Have You Heard The Buzz About the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

“Buzz about what?” you may well ask! The SDGs aka the Sustainable Development Goals are becoming big news for business, industry, government and education. So much so that not being in the know is a no-no – if you know what I mean…

On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force.  Why is this a big deal? For a number of reasons. Firstly, the SDGs were created in true collaborative style involving business, industry, academia, government, non-profit, and all forms of community. Nothing of this scale has ever been done before to involve the entire world in deciding what it wants for the future. Secondly, the Goals were signed off and agreed to by every single nation state across the world in September 2015 at an unprecedented and historic UN Summit. Yep, that’s right, the ENTIRE WORLD agrees the SDGs are a good thing. Starting to get the picture on why these goals are a big deal?

If you’re still not convinced about the importance of the SDGs, maybe the likes of Stephen Hawking, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Craig, Richard Branson and so many other notable people will convince you.

Over the next fifteen years, with these universal goals, countries will mobilise efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind. The global transformation required by committing to the SDG’s is already underway. Many multinational companies provide evidence of this, with the likes of Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Abbott, and Konica Minolta publicly embracing and implementing the SDGs as part of strategy.

So, what does this mean for education and more specifically MQU? As always, the role of education in achieving the transformation the SDGs spell out is completely under played. Think about our role in society – not only do we educate tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and employees that will work in or with business, industry, government and community, but we offer the solutions to the targets set out under the SDGs through our research. My own thoughts: I don’t think the world will achieve the full potential of the SDGs without education playing a significant part.

And just like our colleagues in the business world, education is sitting up and taking notice. I’ve been in conversations with institutions from across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and North America, who are looking at how they bring the language of the SDGs into curriculum. There are significant bodies of work being undertaken to understand existing research strengths aligning with the SDGs, and identifying the gaps and opportunities presented through utilising the Goals framework. The first movers are seeing this as an opportunity to stand out from their competitors on a topic of significant global importance.

Who doesn’t want to be a part of this – this movement by education to demonstrate its relevance to business, its positive contribution and impact to environment and society. Macquarie won’t be left behind in this exciting and world-changing journey, and so, we’ve started our own significant body of work to map our connections through curriculum and research.

Being part of the SDGs conversation early on will bode well for us – so long as we can create our own internal ground swell to incorporate the language and potential created by this global road map for the future we want.

The consequence of not engaging?  We do our students a disservice if we don’t ensure they are fully equipped to enter their professional lives with the SDGs a part of their vocabulary – after all business will expect it. We do our research a disservice if we don’t demonstrate how it can contribute to the implementation and solutions needed to realise the Goals.

The SDGs provide the framework for what we want for the future. They don’t provide the how. That will be up to all of us to work out. Is there a more exciting challenge for Macquarie, for our sector, than that!

If you are interested in doing more in the SDG space, contact sustainability@mq.edu.au. Submitted by Leanne Denby, Director of Sustainability.

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