Evidence and Insight into a Sustainable Future

SGS Economics and Planning

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 10. Reduced Inequalities 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities


SGS Economics and Planning leads the way in the consulting sector by assessing their ability to influence the Sustainable Development Goals through business practices.

SGS is a pioneer in innovative projects such as the Rental Affordability Index (RAI), a pricing index for housing rental markets. Through the RAI, the company influences:

  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Georgina Knight

Georgina Knight


Monash University

Monash University


Gitanjali Bedi

Gitanjali Bedi


SGS adopts a rigorous assessment policy when accepting projects to ensure independence, insight, quality, collegiality, knowledge, and serving the public interest. These values align not only with the business model of SGS, but also with values of individual employees, to ensure they are “comfortable as professionals lending out their expertise” (Phoebe Harrison, Senior Consultant, SGS Economics and Planning).

As innovators in the consulting space, SGS Economics and Planning built their legacy on applying a lens of sustainability to all projects early on, in both the public and private sector. This paved the way for SGS to undertake projects that adopted a social conscience, including, but not limited to, the Rental Affordability Index, to provide a public resource for governments, businesses, and citizens to impact positive change.

Evidence and Insight into a Sustainable Future

SGS Economics and Planning, Melbourne Office


Founded over 25 years ago, SGS Economics and Planning continues to be inspired by the challenge to create and explore solutions to complex issues. Led by Ellen Witte (Principal, SGS Economics and Planning), the Rental Affordability Index (RAI) was developed in collaboration with Community Sector Banking and National Shelter. Since 2015, the RAI has been released on a biannual basis as a price index for housing rental markets, comparing “rental affordability relative to household incomes and applied to geographic areas across Australia” (SGS Economics and Planning, 2019).*

The inspiration for this project was born out of a realization of a gap in data, which previously was “only reported on for mortgage affordability rather than rental” (Tara Callinan, Consultant, SGS Economics and Planning). The RAI “factors in all housing choices that affects people’s lives” by analyzing affordability stressors (Tara Callinan, Consultant, SGS Economics and Planning). The development of the RAI further represents how sustainable practices underpin the business operations of SGS.

*Rental Affordability Index: Release Report - Quarter 4 2017 via https://www.sgsep.com.au/publications/rental-affordability-index

Overall impact

To ensure SGS creates a positive economic, social, and environmental impact both internally and externally, a formal process is being developed to measure the level of influence of their projects and business operations against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SGS analyzes core business initiatives, ranging from their scholarship program, which influences Goal 4, Quality Education, to their ability as a company to influence Goal 5, Gender Equality, to the core foundation of their company that incorporates research and innovation, Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 9, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. SGS projects have the potential to address a variety of the SDGs at varied levels of influence, while also acknowledging that this “will not be static over time” (Tara Callinan, Consultant, SGS Economics and Planning). By measuring and reporting the overall impact as a business, SGS can compare where they currently have the greatest influence, while also understanding how new projects will align with the SDGs.

The Rental Affordability Index indicates the diverse impact of an SGS project. Fundamentally, the RAI influences Goal 9, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, as an investment that increases research in the field and is provided as a public resource. Therefore, the RAI can also be used by governments, businesses, and citizens as a tool to both understand the trends in rental affordability in cities and to address these inequalities, influencing Goal 10, Reduced Inequalities, and Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. The underlying theme of SGS indicates a commitment to adopting projects and providing business that is multidimensional.

Business benefit

Adopting sustainable and ethical practices as core business operations aligned SGS Economics and Planning with the values and requirements of the B Corp Certification (bcorporation.com.au). As a Certified B Corp, SGS is part of a community of 2,665 companies across 60 countries that legally consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment (B Corporation, 2019).

Leading the field in innovative ideas and projects has also benefited SGS, as identified by their 14 awards in less than 10 years, including their most recent Award for Best Planning Idea Large Project. These awards recognize the significant work of SGS and reinforce their prestige in their field.

2018 awards include:

  • Award for Best Planning Idea Large Project
    Planning Institute of Australia (ACT Division)
    Project: Rental Affordability Index
    Awarded to SGS in conjunction with National Shelter and Community Sector Banking
  • Award for the Hard Won Victory
    Planning Institute of Australia (NSW Division)
    Project: Canterbury Road Review
    Awarded to SGS in conjunction with Canterbury-Bankstown Council, GHD, Tim Moore and Associates, Hill Thalis Architecture, and Urban Projects
  • Commendation for Cutting Edge Research
    Planning Institute of Australia (NSW Division)
    Project: Sydney’s Urban Services Land: Establishing a Baseline Provision

Phoebe Harrison, Senior Consultant, and Tara Callinan, Consultant, also provided insight into how the philosophy of SGS attracts professionals that share similar values.

“Being able to choose what projects I work on and knowing what the background of projects are and that they have a positive influence is what attracted me to work here [SGS Economics and Planning].”

- Phoebe Harrison, Senior Consultant

“The philosophy of why SGS is a company really resonates with me, and I would struggle to find that in another consultancy job.”

- Tara Callinan, Consultant

Social and environmental benefit

The process of B Corp Certification has also encouraged the SGS Environment Working Group Team to develop an environmental strategy and corresponding policy, currently in the early proposal stages. This was partially influenced by the B Corp Assessment and is aligned with B Corp framework concepts. This will allow SGS to embed environmental policy into the core of their practice and adoption of projects and commissions.

The social and environmental benefit of the RAI is represented by the accessibility and increasing scope of the Index. The RAI is available as an interactive map via www.sgsep.com.au/publications/rental-affordability-index. Having the RAI accessible as a public resource increases the transparency of SGS findings and equips not only the business, but also other businesses and governments with a valuable resource.

Expanding the depth of analysis to include two new household types further enhances the social benefit this report provides by ensuring that the scope of the reporting is more inclusive.


Tara Callinan, Consultant

Phoebe Harrison, Senior Consultant

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SGS Economics and Planning

SGS Economics and Planning

Melbourne, Victoria, AU

Business Website: https://www.sgsep.com.au

Year Founded: 1991

Number of Employees: 51 to 200

SGS Economics and Planning is an independent, B Corp Certified company that specializes in exploring and creating “solutions to social, economic, and environmental issues that impact communities across Australia and overseas.” Through research, innovation, and independent insight, SGS Economics and Planning consults on projects that align with their business values to maintain a commitment to social and environmental good.

Projects undertaken include:

  • Data and Spatial Analytics
  • Economic and Social Analysis
  • Infrastructure Planning and Delivery
  • Urban Policy Governance

Employees specializing in diverse fields, including economists, planners, mathematicians, researchers, and spatial analysts, contribute their expertise towards projects to ensure a collaborative and innovative approach is provided to clients.