The SDGs take centre stage for businesses in Australia and beyond
Dr. Thomas Schröder | Jun 21st 2018

Friday, June 15 2018 was an action-packed day down at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the heart of Sydney’s Circular Quay where the Banksia Foundation’s ‘Ignite’ forum unfolded.

Banksia Ignite was a first for Australia’s Banksia Foundation, a well-established not-for-profit organisation working with industry and community and dedicated to excellence in sustainability.

The Ignite forum took place on one of the last days of the Vivid Sydney Festival, and aimed to showcase the ‘fires of action’ that are reshaping our society towards sustainable growth.  The forum also looked at how leadership by business, government and the Australian community is creating change, focussing on the increasing prominence of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As of today, 21st June 2018, one thousand days have passed since more than 190 countries signed up to the SDGs. Successors to the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs entered into effect in 2016. Their objective is to stimulate action for the period up to 2030 by helping build a sustainable and equitable world for all.

Hosted by the Banksia Foundation’s CEO, Graz van Egmond, the illustrious crowd at Banksia Ignite included the likes of the Hon. Julie Bishop, Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Christine Holgate the CEO of Australia Post, as well as Uncle Allen Madden representing the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

Julie Bishop placed great emphasis on the role of women in sustainable development, citing a pledge that she took and that was printed into her passport on a recent visit to the Pacific Island nation of Palau:

“Children of Palau,

I take this Pledge,

To preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.

I vow to tread lightly, act kindly, and explore mindfully.

I shall not take what is not given.

I shall not harm what does not harm me.

The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.”

For her, the SDGs 1 (No Poverty), 5 (Gender Equality), 14 (Life Below Water), and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) are a particular focus in Australia.

The Hon. Julia Bishop talking about her trip to Palau and the importance of the SDGs in the context of Australia’s foreign policy

The event also served as the ideal platform for two launches: Christine Holgate, CEO of Australia Post launched a special SDG edition of Australia Post stamps.

Holgate also pointed out how Gender Equality, SDG 5, is a personal focus in both her professional and private life. As Australia Post’s first ever female CEO, she was proud to point out that her company features one of most gender diverse executive committees and boards in the country.

Cate Harris, representing the Australian Chapter of the UN Global Compact as Executive Director, pointed out the importance of the interconnected relationships between the individual SDGs, and emphasised that the best approach is to address all of the goals together.

Harris launched the Australia SDG website with Global Compact Network, encouraging Australian businesses and other organisations to upload the work they do on the SDGs as case studies onto the newly launched website. As the country’s ‘go-to’ platform for the SDGs, the website is a great showcase for a variety of initiatives.

Rowan Foley talked on behalf of the Aboriginal Carbon Fund. His focus was on alleviating the strain of poverty for Aboriginal Australians. Carbon finance represents a stellar opportunity to employ traditional landowners and give them a future in their ancestral lands.

Other speakers represented the WWF, the Embassy of Denmark, Suez, Qantas, Lendlease, Stickland, Dresden Optics and South Pole, among others. Each speaker presented how their organisation incorporates the SDGs into their business objectives and how they make contributing to the respective SDGs second nature.

I was fortunate enough to present the concept of carbon credits, explaining how South Pole’s emissions reduction projects in Australia and beyond are key contributors in achieving crucial milestones for a whole host of SDGs. Click here for a glimpse of my presentation.

Tom Schroder presents South Pole’s work in emissions reduction project development, which directly contributes to many of the 17 SDG

What was consistently highlighted throughout the day was that the SDGs are an ideal platform from which to shine a spotlight and not only point out  today’s challenges for humanity, but present solutions for tackling these challenges.

The SDGs are well known within the sustainable development and NGO community; their importance in the corporate world is also increasing. At the same time, they still struggle to electrify the general public who are largely unaware of the formidable framework that the SDG represent for addressing and tackling the world’s most pressing issues in one initiative.

In the concluding Q&A session solutions to solving the challenge of making the SDGs more mainstream were discussed.

One of the ideas that I want to focus on from a Marketing perspective is understanding the SDGs as the omnipresent icons for sustainable development that they are.

Today’s consumers are evermore discerning and demanding when it comes to sustainable choices, proximity to nature, transparency of global supply chains and cause-related consumption patterns. This has given rise to consumer trends such as ‘organic’, or ‘buy local’, as well as other initiatives focusing on today’s firmly established labels; FSC, MSC and non-GMO, to name a few.

Like these initiatives, the individual SDGs could become product labels themselves – stamps on a product to indicate the brand’s contribution to solving one or more of the challenges humankind faces.

In light of this, the potential of the SDGs to forge more mainstream awareness remains largely untapped. This represents an exciting opportunity for brands to both become engaged and generate engagement, rallying behind a common cause that concerns us all.


For over a decade, South Pole has been working to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy, and help advance sustainable development. To date, we have developed over 700 projects in emission reduction, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable land-use worldwide that work towards the 17 SDGs. Click here to explore a selection of our extensive portfolio and find out how our projects are contributing to the Global Goals.

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