Australian SDGs Hub For Business


Half of the world’s population, some 3.5 billion people, live in cities, including 828 million people who live in slums. Cities account for 3% of Earth’s land area but 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions.1

By 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, further driving the need for efficiency gains and innovation around resource and energy consumption.1

Goal 11 sets targets for access to housing, basic services, transport systems and green spaces. It also calls for inclusive and sustainable urbanisation and a reduction in the environmental impact of cities. Further, it encourages positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas.

This Goal also aims to reduce the number of deaths and impacted people from disasters.

For Sydney, with its population of 4.6 million, key challenges include ageing infrastructure, frequent heat waves and a lack of affordable housing. The city’s older energy sources are more polluting and many are nearing retirement.2

Melbourne’s vulnerabilities include ageing infrastructure, coastal flooding, heat waves, bushfires and floods. The city’s population of 4.3 million residents is forecast to reach 7.7 million by 2051.3


How is this relevant to business?

With 50% of the world population currently living in cities and this figure expected to reach 60% by 2030, the sustainability and resilience of metropolitan areas is important to a functioning private sector.

Workers need affordable accommodation, functioning infrastructure and access to green spaces. Cities need to be resourceful and have the capacity to withstand and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.

“Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stress and acute shocks they experience.” (100 Resilient Cities)


What can business do?

Businesses undermine efforts to create sustainable cities when they fail to properly assess the environmental impacts of the buildings they inhabit and their geographical location.

As energy is a large operating cost and closely connected with climate change, business should be motivated to achieve greater energy efficiency and source renewable energy. This may well reap multiple dividends such as lower energy costs, improved corporate reputation and good environmental outcomes.

Business location is tied up with transport, water, power and air quality and noise, depending on the nature of the operations. Ideally, businesses should be accessible by public transport. Companies can further relieve pressure on peak hour traffic by allowing flexible working hours. Allowing employees to work from home takes cars off roads.

“Understanding where events are likely to occur and how well our assets and communities are able to respond enables us to improve the resilience of our assets and reduce risks to business continuity. It also potentially reduces the risk to human life and community safety.” (Stockland, Climate and Community Resilience DMA, 2016)

Act Responsibly

  • Undertake a social and environmental impact assessment
  • Put in place a community engagement strategy
  • Set and meet transport emission and pollution reduction targets

Find Opportunity

  • Seek out green buildings for your operations
  • Develop a disaster response plan and support not-for-profits that respond to shock events that may threaten a city where you operate or cities where others in your value chain might live and work
  • Collaborate with municipalities and property developers to ensure housing for employees is adequate, safe and affordable
  • Collaborate with governments and other stakeholders to improve road, rail, air and marine safety and enhance the mobility and accessibility of vulnerable persons
  • Collaborate with national and regional planners to help improve urban and rural transportation links to develop new socio-economic opportunities
  • Develop products which improve the energy efficiency of homes and offices, including lighting, ventilation, heating and air-conditioning
  • Pursue cross sector partnerships to build sustainable infrastructure and transportation systems in cities within the supply chain, thereby increasing the availability and productivity of employees
  • Engage with local communities at the beginning of any site development, to identify and mitigate impacts on sites with environmental, cultural, historical or archaeological significance
  • Explore opportunities to engage with the UN Global Compact Cities Programme


Links between Goal 11 and the UN Global Compact’s ten principles

Human Rights & Labour (UN Global Compact Principles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Cities typically have pockets of lower socio-economic populations, who are at risk of being trapped in a cycle of disadvantage. They may face longer and more expensive commutes to jobs (if they have them), have limited options when it comes to schools and other social amenities, be at greater risk from criminal activity and generally have a lower quality of life. As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Environment (UN Global Compact Principle 7, 8, 9)

Cities account for 60-80% of energy consumption and 75% of world emissions, making them critical to tackling climate change. Increasing urbanisation will put further pressure on water supplies and the environment as a whole.

Anti-Corruption (UN Global Compact Principle 10)

Corruption in cities undermines public trust in elected institutions and presents reputational risk to business. It can lead to compromised working environments, poor construction, below-par planning decisions, inappropriate allocations of public money and unfair treatment in the workplace.


1 United Nations,

2 100 Resilient Cities,

3 City of Melbourne (2016),


By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums

By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries

Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage

By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations

By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management

By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels

Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials



The United Nations’ Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) Disaster Resilience Scorecard for Cities provides a set of assessments that allows cities to understand how resilient they are to natural disasters.

Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star is a certification process and rating system for the design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings, fitouts and communities.

The City Resilience Framework, developed by Arup with support of the Rockefeller Foundation, is a lens to understand the complexity of cities and the drivers of their resilience.

For more goal-related tools, go to the Inventory of Business Tools webpage on the SDG Compass website. Businesses can explore and find commonly used tools when assessing their impact on SDGs.