Ridiculous salaries, Saatchi and Saatchi, Maria Atkinson goes it alone to Canberra, Caroline Noller and Cundall

18 October 2010  – According to Romilly Madew, chief executive at the Green Building Council of Australia. the sustainable property industry is sitting on a small power keg of demand.

Her office in Sydney receives a steady stream of inquiry from people looking for new staff with high level sustainability skills. More and more, she says, this demand is coming not from the property world but the broad corporate world.

Madew says the sustainability jobs remained steady during the global financial crisis, now the big business world is dusting off and realises it needs skilled people to deal with their new found strategies. Where to look? Property of course, which has been at the front end of delivering sustainable outcomes with the biggest impact on people’s lives and businesses.

That’s bad luck for property employers. According to one of our sources these non-property corporates are offering “ridiculous” salaries for staff, which they then need to scurry around to try to replace.

The GBCA has itself been hiring – bolstering numbers from about 40 to 60 staffers in the past six months alone – although many of these jobs are not full time, in line with the family-friendly policy by the GBCA, Madew says.

A lot of the extra capacity is being ploughed into a new strategic plan, which includes a revision of Green Star to deal with industry demands that its premium design rating tool keep pace as the industry evolves and better understands the complex nature of what it deals with.

Big areas for work also include a schools rating tool and the massive issue of indoor air quality – including issues such as access to daylight and VOC or volatile organic compounds emissions from certain materials.

Building materials in general are moving from a minor to major minefield status. There is so much at stake for manufacturers who invest huge amounts into processes that the GBCA’s Green Star tool may no longer approve, so there is also the potential for major pressures as The Fifth Estate has found in our analysis of the timber industry in particular.  https://thefifthestate.com.au/archives/7904

Madew admits the materials field is wide open and almost still at the starting blocks when it comes to understanding the complexity of life cycle analysis and industry implications.

By the way, another area that Madew says is hot is the demand for small five star office space – anything from 50 square metres to 100 sq m.

Nice opportunity for a quick-witted developer.

Maria Atkinson goes it alone to Canberra
In late breaking news on Monday, Maria Atkinson, global sustainability leader for Lend Lease and Geoff Lake, president of the Australian Local Government Association are the only two people form a property and related background to be included in the two roundtables that will advise the prime minister on climate change.

The Green Building Council of Australia missed out and so did the Property Council of Australia, but Atkinson at least will be fully conversant with the issues and will speak from the practical perspective of a company that has been out in front in terms of sustainability. Atkinson was also the founding chief executive officer of the Green Building Council. Lake, from his perspective, will bring real understanding of the on-the-ground impacts of climate change on the built environment.

Caroline Noller on material concerns
In a chat over coffee in the past few weeks Caroline Noller shared some great ideas on how to move the industry forward as a whole, something that has been forefront of her concerns in her work in the industry.

Noller moved early this year to Australand after a long stint with GPT where she is credited with setting up some robust systems and strategy on sustainability that helped flip GPT to the top of the sustainability pile.

Next on Noller’s list of extra curricular interests is to produce a set of profiles on key building materials – such as aluminium, timber and glass – from a popular reader point of view. The profiles would reveal not only the carbon content of glass or aluminium for instance but also some of their history and entertaining anecdotes.

We don’t want to spoil Noller’s thunder here (and she has promised some excerpts for The Fifth Estate) but one such story is that aluminium was discovered in Roman times. The emperor of the day, however, ordered the inventor’s head to be lopped off, lest the secret escape and others could reproduce this strong lightweight material and thereby challenge his valuable stockpile of conventional metals.

Capacity building
Someone else working on bigger picture items is Simon Wild who heads up Cundall. Wild introduced his new high profile recruit last week, architect Lorina  Nervegna, former director of building policy at the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development, and national manager sustainability at the Australian Institute of Architects.

Nervegna will lead Cundall’s plans to embark on “capacity building” educational programs working with government, industry and the community, Wild says. The move is a further development of the company’s “cool walls”, an interactive consultation process for groups.

Saatchi and Saatchi S
Are Saatchi and Saatchi the most powerful advertising people in the world?

If so then it’s a massive thing that Adam Werbach stepped out of a radical environmental background with Greenpeace and as president of the Sierra Club to become global chief executive officer of their sustainability unit.

Last Friday he entertained some serious corporate types thanks to his host the Australian and New Zealand Sustainability Circle at Sydney’s L’Aqua restaurant overlooking Darling Harbour. Guests from the property world included GPT’s Rosemary Kirkby and a contingent of new people in her sustainability team including Angus Gordon, Anita Mitchell from Lend Lease, Romilly Madew from the GBCA and Peter Briggs, doyen of environmental law from Freehills.

Among Werbach’s highly evocative anecdotes to promote his new book Strategy For Sustainability – a business manifesto, by Harvard Business Press – was how hardline activists tried to destroy his reputation after he jumped ship and went to the “dark side”

Was it a cop-out? Or is it a smart strategic move to infiltrate the bastions of our consumer society?

Two schools of thought there. Much of Werbach’s talk was not directly about saving the planet but about selling the brand by being in touch with your market, which may want to save the planet. The book urges business leaders to consider broader sustainability (social, economic and cultural) as a driver in the profit making operation, and to create long term “north star goals” that are aligned with “positive global trends.”

But even if the impact of Werbach’s former life comes in small in this current role for him, its very existence in this powerhouse of consumer message-selling must be an encouraging thing.

At the table TFE shared there was some serious questioning of the assumption that environmental concerns had made any inroads at all into consumer behaviour. If people were buying green it was because of their desire to pursue healthy lifestyles – such as using organic food and shampoos for instance. At least according to a recent survey, one of the guests said.

Can you draw the line between the planet and personal health and lifestyle? There isn’t one. The thinking on sustainability is that everything is connected. Systems theories are all the rage. (Just look at the huge focus on communities or precincts recently.) But the marketing people who undertake surveys of products are not trying to work out what the connections are and what’s good for the planet, they are simply trying to decide what trigger they can use to best effect in their 30-second grab. Fine.

We suspect that advertising creators are a bit like politicians – they don’t lead, they follow. Well, you need to follow if you want maximum penetration for your message at minimum cost.

After all advertisers aren’t generally in the business of changing the world, just brands.

Changing the world? That’s up to you, readers.