L-R: Ainsley Simpson, chief executive ISCA, Professor Kate Auty, chair Banksia Foundation, Patrick Hastings chief operations officer ISCA

A “digital owl” and a scheme to make infrastructure greener were among the winners of the 2019 Banksia Sustainability Awards, announced at a gala dinner in Sydney earlier this week.

Now in its 31st year, the Banksia Sustainability Awards recognise sustainability leadership and innovation in Australian businesses under the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year’s overall winner was Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) – a not-for-profit enterprise that promotes better environmental practices across the infrastructure, construction and engineering sectors.

Its Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating scheme was recognised in particular for explicitly aligning to 15 of the 17 SDGs.

The scheme provides a language and framework for evaluating sustainability in terms of governance and economics, as well as the environmental and social aspects, and is now included as standard in all highly competitive project tenders, according to the judges.

Banksia Foundation chief executive officer Graz van Egmond said the judges admired ISCA for “walking the talk” when it came to the SDGs.

“The scheme isn’t just an overarching system, but dives down to an operational level, so it is delivering outstanding outcomes,” Ms van Egmond said.

“It’s clear that ISCA are open to sharing their success with others because they are truly committed to creating long-term and ongoing change.”

According to the enterprise, more than 2.2 million tonnes of carbon emissions have been saved between 126 assets across Australia and New Zealand as a result of its work, equating to roughly $76.1 million in avoided costs.

ISCA took out two awards on the night: the Banksia Gold Award as well as the Banksia NFP/NGO Award.

The Banksia Large Business Award went to Fujitsu Australia for its Digital Owl program, which was developed in collaboration with the New South Wales government as a way to find and monitor threatened plant species remotely.

The program combines a drone capable of taking five images per second with artificial intelligence technology to process these images almost instantly in order to pinpoint the exact location and condition of species in the rugged and vast Australian landscape.

The use of a drone in place of traditional helicopters makes the search cheaper and less carbon intensive, while the company’s Advanced Image Recognition software makes the process faster and more accurate than the human eye.

Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Council took out the Banksia Government Award for its Mary Cairncross BioBlitz project – an event that brought a range of community members together to research and celebrate the rainforest reserve.

Scientists, artists, Traditional Owners and more than 250 members of the public attended the event to help record and raise awareness about the ecosystem. The judges recognised the project for this interdisciplinary approach: for making ecological sciences accessible and biodiversity visible to the broader community, with a long-lasting impact.

Environment portfolio councillor Jenny McKay said she was overjoyed with the win, “not only because it celebrates biodiversity in such a unique way, but almost more importantly, because it recognises the dedication and collaboration of our BioBlitz Survey Team.”

Full list of 2019 Banksia Sustainability Awards winners:

Banksia Gold Award
ISCA – Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia

Banksia NFP/NGO Award
ISCA – Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia

Minister’s Award for the Environment

Banksia Small Business Award
How Now Dairy

Banksia Small Business Award
Spell & The Gypsy

Banksia Medium Business Award
Fun Over Fifty

Banksia Large Business Award
Fujitsu Australia – Digital Owl

Banksia Community Award
Tiny Trowel

Banksia Government Award
Sunshine Coast Council

Banksia Indigenous Award
“Littlewell” Mingenew Aboriginal Reserve Group

Banksia Research/ Academia Award
Monash University Master of Environment and Sustainability

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