Good Environmental Choice Australia is potentially expanding its approach beyond environmental labelling, with two new executives appointed last year on a short-term contract to undertake project work comprising deep stakeholder research and mapping out future pathways for the organisation using design thinking.
Orbis Environmental director Anna Scott was appointed as director of innovation, and Sungevity’s Ben Waters as director of strategy. The position of chief executive, left vacant with the departure of Rupert Posner last year, will not be filled until Ms Scott and Mr Waters have concluded their project.
“GECA’s board is very excited about this project, which is likely to offer real breakthroughs in driving product sustainability in Australia. We are holding off on the recruitment of a new CEO until we see the outcome,” GECA chair Gordon Renouf told The Fifth Estate.
“This will ensure when we do employ the new CEO, their skills are not only aligned with our current mission and vision, though also aligned with our new ventures. In the meantime it’s business as usual at GECA under the leadership of chief operating officer Barry Gordon and the support of national business development manager Bobby Ali Khan.”
Ms Scott told The Fifth Estate that the current research stage involves exploring questions around what the barriers are to sustainable consumption through speaking with with manufacturers, government, industry associations and thought leaders in sustainability.
“Once we have an understanding of the problems, then we can design potential solutions,” Ms Scott said.
She said there was a lot of research showing that consumers say values are important to them, but this is not always translating into action in purchasing decisions. Part of the research goal is to understand why this is, and whether there are issues around sustainable products themselves.
There is also a clear aim to look at what GECA can be doing to create a bigger impact in terms of sustainable consumption in sectors beyond commercial property and potentially also beyond labelling.
Ms Scott said the eco-labelling market is currently a crowded one, with up to 400 separate labelling schemes in operation globally. This could be complicating the issue for consumers.
“This is something we’re factoring in. What is the problem or barrier? Is it in the business-to-business interface or is it in the business-to-consumer interface?
“We have open minds, and will explore anything. Where are the systems stuck? What are the really pointy issues in society where society and companies need to work together?”
Ideally, she would like to see sustainability enter into product development at the design phase, so products have reduced impacts right through the lifecycle.
Ms Scott worked originally in the space of environmental consulting as a biologist looking at environmental impacts, and it became clear to her that the impacts on natural systems also had social impact dimensions. This led her to gain postgraduate qualifications in social impact and consulting in that field, and it is a lens being applied to the GECA project also.
In her work with GECA, she said she will be bringing together both the environmental impact and social impact aspects, as she sees there has been a coming together of these two areas of concern within both industry and the broader community.
This was reflected, she said, in discussions at Green Cities in 2014, where the people developing buildings are starting to see that buildings are all about people and wellbeing, as buildings only exist for people to live or work in.
“These trends we are seeing are fantastic, and I think over the next 18 months to two years we are going to see many huge transitions.”