Compass Housing Services (Compass) has been a leading advocate for the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Australia and the wider Asia Pacific region. As an organiser of two international conferences and as participants in key events such as WUF9 and PUF5 Compass has seen how both the NUA and the SDGs can influence a wide range of agencies in government, business and the not-for-profit sectors to work towards the achievement of more equitable and sustainable communities. This has resulted in a major internal drive to align Compass activities fully with the SDGs.
As a provider of social housing, Compass encounters the impact of poverty, inequality and environmental crisis on a daily basis. Many housing clients face the struggle of poverty and the challenges of a warming environment in which extreme weather events have become more common. Aligning Compass’ planning and strategic development to mitigate these issues for our clients has become part of its core business activity through an ethical framework of People, Place and Performance established in 2014.
Compass’ engagement with the SDGs has promoted a full review of that framework and an audit of Compass’ contribution to SDG achievement. That process began with an internal review of the final year of the current 2017-2020 Strategic Plan. An internal workgroup benchmarked activities against the 17 Global Goals and identified where Compass contributed to their achievement. Following this exercise, Compass engaged external consultants to verify its internal work and for the first time, the 2019 Annual Report will include an assessment of the organistion’s performance against the SDGs. Most importantly Compass is now commencing the process to develop a 2020-30 Strategic Plan which is fully aligned to the SDGs and will commit the organisation to contribute to their achievement. This will inform Compass’ daily business practices and the way they engage with clients and stakeholders. Where Compass is unable to make a direct difference, they will be leading advocates for Agenda 2030 and promote its adoption by government, the business community and other not-for-profit organisations. This will also result in Compass’ ethical framework also including Planet as a core reference point to judge actions against.
The review has focused on the role of responsible procurement practices, not only for the organisation but especially for government and the public sector. While the business community has engaged with ‘sustainable procurement’ through activities of the Global Compact there has been less commitment by the government. As an organisation with multiple government contracts, Compass is aware of how a powerful influence could be achieved through ‘social procurement’. A leading example of this is the passing of The Wellbeing of Future Generation Act 2016 by the Welsh Government in the UK. This commits all public bodies to consider their impact on long-term environmental and social justice objectives. The Act appointed a Future Generation Commissioner to oversee compliance, and procurement practice has been one area of focus to date.
The practice of social procurement by the government has an extended reach. Government at all levels engage in complex supply chains providing opportunities to influence both ‘no poverty’ objectives and decarbonisation objectives. Local government procurement reaches deep into local communities. Effective legislation can create a chain of practice that also informs and empowers independent organisations to promote similar social objectives in its suppliers. In this way, a social procurement framework can promote significant cultural change that reaches deep into business and community practice.
Article by Professor Dave Adamson, OBE