here.