Our guest blogger this month Emily Thomas, Communications and Social Media Advisor at City West Water, provides a young professional’s view of working for an organisation dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We all have such a finite time to leave the world better than we found it.” – Dave Kellett

It’s a provocative statement, and a significant responsibility to adopt.

How do we make tangible steps to ‘do better’? Is it possible to leave the world in a better shape than we found it? 

As a young professional I am conscious of choosing workplaces that I believe are genuinely invested in the bigger global picture.

It sounds romantic - impacting on a global scale. But I am not yet convinced that any dream is too big.

Taking action doesn’t have to be grand and complex, but begins simply, with a choice. A choice to invest in small changes and pave a way toward positive change for the greater good.

Purpose forms the basis of all that we do

This underlying belief has guided me, both personally and professionally to where I am today - Communications Advisor at City West Water. My role may be just a drop in the ocean, but to me, it's a responsibility that I hold with pride, as I am part of a business that invests in a greater purpose.

At City West Water, this purpose encapsulates the core business of providing water and sewerage services to customers. City West Water is proud to achieve great outcomes for its customers and community. As part of the business’s commitment to purposeful leadership, they have recognised they can contribute to something bigger by viewing their operations through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The Goals present a long-term vision and framework (made up of targets and indicators) for a better world. They articulate the economic, societal and environmental challenges that Australia and the rest of the globe is facing, including reduction in poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests.

Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation plays a major role in the way City West Water views its operations; their works also extending to cover gender equality, health and wellbeing, energy affordability, clean energy, innovation, climate action and development of partnerships.

It is amazing to think that my position plays a hand in a global initiative, where I am connected to a cause that is greater than my role.

Tangible outcomes – integrated water management

In a recent series of innovative projects, City West Water has been partnering with local councils to deliver stormwater harvesting to irrigate public open space. In the City of Melton, the Lake Caroline stormwater harvesting project involved the diversion of 52 million litres of stormwater per year from the existing lake.

So how does this relate to the Sustainable Development Goal 6?

The diverted water is now used to irrigate surrounding parklands and sports grounds, and provides a fully sustainable open space for the public to enjoy. Integrated water management is one of the key indicators of Goal 6. The benefits developed from the Lake Caroline project also fulfil the visions of Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure.

By adopting water sensitive urban design and integrated water management, lush green parks and gardens can continue to form the fabric of our communities. This connection between humans, nature and the outdoors can:

  • improve overall public health and wellbeing i.e. improve community health, reduce heat stress, increase amenity, foster cohesion
  • enhance the environment  i.e. regulate temperature, improve air quality, improve habitat and stormwater catchments
  • support the economy i.e. reduce energy costs, reduce contamination and retrofitting costs.

Tangible outcomes – increasing gender diversity

Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls is something that City West Water recognises and champions. As a female, I feel proud to be part of an organisation that does so, with already 45 per cent female representation and 40 per cent of senior leaders being female.

This has been achieved through a dedicated culture shift program, to support both men and women with flexible working arrangements, and encourage women to return to work after having children.

What this means for the future

As a young professional, choosing an organisation that actively looks to invest outwardly is something I will continue to strive for in my career. It’s a factor that I’d encourage all young professionals to consider when choosing their next steps, as change can happen, and you can be part of a wave that makes a difference. 

To put it simply: Choose to be part of something bigger than yourself.

To find out more information on the Sustainable Development Goals, take a look at the list of Goals and Targets here, or view the report Global Goals for Local Communities: Urban water advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This includes 13 excellent case studies from across the Australian Water Industry, which highlight how viewing operations through the lens of the Sustainable Development Goals (no matter how small the change or organisation) can make a big difference.

Emily has recently joined WSAA's Liveable Community Committee as part of the Young Utility Member program. 

20 Nov 2017