Bell curves, pocket guides, and gift giving season

15 December 2011  – Since this industry is about saving the planet, and about being more sustainable all round it’s not uncommon to see inspiring acts of kindness and generosity.

Some of this is at an organised corporate level, and some manifests as quiet, personal commitment and effort in the field many individuals have chosen to work in.

At the corporate end, companies such as GPT and Stockland have flagged that the big challenge in 2012 will be towards social sustainability. What’s becoming clear to business leaders is that a more responsible attitude has synergies with company goals and sets up a feedback loop that can be mutually beneficial.

But how far companies prepared to go down the revolutionary road will be an interesting thing to watch. While environmental sustainability has no end point, it’s even less so for social sustainability.

Some of the early thinking on the “Occupy” movement is that it is already starting to have an impact on shareholders and the way they question their companies. Australian public companies are coming under pressure to change the antiquated way they manage annual general meetings. What happens to the agenda if all the shareholders can vote electronically?

Bell curves and the value of sharing
Along similar lines sustainable consulting firm Cundall recently launched a website called Collaborative Futures, which provides a platform for the early innovators and adopters of sustainable technology to share with those further back in the bell curve of change.

Managing director Simon Wild says the website will be a kind of portal for sustainability gurus from all parts of the industry to share their hard won insights and skills with the rest of the industry. What’s this? you say. Give away your intellectual property?

Yes and no, says Wild. If you are an innovator you get an advantage by coming up with new wonderful things, but it doesn’t last long, in fact, not long at all.

“Innovation used to last two years; it lasts for six months now,” Wild says.

That means in about six months, something the firm claims it has innovated is being used/copied/done by someone else.

So there’s actually not much point trying to hang onto it. You simply need to invent new stuff.

If the industry as a whole is going to move ahead, the argument is that the leaders need to share innovation with the followers. The sooner the better.

Part of the Collaborative Futures site is set up as a forum to answer questions. But Wild says the company is taking its time to establish the site, and does not intend a flamboyant launch.

The Fifth Estate reckons we could need a WikiLeaks for sustainable development, so that mistakes can also be shared and learned from, instead of repeated. As things stand, consultants are reluctant to amit errors or share them with the industry for fear of being sued. …which is understandable but does nothing for collaboration and sharing

Do we need green lawyers as well now? And a green legal system?

But Wild says the potential is better than that. You don’t need to focus on the mistakes, he says. Instead you could go to your online portal and say to your fellow collaborators: I’m thinking of doing this. What do you think?

“It’s not about what went wrong, but we are at a point, a line in the sand, where we need to keep going forward,” he says.

“There’s always going to be a variety of reasons why something went wrong.”

The idea comes from crowd sourcing. The sort of collaboration that produced open source software such as Linux.

Wild says that if Linux was developed in a structured corporate way it would cost in the order of $6 billion, according to some estimates.

Collaboration is a big thing,” Wild says. “The amount of research institutes tyring to create the next best wind turbine… if you put all those people together you would come up with something much sooner.”

All of these reasons are why Cundall has “unbranded” its Collaborative Futures site.

An important concept to come out of this space is crowd-accelerated innovation or learning.

Another is collaborative consumption, whereby people in a neighbourhood go online and share expensive hardware items such as a washing machine or lawnmower, as well as skills.

In Melbourne, see The Sharehood, which boasts “1763 people with 3756 shareables”

The green star pocket guide
And speaking of gifts to the industry (since it’s Christmas) another innovation from Cundall is its new Green Star Pocket Guide. It’s designed to assist people who are not familiar with Green Star to achieve their intended ratings without having to re-invent the wheel.

For instance, if the developer is shooting for four stars, then the pocket guide will advise the costs, risks and environmental benefit of each credit point.

“Its’ a high level non-technical overview of Green Star on a point by point basis.” And it calls on the accumulated knowledge of Cundall’s previous Green Star credits.

The guide took the equivalent of about six months of full time work to develop.

And Cundall’s wish, says Wild, is that it becomes so popular it is unmanageable.

The Fifth Estate – sustainable property news and forum