Twelve steps to net zero and beyond

Google HQ/Workplace6, NSW. SHFA. 6 Star Green Star - Office As Built v2.

27 Sep 2021

The GPT Group is a 15-year member of Green Building Council of Australia and its net zero ambitions are clear and inspiring. GPT has saved an extraordinary $210 million in energy costs since embarking on its net zero journey and with carbon neutrality for its wholesale office fund squared away, GPT’s team has its sights set on a carbon positive future. How will the GPT team achieve this?

Steve Ford, GPT’s Head of Sustainability, and Building Services Engineer Dale O’Toole generously shared their success secrets to a packed (virtual) house at Green Building Day.

1. Start with strong leadership

Dale and Steve both noted that GPT’s leaders had challenged the business to do better. They tipped their hats to CEO and Managing Director Bob Johnston, former national sustainability manager (and Green Star Champion) Bruce Precious and the company’s founder, Dick Dusseldorp, who was an early pioneer of corporate responsibility.

2. Set a credible and urgent goal

The consequences of climate change – catastrophic fires, devastating floods, the widespread depletion of habitat, unparalleled loss of species, warming of the oceans and disappearing polar icecaps – demanded urgent action, Dale said. 

3. Align your efforts with business drivers

GPT’s efforts are underpinned by a strong value to do right by the environment and by people, but also by clear business drivers, whether that’s meeting requirements of Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures or the expectations of customers. Cost is an obvious driver of net zero ambitions, and as Steve pointed out: “Energy efficiency is the second biggest operational cost to our business. What a driver!” Many GPT customers now have their own carbon neutral goals, Steve added, and GPT’s work wipes out as much as a third of those operational emissions by addressing the base building. 

4. Create an energy blueprint

Dale talked about GPT’s Energy Master Plan, which includes carbon reduction through energy efficiency, onsite solar, offsite renewables and electrification, investment in batteries and other storage, as well as strategic partnerships with tenants and financiers. This blueprint gives GPT the confidence to deliver on its 2024 carbon neutral target, Dale said.

5. Look for quick wins

GPT eliminated emissions through efficiency first. “It's a goldmine... It’s something like $30 million in energy savings a year, when compared to our 2005 baseline. That’s a lot of money,” Steve said. 

6. Choose industry-supported validation pathways

Steve and Dale both emphasised the importance of choosing the right validation pathway. GPT has used NABERS to validate its efforts, which has been “cost effective and efficient,” Steve said. Both NABERS and Green Star are “very solid pathways” that have been tried and tested.

7. Ignore the sceptics

In late 2017, when GPT announced the 2020 target, many of Steve’s counterparts had the same question: How are you going to do that? “Quite a few of them had a bit of a laugh, and a lot of them shook their heads.” But GPT’s team ignored the sceptics and pushed ahead with their plans.

8. Adopt renewables

The breakdown of how The GPT Group has eliminated its emissions is instructive: 45% through efficiencies, 43% through renewables and 12% through offsets. GPT had installed 4.6 MW of solar photovoltaic arrays across the portfolio by the end of 2020. It also started purchasing government-accredited renewable GreenPower in 2007.

9. Embrace electrification

Green Star Buildings sets a clear requirement that buildings must be net-zero – fully electric, fossil fuel free and 100% powered by renewables – to achieve the highest possible 6 Star rating. GPT has heard the call and is moving towards full electrification at speed. Electrification, Steve noted, “is the only reasonable alternative as there is really no viable green gas option at the moment”.

10. Offset carefully

For the emissions that can’t be eliminated, GPT uses Greenfleet’s reforestation offsets – a “nature-based solution” that is protected on title for 100 years and restores biodiversity. GPT also staples its offsets “two-for-one” – so every tonne of emissions is offset with one tonne of nature-based and one tonne of energy-based offsets. “That puts us into the carbon positive territory,” Steve said. “GPT's goal is to have a positive overall outcome. Going carbon neutral squares the ledger. Carbon positive is what we are aiming for.”

11. Harness the power of procurement

Steve commented that GPT had pulled together a “brilliant” energy procurement team that was “not the usual suspects”. This team has implemented a range of clever strategies – from “buy late” in the early days to “buy long” as demand for renewable energy started to outstrip supply. GPT has benchmarked its efforts against best practice and found “we are saving in the order of $2 million a year just through our procurement processes”.

12. Keep your eyes on the prize

“GPT has the goal to be the most respected property company in Australia,” Steve told Green Building Day’s eager audience. “I don't think you can lay claim the most respected if you are not considering future generations with strong climate action.”

As a Green Building Council of Australia Climate Positive Partner, The GPT Group is leading the way to a carbon positive future. We thank GPT and our other Climate Positive Partners who make this work possible. Learn more about our Climate Positive Partners and see how your organisation can get involved.