Canberra

On the need to be sustainable in all that you do and all that you say and listen to

21 November 2013 Despite the bleatings of the fossil fuellers, now in serious panic mode as their business model goes the way of… err… fossils… it’s always heartening to see the capitalist system do its thing.

That is, the power of “money” as in “money talks”, “yummy money” and “good money”… all the nice references to money promoting clean green energy, because it puts dollars in your pocket.

It’s a bit like the “white knight” bounding over the horizon, except in this case it’s a green knight. After all the capitalism and the markets have no morals, no values. Let’s remember they’re just a tool. Meant to do our bidding.

And speaking of big powerful engines that can’t be stopped (because so many don’t want them stopped), it’s great to see our Prime Minister Tony Abbott make a complete ass of himself and our country on our anti-climate anti-sustainability anti-progressive stance internationally at the climate talks.

What’s good about it is that Abbott’s play will prove a spectacular and embarrassing failure – and it can’t last.

Abbott has done the same “flip the bird” trick with his insult to Indonesia on saying he doesn’t give a damn that we spied on the Indonesian president and his wife.

Oops.

Even the kids have been saying, “If there’s one thing we thought you learnt in Politics 101, it’s ‘don’t mess with Indonesia’.”

Wow, not even two weeks into the new parliament and Mr Abbott has done just that.

But in fairness, it’s hard to be rational on one issue but not on others.

You might think international relations have nothing to do with climate change, sustainability and solar power for Australia’s buildings, but they do.

It’s all part of the framework: chose to be honourable, rational, strategic and long-term on one issue, such as climate change, and it’s much easier to be so on all the others.

Otherwise you need to be much smarter than a Rhodes scholar to keep track of all the tangled mess that can come about.

It’s that congruousness that Green Building Council founder in the US David Gottfried talked about during our most inspiring interview with him: the need to get the ducks all in a line. If you’re ethical in your private life you should be so in your work life. This avoids the chances of peptic ulcers and sleepless nights.

It’s the underlying message about sustainability – the drive towards a values-based framework that spreads to everything you do; something the sustainability gurus worked out a long time ago.

The property industry did the same because it was first of all industries to “get it”.

So you see now the green property gurus talk about the move to more socially ethical and sustainable drivers as the next front of sustainability.

You saw it with Investa Office in its report last week. You saw it in Westpac’s sustainability report, the first from Siobhan Toohill after her move back to the corporate sector, which came out at the same time.

You will see soon when we publish the interview we conducted this week with Lucy Turnbull, who is a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, a significant player in the cities agenda and of course half of the environmental sympathising “royal couple” with husband Malcolm, now part of the new federal government.

Direct Action

Speaking of politics, it will be interesting to see if the Clean Energy Finance Corporation can be saved.

Here is a model that almost perfectly does what the Coalition’s Direct Action wants to do but probably cheaper and more effectively.

As Cameron Jewell has found in two stories this issue, CEFC has been a significant success.

It not only achieves the goals set out in the Direct Action agenda but does so at minimal if not neutral cost to government and can even produce a positive return.

In other words, it can make money.

Using a medium-term funding model the CEFC can provide capital up front to smaller capital-constrained businesses who can invest in the carbon reduction schemes, reap the dollar savings and send the dividends back to the government.

So logical… so fair.

Under the Direct Action plan companies need to invest, prove their carbon savings, and then apply for the rewards.

How long will the investment take to be realised? How long will it take for the government to send back its component of the funds? Will the project meet the expectations and guidelines? How many resources will be needed to frame the case for the funding?

As you can see at a glance a small company that needs a new chiller yesterday will decide it’s all too hard. It’s the big property trusts that will clean up. Again. As they did with the Green Building Fund.

Nothing wrong with the trusts, especially now they’re starting to re-ignite and reaffirm their commitment to sustainability. (Green shoots, green shoots.) But there is definitely an equity issue in the Direct Action framework that needs to be addressed.

Mr Hunt?

The energy business keeps growing

Meanwhile the energy and water efficiency steamroller keeps creating more business opportunities. See our story this week on Ecosave which listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in January this year at $1 and whose price was $1.60 when we published this story on Monday.

According to chief operating officer Robin Archibald that’s on the strength of some solid business growth, the appointment of 10 staff this year, with more to come. The company has also picked up an acquisition in Philadelphia, another energy services company DVLA that’s taken total staff numbers to about 70, split roughly evenly between the two countries and a small office in New Zealand.

Greenbuild 2013 is underway – 40,000 expected

As Greenbuild 2013 gets under way in Philadelphia today, with a keynote speech from former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, it’s good to see the US Green Building Council continue to push for healthy buildings and materials despite the rotten tactics used by the manufacturers of PVC and their pals to discredit the transparency around use of materials in environmental rating tools.

In the latest news on that topic, the USGBC said its LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) tool has joined with Underwriter Laboratories, “the world’s leading safety and certification group” in an “exclusive strategic partnership centered on building product transparency and occupant health and safety”.

It’s all about increasing disclosure, awareness and transparency of building product composition and the manufacturing processes. The goal of the program is to accelerate market transformation and the overall quality and performance of buildings.

First up in the partnership will be a joint Environmental Product Declaration.

USGBC president, chief executive and founding chair Rick Fedrizzi said: “Lifecycle impacts and human health are two of the key underpinnings of LEED. We believe in buildings and products that limit environmental impact from conception to completion and that optimise the health of our families, colleagues and customers. UL is the world’s leading safety consulting and certification group, and our partnership will advance that mission enormously.”

We’re not at Greenbuild this year and will miss the amazing fireworks energy that comes from this man in defending this hugely important patch of our worldly universe.

One reply on “News from the front desk: Issue No 169”

  1. Executive Directors Jorge Chapa and Margaret Khursigara from the Green Building Council of Australia have had an inspiring and valuable week at GreenBuild. This year’s focus was very much on ‘Healthy buildings’ – health being something that affects us all – and the awe-inspiring Hillary Rodham Clinton not only encouraged all in the green building industry to keep doing what we’re doing, but to also collaborate for maximum impact.

    A great GreenBuild – informative, inspiring, a positive meeting of the minds and very well attended.

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