The blues of green

29 Feb 2024

Only a few years ago, most companies could fit everything they needed to know about sustainability into one person’s head. Now it requires a team of experts who feel overwhelmed with the enormity of implementation – and this is reflected in feedback from our latest members’ survey.

Two months into 2024 and around 90% of us have already given up our New Year’s resolutions.

My New Year’s resolution was to declutter my house, and I’ve spent the last few months sifting through the detritus that inevitably piles up in a family garage, excavating my children’s childhoods, clubbing together recyclables, repurposing and reusing where I can, and creating the space for the next stage of our lives. It’s been a tough task and there have been times where I’ve lost heart and felt the goal too lofty.

Similarly, our latest membership survey suggests many people are feeling daunted by the tasks on their to-do list.

You have told us that you are happy with our work around sustainable finance, responsible products and biodiversity, and for creating new links across the construction value chain. Smaller member companies have told us how much they value the way we are “opening doors” that were “previously inaccessible” to them. Satisfaction with Green Star is high – 87% of GBCA members are satisfied with the rating system. As one person said: “You are pushing industry – keep going”.

But you are also feeling the change. The laundry list of issues that we all deal with gets longer each year: net zero buildings, circularity, energy efficiency and the clean energy transition, adaptation and climate resilience, social housing, whole-of-life carbon, health and wellbeing, placemaking, social value, biodiversity and nature positive… If the sentiment can be summed up in one line it is this: “I used to know what I was doing, but now I can’t keep up.”

Sustainability teams haven’t grown as fast as the expectations now placed on them. Climate disclosures and reporting take up an ever-increasing amount of time. When we begged the investors to join us, we thought they'd come with gentle applause rather than by banging the table.

In response, we overhauled Green Star to set higher standards for our buildings. The rating tool features new categories and credits. It offers a clear pathway for industry to deliver highly efficient fossil fuel free buildings, powered by renewables, built with lower carbon materials and offset with nature. It is a significant and influential shift, ready for the next decade. However, it has also introduced a degree of uncertainty into the market. But we’ve been through this before.

In the early days of Green Star there was excitement, but there was uncertainty too. I remember being told, when specifying low-VOC paint, we could have any colour as long as it was white. It took time to sell a big change to an entire supply chain. Now we can’t walk into a hardware store and purchase anything but low-VOC paint. The alternative no longer exists.

Recent history also shows this. In 2018 we announced that all Green Star rated buildings need to be all-electric – an impossible task at the time. Six short years later, and it is quickly becoming the default, and legislated in the ACT and Victoria.

The feedback from this latest member survey suggests a collective, steely resolve. We can do this together. You agree with our goals, and you’ve asked for more support during this transition. Look for more online training, face-to-face education and on-the-ground resources in the months ahead. We continue to improve our online system and growing our team and assessors. Additional resources, sector specific credits and leadership challenges are on the way. Book your ticket to TRANSFORM from 13-14 March in Sydney and hear all about it then.

Transitions are difficult, transformation is hard. Our role is to help you deliver buildings fit for the future. As for me, I will let you know how I go with my garage.