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Wasn’t the ABC TV War on Waste program fantastic? If you weren’t one of the 2.6 million-plus viewers of the program, then you may be wondering what is behind the recent surge in people converting to reusable coffee cups and ditching plastic bags.

The Banksia Awards-winning show (it won the Currie-sponsored Communication for Change category) confronted consumers, governments and supermarkets with uncomfortable facts about our wasteful use of packaging, food, electronic gadgets and fashion.

And the message touched a nerve.

The groundswell of interest and social media chatter that it generated exceeded many of the most successful government waste campaigns. Sales of KeepCups went through the roof, and Coles and Woolworths announced they would ditch single-use plastic bags.

There are similar scenes in my home country, with David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II documentary inspiring policy changes in the British parliament.

Change can sometimes depend on moments like these – when a message is pitched in just the right way to the right audience.

As a sustainability communications consultant, I spend a lot of time trying to do this for clients. But driving change in policy, consumer behaviour and corporate responsibility is not easy.

Rather than put it in the ‘too hard basket’, a few years ago I made the leap to study a Master of Environmental Management and Sustainability at Monash University. The course’s practical focus on corporate sustainability interested me, as I wanted to understand why corporate Australia should make sustainability its business.

Thankfully many businesses are making the right moves. They realise the reputational and operational gains from achieving a balance between people, profit and planet, and are tapping into the innovation potential of using their business strategies to create shared value.

Some are even making commitments to progress the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), also known as the Global Goals.

These audacious goals aim to tackle poverty and hunger, environmental degradation and economic development and will need bold action by government, business and individuals to achieve the 2030 targets.

Australia’s progress towards the 2030 Agenda will be revealed in our country’s first Voluntary National Review in July this year.

Organisations like the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA) are driving progress by assisting organisations move from commitment to action on the goals. At a GCNA roundtable event recently, I was heartened to hear several companies generously share their achievements and challenges of mapping and aligning their business strategies to the goals.

I’m also eagerly awaiting the second Australian SDG Summit in March, which promises a focus on outlining the business opportunities of the goals.

Because this is the message business really wants to hear.

About Gillian Doig

Gillian uses her communications and engagement talents with master’s-level sustainability knowledge to help businesses change for the better. With a flair for strategic thinking and passion for the environment, she has honed her skills during an extensive career in the government water and waste sectors.

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