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Among the most high profile and interesting job chatter of recent weeks is giant global fund manager BlackRock hiring a senior sustainability and CSR executive from the ranks of the property companies.

We’ve promised to keep the name under wraps even though most tuned in people already know, but the interesting thing – in addition to our natural curiosity – is what it means for the rest of us.

BlackRock is clearly one of the world’s biggest shape shifters. It’s on a par with that seminal pronouncement from Mark Carney former governor of the Bank of England when he told the investment and financial world to get its act together on climate. What we need to understand, he said, is that the financial markets’ job is to price risk and when they do it can be swift. So, in other words, watch out fossil fuelers… your day may come more quickly than you’re prepared for.

The new year missives from BlackRock boss Larry Fink to the financial world is on the same level, but maybe bigger since Carney has moved on and Fink still rules the global funds roost.

We think the hiring of a property expert in Australia is evidence of where Fink thinks the action will be in the near future. Property, the built environment, is where the rubber hits the road on climate and investment exposure, or, to use a more apt analogy, where the seawalls are.

Physical densities, human vulnerabilities and the resilience of each will be the determinants of impact. It’s what Fink and his vast team need to work with if he is continue to be successful and if he wants everyone to continue to pay attention to his yearly missive to clients. This year the letter focused on the “tectonic” shifts that accelerated his prediction from 2020 of a fundamental reallocation of capital responding to climate risk and investment risk.

Australia is also of immense interest right now. James Rosenwax, who since January has been regional managing director of AECOM, in a recent catch up said investment capital was “pouring” into Sydney. More on that soon.

Xlam hiring is strategically targeted

Another interesting move last week we mentioned last week was the hiring by Xlam of engineer Adam Jones from WoodSolutions to help with the company’s expansion plans.

John Eastwood, head of pre-construction service for Australasia who’s stuck in New Zealand at present (no offence NZ, there are many of us who could think of worse things) told us this is part of a wider hiring plan for another five or so people across the region.

Jones will be a ”great addition to Xlam’s technical team and will bring a wealth of knowledge around mass timber but also on design for manufacture and assembly,” Edwards told The Fifth Estate in a follow up chat.

“It’s introducing additional technical expertise and a strategic initiative for us as most of our hires will be construction industry professionals,” he said. That is, structural engineers, architects, quality survey, project managers and so on.

“While at our core we are manufacturers of mass timber projects, the value we bring is to be heavily engaged with the design specifications and cost planning of the construction sector.”

Edwards said he’s looking to recruit another five professionals that fit the bill, so jump aboard if you want to help with the expanding mass timber industry.

The company’s Wodonga facility opened in March 2018 and demand keeps growing at the rate of 30-35 per cent, year on year, he said.

Yes, things took a bit of a hit during the worst of Covid but appetite inquiries and so on continued and now demand for “actual manufacturing” has returned strongly.

The appetite for timber industry wide continues with the growing demand for energy efficiency through mass timber solutions “growing significantly on the basis of investment and construction sectors alike wanting to deliver more climate clean, carbon neutral buildings.”

Key is that “the construction sector is starting to understand it needs to engage in more collaborative commercial partnership.”

The Vic gov project in Bendigo is a good example of that, he says.

Elsewhere, Tasmanian based Timberlink is investing in both CLT and the glulam lines in a plant based in South Australia. In New Zealand, Red Stag Timber is growing its capacity in its Rotorua plant.

Investment in the kind of plant needed can take three years to come on line.

The company’s website says it’s invested in a “new USNR Tandem-Quadsaw sawmill line, with associated timber processing operations for kiln drying, planning, treating and remanufacturing.”

Current production is about 600,000 cubic metres of Radiata Pine and Douglas-fir lumber a year, with an annual turnover of more than NZ$220 million. It has about 300 staff, with products exported to Australia, the Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.

For now, though Edwards says Australasia region has “more than enough capacity to satisfy demand”.  And over the longer period the investment by companies such as Red Stag and Timber link will also underpin confidence in supply.

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