Australian SDGs Hub For Business


Consumption comes at a cost to the environment, from the energy and resources required in the extraction and production phases through to the consequences of disposal. Should the world population reach 9.6 billion by 2050, nearly three Earths will be needed to provide sufficient natural resources to sustain current lifestyles.1

Wastefulness is part of the problem. An estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste each year, rotting in supermarket bins, spoiling in transit etc., when nearly 1 billion people are undernourished and another billion are hungry.1

About 1 billion people lack access to fresh water at a time when humankind is polluting water faster than nature can recycle and purify it in rivers and lakes.1

On a more positive note, renewable energy is forecast to be the fastest growing energy source for electricity generation, accounting for 28% in 2021, up from 23% in 2015. Renewables are expected to contribute more than 60% of the increase in world electricity generation over the medium term.2

Australia has the worst rate of domestic material consumption of all OECD countries.3 Australians produce around 50 million tonnes of waste each year, with the amount of waste per person averaging more than 2 tonnes.4


How is this relevant to business?

Given projections for a growing world population, including billions of new middle-class consumers, business has to be smarter.5 The linear economic model of “take, make and dispose” is proving corrosive to biodiversity, depletes natural resources, alters ecosystems and is not a viable long-term proposition.

By contrast, the circular economic model is regenerative and offers a chance of sustainable growth. This mode requires a change in mindset toward waste so that it equates to a loss of value.

There is a business case for being proactive on sustainability. Companies that get ahead of environmental regulations have more time to experiment with materials, technologies and processes, may be able to lower the cost of inputs, maximise the value of waste products and improve their reputation with policymakers, investors and consumers.

“The ultimate goal is to create a circular economy, which is producing no waste and no pollution, by design or intention – not just by re-using and recycling things – but also by repairing them, designing them to last longer and finding more sustainable business models.” (PwC, 2016)


What can business do?

To engage with the circular economy model, businesses must take stock of how their operations impact the environment and apply fresh thinking to waste. Using resources more efficiently and setting targets to reduce or reuse waste can save money and stimulate innovation.

Rather than a brake on economic growth, the circular economy can be an incredible business opportunity. According to William McDonough of Stanford University, it is the “largest business opportunity ever seen by our species.”5   

Act Responsibly

  • Review management and use of scarce resources
  • Set and meet targets to reduce energy and resource intensity in production and use
  • Reduce the need for new resources and waste disposal by extending product life, repairing, reusing, re-manufacturing and recycling products
  • Apply the concept of a circular economy extending product life, end of product lifecycle reusing, remanufacturing and recycling
  • Develop and implement improved processes to reduce, reuse and recycle water, raw materials, non-renewable minerals, energy, other inputs, by-products, hazardous waste, non-hazardous waste and packaging
  • Apply an internal carbon price and use it to inform investment decisions

Find Opportunity

  • Publicise your sustainability targets and achievements
  • Increase energy efficiency across the value chain including sourcing, manufacturing, packaging and logistics
  • Reduce waste along production and supply chains, in collaboration with other stakeholders including suppliers, consumers, retailers and governments
  • Reduce packaging and increase recycling of end products and by-products
  • Reduce water consumption in the production process
  • Explore how to recoup the value of a product when it comes to end of its life cycle
  • Source materials with lower embedded energy
  • Design for reuse by ensuring waste products have a new purpose
  • Improve product design so as to minimise energy and water use while generating less waste and less pollution
  • Ensure key commodities including palm oil, soy, paper and pulp and beef are sustainably sourced
  • Link C-Suite remuneration to energy mix and greenhouse gas emissions mitigation targets
  • Bring customers with you (e.g. a fresh produce retailer can champion the fact that they are selling irregular sized and shaped fruit and vegetables)
  • Raise consumer and employee awareness of the importance of sustainable consumption and practical steps they can take to live more sustainably


Links between Goal 3 and the UN Global Compact’s ten principles

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

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects people from the deprivation of their own means of subsistence. Other covenants and conventions protect the right of everyone to the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living, free from hunger. In order to protect these human rights, production and consumption needs to be sustainable and supported by technical and scientific advances.

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

Prevailing business models are causing environmental damage on a scale that may lead to dire consequences. The rate at which natural resources are being used, coupled with failure to find new purposes for waste products is at odds with the private sector’s obligation to promote environmental responsibility.

Anti-Corruption (UN Global Compact Principle 10)

Corruption distorts markets and incentivises unethical behaviour. Corruption in natural resource governance can lead to environmental degradation, such as unsustainable timber production. In the fishing industry, overfishing depletes not only the sought after fish stocks but also by-catch fish and marine creatures.


1 United Nations

2 International Energy Agency (2016),

3 Bertelsmann Stiftung (2015)

4 MRA Consulting Group (2016),

5 World Economic Forum (2017),



Implement the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, all countries taking action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries

By 2030, achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources

By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses

By 2020, achieve the environmentally sound management of chemicals and all wastes throughout their life cycle, in accordance with agreed international frameworks, and significantly reduce their release to air, water and soil in order to minimize their adverse impacts on human health and the environment

By 2030, substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse

Encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle

Promote public procurement practices that are sustainable, in accordance with national policies and priorities

By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

Support developing countries to strengthen their scientific and technological capacity to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production

Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

Rationalize inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by removing market distortions, in accordance with national circumstances, including by restructuring taxation and phasing out those harmful subsidies, where they exist, to reflect their environmental impacts, taking fully into account the specific needs and conditions of developing countries and minimizing the possible adverse impacts on their development in a manner that protects the poor and the affected communities



Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 helps organisations develop new opportunities and realise their circular economy ambitions faster.

Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability through the supply chain.

The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review report helps businesses to proactively develop strategies to manage business risks and opportunities arising from their company’s dependence and impact on ecosystems.

Sedex Global is a not-for-profit membership organisation with the world’s largest collaborative platform for sharing responsible sourcing data on supply chains.

Eco-Synergy is a design philosophy combined with a set of analytic tools. It helps businesses systematically identify beneficial synergies between their operations and surrounding ecological resources.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is an accounting and reporting standard for quantifying food loss and waste. It enables countries, companies and other organisations to account for food loss and waste in a credible, practical and internationally consistent manner.

The Global Protocol on Packaging Sustainability 2.0 provides the consumer goods and packaging industries with a common language with which to discuss and assess the relative sustainability of packaging.

The Global Impact Investing Network’s Impact Reporting & Investment Standards (IRIS) is a free-to-use catalogue of generally-accepted performance metrics used by leading impact investors to measure social, environmental, and financial success, evaluate deals and grow credibility.

Think.Eat.Save Guidance version 1.0 raises awareness about the need to reduce food waste.

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.