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Monique Kraemer, Engineers Australia Queensland Division





Introduction to Sustainable Development for Engineering and Built Environment Professionals


Unit 3 - Preparing to Walk the Talk

Lecture 11: A Whole of Society Approach

         
Educational Aim
 

There is much that engineers, built environment professionals, and business people can do to achieve sustainable development by supporting the efforts of government and even leading the way for government initiatives to follow. Here we will present ways in which governments can contribute to the transition to a more sustainable society. Engineers and built environment professionals should play key roles in assisting governments to provide reliable information on engineering related matters now and in the future.

 

Textbook Readings

Hargroves, K. and Smith, M.H. (2005) The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century, Earthscan, London:

  1. Chapter 4: ‘A Dynamic Platform for Change’ (4 pages), pp 64-67.

  2. Chapter 5: ‘Thinking Locally, Acting Globally’ (1 page), p70,Table 5.1.


Learning Points

* 1. A comprehensive approach to sustainable consumption and production is needed to address and prevent negative rebound effects. The choices we make as consumers matter - it is vital that the ‘whole of society’ take responsibility and choose to play their part to address the environmental crisis.

 

* 2. Figure 11.1 provides an example of a ‘Whole of Society Diagram’, which helps those who are working to achieve sustainable development to identify key groups and individuals with whom partnerships for sustainability are possible.

* 3. ‘Whole of Society’ also includes related sustainability concepts such as the precautionary principle, intergenerational equity, and intra-generational equity.

 

* 4. The Agenda 21[1] agreement which arose from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, is an example of a Government led ‘whole of society’ approach to sustainable development. Together with numerous other statements, Agenda 21 advocates that furthering the sustainable development agenda requires ongoing collaboration between governments, the private sector, and community organisations (i.e. civil society) in the development and implementation of national policy that integrates ecological, social and economic dimensions over the long term.

Figure 11.1. Whole of Society Diagram
Source: Hargroves, K. and Smith, M.H. (2005)[2]

* 5. Since the 1992 Earth Summit, most countries have established some form of focal point or mechanism at the national level. Many of these are structured as multi-stakeholder and participatory mechanisms, usually referred to as National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSDs).[3]


* 6. Whether you are involved in project work or legislation and policy development work, it is important to have a plan for considering the views and contributions of stakeholders across the spectrum of groups, from large well-organised organisations and lobby groups to small minority groups.


* 7. Depending on the stakeholder, different approaches to communication will work better than others. Geographic diversity, cultural diversity and gender equity are also critical issues to take into consideration when determining your project’s approach to engagement.

 

Brief Background Information
 

A comprehensive approach to sustainable consumption and production is needed to address and prevent negative rebound effects (See Chapter 21 of The Natural Advantage of Nations). A comprehensive sustainable consumption and production approach recognises that we are all environmentalists. All our choices and actions can positively or negatively affect the environment. Behind every product we buy there are significant amounts in energy and materials used. The choices we make as consumers matter. Hence it is vital that the ‘whole of society’ take responsibility and choose to play their part to address the environmental crisis.


As pointed out by Engineers Australia:


[In addition to innovation] the achievement of sustainability objectives requires holistic actions by all sections of society (personal, business, political, legal), and will require considerable cultural change in societal customs and aspirations. This necessitates the development of transitional pathways from the present situation to the preferred future.

Engineers Australia, Sustainable Energy Taskforce Report, 2001[4]


The World Business Council for Sustainable Development put forward a preferred scenario for sustainable development that addresses this reality. They likened their preferred sustainable development process to Jazz music, in the sense that everyone is playing in the same song with various leaders at particular times, and innovation and trials are constantly being attempted. The ‘Jazz’ scenario requires that we recognise the essential value in all three sectors – the private sector, government and community. When all three sectors work together, the synergy is unbounded in its potential.


In a world where the environmental crisis requires urgent action it is essential that projects or policy/legislative development engage government, business and civil society in a ‘whole of society’ approach.
[5] We have solutions to many of the problems facing the world today, but there are often significant barriers to change. Unless coalitions of organisations are built to support the regulatory reforms needed to achieve sustainable development (for instance) such reforms will be defeated by blocking coalitions.

Agenda 21 – Context
Support for sustainable development was demonstrated by the attendance at the first World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio De Janeiro, 1992), of more than a hundred world leaders and representatives from 167 countries. At the Rio summit a document outlining how to achieve sustainable development was brought together and called Agenda 21.
[6] It showed how all parts of society can and need to play their part to achieve sustainable development. In 1992, Agenda 21 was quite a significant and brave step forward for many nations, and by 2004 many of its concepts and ideas had been mainstreamed around the world. Increasingly business understands if its eco-innovation is to succeed it needs the consumer to want to buy greener products. Governments increasingly understand that for their environmental programs to work, business and civil society (the consumer) need to be willing partners. Hence, Agenda 21 called for a holistic ‘partnerships for sustainability’ approach. If we briefly consider the underlying spirit of the Agenda 21 document, it is essentially calling for a ‘whole of society’ approach to these issues, involving as many key stakeholders as possible. Agenda 21 shows how business, government, civil society, and the education sector, to name a few, can all play their part.

