Time for radical collaboration

28 Mar 2022

A message from the CEO Davina Rooney.

It’s time for “radical collaboration”. This was the challenge laid down by Nigel Topping, the UN’s High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, in the first session of TRANSFORM 2022 last week.

The built environment sector spoke with one voice and one ambition at COP26, Nigel said. But our global building stock has the same emissions footprint as China. Three quarters of the global infrastructure standing in 2050 is yet to be built, which gives us a “critical but narrow window for sectoral transformation”.

If that wasn’t a wake-up call, the International Energy Agency’s message couldn’t have been clearer: emissions increased by six per cent last year – the single largest increase on record. Despite our best efforts over two decades, the building and construction value chain still generates 37 per cent of global emissions. We have no choice but to take “an integrated and holistic approach,” the IEA’s Tim Goodson said.

Time is ticking – which is why speaker after speaker stood to champion collaboration. Our Chair and Mirvac Managing Director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz set the tone for TRANSFORM with a powerful rallying cry. We are no longer in a “competition between companies” but “in a fight for our planet”. Maria Atkinson, the GBCA’s founding CEO, and David Gottfried, the green building movement’s founder, later reiterated that same comment. “Collaboration is the future. Competition isn’t allowed anymore,” they said.

We were inspired by how a collaborative mindset can drive sustainability at scale. Frasers Property Australia has shared the valuable IP amassed after investigating 20,000 products for Burwood Brickworks. Lendlease is determined to create a market for locally manufactured biodiesel by encouraging all its site contractors to make the switch. Every Cbus Property apartment will be 100% electric. Dexus is working with its customers to squeeze more value from every square metre of space.

Rob Coombs, Interface Australia & New Zealand’s Managing Director, gave us a glimpse into the “radically different mindsets” required to tackle climate change and create a circular economy. “A circular economic model means our customers will become our suppliers – the carpet on the floor of a Dexus building today could be the source of a next order we make for Lendlease,” he said.

Collaboration skills will be mission critical in the next decade, ClimateWorks CEO Anna Skarbek agreed. This will require sustainability specialists to work “horizontally” across organisations, rather than “vertically” as we once did.

Sitting down for a final ‘fireside chat’, two of the GBCA’s greatest champions – the Property Council’s CEO Ken Morrison and Infrastructure Australia CEO Romilly Madew AO – noted that collaboration was central to the GBCA’s legacy. In fact, Romilly called the GBCA the “sustainable cement” that has coalesced industry and government around a common goal.

Thousands of buildings, fitouts, communities and professionals later, we have made great strides forward. But in the decade of decarbonisation we must go further, and faster.

Our own Jorge Chapa, summing up the key takeaways from TRANSFORM, said it beautifully. “TRANSFORM is just two days. But, together, we have spent 20 years building a network for radical collaboration. This is our secret weapon.”