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The Sunshine Coast’s new UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status is igniting intense interest from sustainability-focused businesses seeking to tap into the region’s unique potential.

Already a hub for future-focused agribusiness, tourism and clean technologies businesses, the biosphere designation firmly puts the region on the map for ethical and eco-friendly companies around the world.

Becoming a biosphere offers further opportunities for innovation and economic growth in line with Sunshine Coast Council’s vision to be Australia’s most sustainable region.

The biosphere is fuelling economic growth and the adoption of sustainable practices, fostering an environment where innovation and sustainability flourish side-by-side. Infrastructure investment, thriving niche markets and the opportunity to harness the region’s reputation for clean, green and tech-savvy industries all add to the appeal.

Feulling economic growth

The biosphere’s economic advantage

Image: Sunshine Coast's Blue Heart Project

The Sunshine Coast, which achieved biosphere status in 2022, is one of only 738 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world. Biosphere Reserves are learning places for sustainable development across ecological, social and economic contexts.

Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamison explains, “Biospheres are areas where active conservation sits alongside responsible development and people living sustainably – just like our region.”

Being located in a biosphere can help businesses thrive in many ways.

The Sunshine Coast is already home to the highest ratio of entrepreneurs in Australia and headquarters to big names like Youi, McCormick and Auto & General.

The transformative Blue Heart Project

The Blue Heart Project highlights the opportunity to generate environmental and economic advantages simultaneously. Situated over 5000 hectares in the Maroochy River catchment area, the Blue Heart Project is transforming flood plains into carbon storage havens through land management practices.

The project aims to address environmental factors, like flood management, carbon sequestering and land retention that pose significant risk to local infrastructure and the regional economy. Beyond that, the Blue Heart Project aims to generate opportunities for businesses in a range of industries including tourism, recreation and agribusiness.

Industries thriving in the biosphere

Of the seven high value industries Sunshine Coast Council has identified to fuel regional growth and investment, several have hit an early stride in alignment with the biosphere ideology.

Clean technologies

The Sunshine Coast’s $228 million clean technologies industry includes eco-friendly operators like innovative water treatment solution Ozzi Kleen, Aquadex Green Chlorine which minimises emissions and by-products from the manufacture of chlorine; and Natural Cool Air energy efficient industrial cooling solutions.

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm is a testament to the region’s commitment to clean energy. Generating over 15MW of electricity and saving millions of dollars, it’s a shining example of how green technology can thrive within the biosphere. 

Food and agribusiness

With over 900 food and agribusinesses calling the Sunshine Coast home, the region is a fertile ground for sustainable farming and innovation. From Frozen Sunshine ice blocks made from seasonal local ingredients to world leading soil inputs from Nutri-Tech, agribusinesses on the Sunshine Coast are finding new avenues for growth while nurturing the land.

Tourism, sport and leisure

The Sunshine Coast’s natural beauty and modern facilities make it a hotspot for tourism and leisure businesses. From agri-tourism projects like the Barns Lane Farm that connects locals and visitors with world-class hinterland producers, to Saltwater Eco Tours offering unique cultural tours on the Mooloolah River, this sector thrives within the biosphere.

Image: Natural Cool Air industrial cooling solutions

Nurturing niche markets

As a biosphere, the region’s allure extends to niche markets like eco-tech, small-scale food production and social enterprises seeking to capitalise on increased demand for eco-friendly products and services.

According to The Economist searches for sustainable goods increas[ed] globally by 71% since 2016”. Further, 75% of millennials surveyed by McKinsey & Co. say that they consider sustainability when they make a purchase.

Mayor Jamison said, “Biospheres create niche markets for products, services, facilities and practices – which will provide a significant point of difference for our agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors.”

Brouhaha Brewery is a stand-out producer born from a love of beer and nature. The award-winning brewery and taphouse aims to keep waste, mileage and intervention to a minimum. Connecting with other local food businesses through the region’s Food and Agribusiness Network (FAN) has helped Brouhaha achieve its sustainability vision.

Pleasant State, Australia’s first and only B Corp certified cleaning product company, is one example of how being in a region with stunning natural assets can nurture brands that prioritise sustainability. The start-up found success thanks to collaborative promotions with several small, like-minded businesses.

The region is also home to e-commerce success story Go For Zero, a B Corp certified low waste and toxin-free store helping people to reduce waste and support local, sustainable small businesses.

Industries thriving in the biosphere

Even multinational organisations recognise the business benefits of living and working in the Sunshine Coast Biosphere. Genpact, a global professional services firm, has chosen the Sunshine Coast for its Australian headquarters.

With ‘Better Planet’ listed as one of Genpact’s corporate social responsibility pillars, there is a clear alignment with the region’s commitment to growth, sustainability, and collaboration.

Mayor Jamieson said, “The Sunshine Coast’s international designation as a UNESCO Biosphere is a great strategic fit for Genpact, who has a complementary commitment to climate sustainability, winning among other things the Outstanding Achievement in Corporate Excellence at the CII-ITC Sustainability Awards 2021.”

The decision is testament to the fact that the biosphere offers compelling business benefits for organisations of all sizes. Genpact’s operation on the Sunshine Coast will boost the growing professional services sector in the region and create 250 new jobs in finance, insurance, IT and administration.

A smart, sustainable haven for business

At the economic heart of the biosphere, the Maroochydore City Centre is leading the way in sustainable urban development. With underground automated waste collection, energy-saving LED lights and cutting-edge technology, it’s a blueprint for cities that want to fuse modernity with eco-focus.

From cutting-edge, green technology to eco-ventures, the Sunshine Coast biosphere offers businesses the opportunity to be part of a future where the economy and the environment thrive symbiotically.

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