Ideas and innovation from the first SMH Sustainability Summit

30 Sep 2020

Earlier this month sustainability leaders from the breadth of Australia’s corporate and public sector, virtually gathered for the Sydney Morning Herald’s (SMH) inaugural Sustainability Summit. In a day of live-streamed panels and online meet up opportunities, these leaders discussed how our nation can address climate change and pursue carbon neutrality both in business and government.

In his opening speech, The Hon Matt Keane MP, Minister for Energy and Environment NSW, declared that the local economic recovery from COVID-19 must begin a new era of sustainable transformation, “If we want to repay future generations with interest, we should borrow to start rebuilding them a low carbon world today.”

The Minister acknowledged that countries around the globe are moving on climate change, with over half the world’s GDP created in jurisdictions that have signed up to deliver net zero emissions by 2050. With the built environment contributing 39% of global carbon emissions, existing rating systems like Green Star offer our sector a pathway for urgent action.

In the Sustainable cities, buildings and communities panel, our CEO Davina Rooney explained that established tools help organisations go further than aiding their net zero ambitions; the soon-to-be-released updates to Green Star will help organisations meet specific Sustainable Development Goals too.

“Third party validation is important and it’s crucial those validations are aligned with those goals. In our new tools we’re drawing on the SDGs at a per element per credit level so we can give back impact reports,” said Davina.

David Palin, Sustainability Manager, Mirvac agreed standards like Green Star offer great benefits for organisations working toward targets and are one of the main reasons Australia is a leader in this space.

“Tools like Green Star and NABERS make it easy to communicate our sustainability performance, whether that be to customers, retailers, investors or to the wider community. It means that if someone asks you about the sustainability credentials of a building you can point to 6 Star Green Star Design and As Built, most people are going to understand and you don’t have to go into the details,” explained David.

Cate Harris, Group Head of Sustainability and Global Head of Lendlease Foundation, Lendlease, emphasised the private sector’s important role in the shift to a healthier, more resilient built environment and shared an update on Lendlease’s net zero targets.

“We recently announced our own new sustainability targets that see Lendlease committing to being a 1.5 degree aligned company. That means we’ll be net zero carbon in our scope one and two emissions by 2025 and be absolute zero by 2040 and that includes our supply chain,” said Cate.

Our membership’s leadership in the decarbonisation of the built environment, from the places where we live, work and play, through to industrial sites and retail space, continuously models how business can rebuild an Australia with a carbon positive future. We echo the recent World Green Building Week’s call to #ActOnClimate and urge business and the public sector to pick up the tools that are available today, so we can build a sustainable tomorrow.