Dr Scott Rawlings, Director of Science and Research for the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability presented at the Environmental, Social and Governance for Sustainability conference hosted by the Victoria University Business School and Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities, on Friday 29 October 2021.
In line with ‘future priorities’ as the conference focus, Dr Rawlings presented on the Commissioner’s approach to include, report on and activate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Victoria.
The Commissioner’s role is to provide independent and objective reporting to inform policymakers, scientists, and the wider Victorian public on the state’s natural environment.
Dr Rawlings discussed the Commissioner’s current framework for reporting, Science for Sustainable Development, tabled in the Victorian Parliament in June 2020. Dr Rawlings outlined that the Commissioner’s framework is key to improving Victoria’s environmental reporting systems, through SDG reporting.
Dr Rawlings stated, “environmental condition reporting is very important, but it is not enough. Reporting needs to include a whole of systems approach to the environment and consider social and economic conditions. Adopting the SDGs for environmental reporting will progress ecological sustainable development by improving our understanding of the interlinkages between environmental, social and economic outcomes.”
The framework has initially been applied to the State of the Marine and Coastal 2021 Report. For this upcoming report, we’ll adopt the SDGs to help our understanding of a catchment to reefs approach, to see the system as an interconnected whole, and develop a narrative and a method that can be translated and applied to help define and address other complex issues to be tackled in the State of the Environment 2023 Report.
The Commissioner’s method for reporting is presented in four phases:
- Selection of relevant SDG targets – for the policy issue being reported on
- Evaluating comprehensiveness of indicators - assigning indicators and weighting based on importance
- Localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals – working with local managers and practitioners to understand local priorities
- Reporting on SDG target assessments – qualitative reporting on the relevant SDG targets; drawing on scientific evidence but with a focus on the system and the telling of interconnected stories (narratives) to inform holistic policy interventions and management.
The narrative approach adopted is one of a range of methods for assessing interlinkages and to measure Victoria’s progress on the SDGs: identifying areas in which we are lagging; and exploring how environmental, social and economic targets interlink. Operationalising the SDGs for environmental reporting will progress ecological sustainable development by improving our understanding of interlinkages and enabling predictive analysis (i.e., which interventions will maximise benefits and limit trade-offs).
Did you know that Victoria is one of only two jurisdictions in Australia (the other being the ACT) with an independent Commissioner charged with periodic State of the Environment reporting? Read about Victoria’s Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability.