A tribute to two sustainability leaders who swam against the tide

30 Nov 2022

After nearly a decade helping to steer the GBCA’s strategic direction, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz and Tanya Cox stepped down from the board of directors this month. We asked this pair of passionate advocates of sustainable property to reflect on the milestones and memorable moments that have changed the way we build.

Both Susan and Tanya joined the board in 2013 as the Green Building Council of Australia entered a new phase of growth. Green Star certification was growing rapidly – up 43% on the previous year. New rating tools were being rolled out for industrial sheds, schools and office interiors. Governments were beginning to recognise Green Star as a tool to demonstrate transparency.

The business case for Green Star was also growing following robust research that confirmed that Green Star buildings produced a third of the emissions and consumed half the water of business-as-usual buildings.
But Green Star ratings were only pursued by pockets of the industry, and the idea of environment, social and governance reporting was in its infancy.

Tanya, who had been chief operating officer of Dexus for more than a decade, and Susan, who joined Mirvac as CEO and Managing Director in 2012 after two years as managing director of LaSalle Investment Management in Europe, offered deep experience and valuable insights into the investment-decision making that would transform the industry.

Tanya had held responsibility for sustainability at Dexus from the early 2000s. “I realised from an early date that the property sector would need to play a critical role in the solution to climate change,” she says.
Tanya was to become a champion of green building as one of the fastest, lowest-cost climate change mitigation and adaptation tools. She was to spend two years as GBCA chair before amplifying her message as chair at the World Green Building Council.

Susan, who steps down from the helm of Mirvac at the end of June 2023, was motivated to join the GBCA in 2013 thanks to “a passion for sustainability and the built form, and the opportunity to work with a group of committed believers”. Susan took on the role of GBCA chair in August 2019, steering the association during the peak of the Covid pandemic with a calm optimism that confirmed the “drum beat of sustainability” was too loud to ignore.

Tanya Cox

In September, Susan passed the baton to Cbus Property's Chief Executive Adrian Pozzo – another inspiring industry leader who has spent many decades championing sustainable building.

The GBCA’s achievements during Sue’s and Tanya’s tenures are too long to list. “Pushing the boundaries of Green Star ratings and introducing Green Star Homes to the market” are two that Sue nominates, while Tanya notes that Australia has essentially “defined world’s best practice” after 12 consecutive years at the top of the GRESB table. This is in no small measure due to the GBCA’s determination to foster an “industry-wide commitment to sustainability,” Tanya adds.

“The GBCA has broadened the conversation from a focus on institutional property owners to multiple players in the sector, including residential builders, materials manufacturers, infrastructure developers, and more. We now effectively engage stakeholders across the whole built environment.”

Another important milestone, Sue reflects, was met by clarifying the GBCA’s strategy: rate, educate and advocate. “Everything else became clearer after that.” Today, the GBCA is a “vital link that brings our industry together and champions change in the built environment. We have achieved a lot, but we must continue to be ambitious and to embrace change even in tougher market conditions.”

Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz

Tanya agrees, pointing to the ever-growing list of challenges for sustainability advocates to address, upfront carbon, the mountains of construction waste to landfill and carbon positive precincts among them.

“Commercial property built today has a lifespan of up to 90 years. We can’t sacrifice our long-term aims for a carbon positive future to address short-term pain, whether that’s the current energy crisis, political persuasion or commercial pressures. We are the custodians of our children’s future,” Tanya reflects.

The GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer Davina Rooney calls our current decade “the decade of decarbonisation”.

“We are only in a strong position to drive down emissions at speed and scale this decade because leaders like Tanya Cox and Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz laid the foundations over the last decade,” she says.

“There have been times where it would have been easier to admit defeat than to swim against the tide – but both Sue and Tanya persisted. We are a stronger, more sustainable industry for their efforts and we owe them both an enormous debt of gratitude.”