Reflections on our first Sustainable Development Toolkit deployments


As we conclude 2021, our first full calendar year of operations  I’d like to reflect on what we’ve learnt and share some of our lessens with you.

Validating our riskiest assumptions 

During  the last quarter of 2020 we went on a journey with over sixty stakeholders from three leading industry associations in the Australian built environment. A broad range of small, medium, large and corporate business executives with a basic interest in sustainable development. 

Five step bold vision

We started this journey with the assumption that all businesses are doing something in relation to sustainable development but very few know how to do more.  We got that one right.  Our Ready reckoner self-assessment data showed an overall consistency across all level of business. 

  • most businesses want to commit to sustainable development, but just don’t know how to translate the complex international frameworks into their day-to-day operations. 
  • Visualising  what a business already does in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals motivates business owners and staff to take a next step, 

The lesson to be learned from this is that even businesses that trade on a for purpose platform want to do more and not just to please their customers.  

Businesses run on plans, procedures and processes – it is clear from our early deployments that putting sustainable development into these is the key determinant of changed behaviour.   Take some time to reflect, get inspired by how you can contribute to sustainable development by adding it to your business horizon or create a Bold Vision Canvas with your team. 

Making sustainable development a business habit

Our second assumption was that businesses want to measure their activity and see how they compare to others.  Compare it with wearing a sportswatch to see how you perform as you work out to stay healthy. The jury is still out on this one. 

We have altered our thinking a little, and concluded that adapting behaviour establishes change with more lasting impact than chasing rewards through measurement.  Our data tells us which areas of sustainable development are top of mind for the small business community, we now have measures on this but without individual business action, our impact has not met its intention. 

We are very proud to be working with leading academics from the University of Western Australia and Monash University on this and we will bring you more news on that in 2022.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Our final reflection is the importance of SDG Goal 17 Partnerships for the goals.  A systemic shift needs to occur at societal, business and industry/government levels.  The process has many dimensions, like the Rubik’s Cube, changing one dimension creates a change in the other dimensions. The importance of engaging the business community and its entire value chain cannot be understated.  

We look forward to working with you in 2022 and wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Christmas break!

What can you contribute to a sustainable future?

How the global pandemic and sustainability trends has become a huge opportunity for Consulting Surveyors National (CSN)

The global pandemic, extreme weather events in Australia and a growing consumer awareness for sustainability have emphasized the urgency for environmental, societal and economic change towards a new way of working and living. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), approved in 2015 by 193 nations, are a global framework of 17 ‘wicked problems’ that require governments, civilians and private sector to solve in partnership.

The aspiration is to create global solutions towards 2030, eliminating poverty, caring for the environment and leaving no-one behind. Australia is currently listed number 37 (2019) on the Global Sustainable Development Report rankings,  with nearly 60% of the general public unfamiliar with the content of the SDGs according to a 2019 global survey from the World Economic Forum. That’s quite substantial, if you compare it with the global average, which is 42%. So, there’s a lot to gain. And there’s a lot of knowledge to be gained by industry sectors in the built environment, specifically, the built environment is responsible for over 37% of global CO2 emissions, making it one of the largest polluters in the world.

Some of Consulting Surveyor National’s (CSN) members are already committed to these goals, but the majority, like most Australians, is not aware of the SDGs. Sustainability means different things to professionals working in various sectors in the built environment. What’s the impact of the SDGs for the built environment? How can CSN help to build partnerships for change and lead the industry by example towards a more sustainable future. And how can the SDGs help to solve the workforce challenges the surveyors have in the near future.

It was with that in mind CSN teamed up with SDG Align to explore the opportunities of the UNSDGs in the built environment. CSN formed a Sustainability Taskforce of 15 industry leaders, academics and corporate sponsors, who during a 90-day period from October through to December 2020 participated in a Digital Double Loop Design Process. In this case the COVID-19 lockdown was a blessing in disguise. The Taskforce, facilitated by the SDG Align consultants, was able to work very efficiently and without travel cost. Using digital whiteboards from via Zoom sessions the Taskforce co-created a ‘5 step bold vision canvas’. CSN envisions the following:

We want to drive the Sustainable Development Goals in Australian built environment forward by leading the conversation across the industry 

Preliminary research results from an expert survey shows CSN members are currently prioritising SDG 3: Good health and wellbeing, SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth and SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy. Looking at affordable and clean energy of course, surveyors are able to define the places where renewable energy solar plants and of course hydrogen plans can be built. So they play a very important role in that sector. Many don’t even realise that having ownership of land is a fundamental requirement to achieve Good health and wellbeing. If you can’t be sure about the land you own how can you make a living or become economically independent of aid? Think about that!

The Taskforce studied the current context of the built environment from a surveyor’s point of view and then went into an ‘ideation’ process to come up with new ‘sustainable’ business models that take into account minimizing the cost for the environment and society and maximizing revenue for the organization, but also for society and the environment.

Because of the global pandemic and increasing awareness with governments such as the Victorian Government the opportunity to “level-up” the knowledge about the SDGs is now. In particular if we look at surveyors and spatial professionals. They can be leading this movement because they are the digital experts in visualising the impact of the SDGs. They can build digital twins of cities and demonstrate how a circular economy fueled by solar- and wind power would look like. That’s why the Taskforce advised CSN to educate the sector and prototype and develop an SDG recognition framework for professionals and they are business so they can lead the change towards more sustainable behaviour in the built environment. As an industry association CSN can align industry associations, their member organisations and professions to see that rebuilding the built environment in a circular way is the step forward. To lead the built environment towards a more sustainable future and be recognised for it.

This article was published on pages 21-23 of the February 2021 issue of Consulting Surveyor’s National Magazine: The Surveyor.


[2] World Economic Forum press release