National Councils for Sustainable Development
What has changed since 1992 is that more and more businesses, governments, peak bodies and professional bodies, nationally and globally, now understand and support sustainable development. In most OECD countries today it is possible for nations to take holistic, whole of society approaches that actively engage with key stakeholders to achieve sustainable development. Many nations are doing this through forming National Councils for Sustainable Development and over 70 countries now have these councils, striving to bring all the relevant stakeholders together and help co-ordinate partnerships for sustainability.

Leading the Way – Government Initiative Examples

  • The Western Australian state government in 2003 produced a State Sustainability Strategy, called ‘A Vision for Quality of Life in Western Australia’, and the associated group, called the Western Australia Collaboration Program,[7] which combined over 300 peak civil society groups. The WA Collaboration Program is now currently conducting public consultation to develop a Community Sustainability Agenda.

  • The Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) campaign enlists cities to adopt policies and implement measures to achieve quantifiable reductions in local greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance urban liveability and sustainability. More than 650 local governments participate in the CCP, integrating climate change mitigation into their decision-making processes. In Australia, there are currently 214 CCP councils, representing 82 percent of Australia's population as active participants of the CCP program.[8]



Leading the Way – Business and Community Group Examples

  • In 2000, the Australian Conservation Foundation produced the Natural Advantage: Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia,[9] which provides a thorough overview of Australia’s National Agenda 21 plan, and documents numerous successful case studies across Australian society (case studies available online).

  • Established by prominent industry leaders in 1993, the Australian Council for Infrastructure Development (AusCID) represents those industry sectors involved in the vital area of private sector development of public infrastructure. In May 2003, AusCID produced a statement called the Sustainability Framework for the Future of Australia's Infrastructure Handbook. This document outlined the professional membership’s framework for the future of Australia's infrastructure.[10]

  • The Australian Council of Professionals’ Young Professional Roundtable on Sustainability has been established to bring together young people of many different backgrounds and professions, to discuss topics of relevance to them.[11]

 

Key References

- ACF (2000) Natural Advantage: Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Melbourne. Provides a thorough overview of Australia’s National Agenda 21 plan.


- Birkeland, J. (2002) Design for Sustainability: A Sourcebook of Integrated Eco-Logical Solutions, Earthscan, London.


- CCP™ Australia (2003) 2003 Annual Measures Report, Cities for Climate Protection™ Australia.


- Government of Western Australia (2003) Hope for the Future: The Western Australian State Sustainability Strategy, A Vision For Quality of Life in Western Australia, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Perth.


- UNCED (1992) Agenda 21, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - The Earth Summit, Rio di Janeiro, United Nations Environment Program and Commission for Sustainable Development’s Agenda 21 framework.

 
Key Words for Searching Online

Agenda 21, Australian Council of Professionals Young Professional Roundtable on Sustainability, Business Council for Sustainable Development JAZZ Model, Indigenous Engagement in Natural Resource Management, National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSD), Partnerships for Sustainability Capacity Building, Whole of Society Approach, Collaborative Networks, Western Australian Collaboration program, Whole of Community Engagement, collaborative engagement approaches, public participation, public engagement, participation mechanisms, typology, mechanism variables.

 

[1] UNCED (1992) Agenda 21, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - The Earth Summit, Rio di Janeiro, United Nations Environment Program and Commission for Sustainable Development’s Agenda 21 framework. (Back)

[2] Hargroves, K. and Smith, M.H. (2005) The Natural Advantage of Nations, Earthscan, London, Chapter 5, Fig 4.3, p 65. (Back)

[3] For additional information see National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSD) at www.ecouncil.ac.cr/ecncsd.htm. Accessed on 26 November 2006. (Back)

[4] Engineers Australia (2001) Sustainable Energy Taskforce Report, IEAust, Canberra. (Back)

[5] Birkeland, J. (2002) Design for Sustainability: A Sourcebook of Integrated Eco-Logical Solutions, Earthscan, London. (Back)

[6] UNCED (1992) Agenda 21, United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - The Earth Summit, Rio di Janeiro, United Nations Environment Program and Commission for Sustainable Development’s Agenda 21 framework. (Back)

[7] For additional information see The Western Australian Collaboration Program at www.wacollaboration.org.au. Accessed 26 November 2006. (Back)

[8] Also see Cities for Climate Protection at http://ccp.iclei.org/ccp-au/#. Accessed 26 November 2006. (Back)

[9] ACF (2000) Natural Advantage: Blueprint for a Sustainable Australia, Australian Conservation Foundation, Melbourne. (Back)

[10] AusCID (2002) AusCID Publications page. Available at www.auscid.org.au/home/papers.php?id=1. Accessed 26 November 2006. (Back)

[11] For additional information see Professions Australia (n.d.) Young Professions Australia Roundtable page. Available at www.professions.com.au/YoungProf.html. Accessed 3 January 2007.(Back)

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Program is supported by the Australian National Commission
for UNESCO through the International Relations Grants
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