James Goddin, thinkstep anz’s circular economy specialist

Sustainability consultancy thinkstep-anz is doubling down on its expertise in the environmental footprint of buildings and products with two new high-profile recruits.

Joining the growing team is Nicole Sullivan, the senior manager for Green Star Solutions at the Green Building Council of Australia, and UK-based James Goddin, who has worked alongside the Ellen Macarthur Foundation to develop the Material Circularity Indicator methodology that aims to quantify the circular economy.

Nicole Sullivan will bring a wealth of knowledge about the environmental footprint of building products and materials after working at steel manufacturer BlueScope for several years and most recently the GBCA.

thinkstep-anz chief executive Dr Barbara Nebel says that Sullivan, who is due to start in the Sydney office in December as head of strategy and impact Australia, was instrumental in developing EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) for BlueScope products.

“With her background in manufacturing she can bring that real industry insight to the team,” Nebel told The Fifth Estate.

Nebel also says Sullivan has that all important eye for detail, with one of her EPD background reports holding the title for the most detailed ever.

In her most recent role, Sullivan led GBCA’s Green Star Solutions team, where she was instrumental in developing Green Star Building’s responsible products framework.

Her legacy at the green building organisation also includes delivering five rating tool updates, helping redesign Green Star training and helping achieve ISO9001 certification.

James Goddin, who has started work as thinkstep anz’s circular economy specialist, has most notably done work for the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which is responsible for cutting edge research on the circular economy. The indicator that Goddin worked on now appears in EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) of different products to show how circular they are.

Nebel says that Goddin’s skillset will help the consultancy respond to a maturing understanding of the circular economy in the industry.

“In my mind it was often about rephrasing and reframing and recycling activities rather than really thinking about how we can make things more circular and quantify how circular something is.”

It’s a good time to be in sustainability consulting

A global pandemic hasn’t stopped Nebel from growing the company’s ranks.

She says that Australian and New Zealand businesses and manufacturers are becoming genuinely interested in the company’s specialty, developing metrics-based EPDs and Life Cycle Assessments, and sustainability in general.

The big question is why?

Nebel believes companies realise that business as usual is no longer good enough and if they want to become more sustainable, they need to back it up with facts.

“Businesses are also realising they can’t just talk about what they do, they also need to change strategy and adjust, and not just in any way … the wind blows.

“It’s moved beyond marketing purposes … They recognise business as usual does not cut it anymore, that we do need to reduce emissions, that they need to address modern slavery concerns, there are regulatory compliance questions to answer.

“The market is just demanding it.”

She says it’s not just customers but also investors looking to de-risk their portfolios.

“Investors now recognise that if a company doesn’t behave in a really sustainable way, it comes at a business risk.

“In the past we’ve looked at what impact the businesses has had on climate, and it’s now shifting to the other way around, it’s about what impact does climate have on the business.”

But with risk, there’s also opportunity. The flip side of businesses recognising that climate change and environmental issues threates their profitability is that being a first mover will also bolster the bottom line.

Nebel says that applying a circular economy lens to business models is effective at de-risking supply chains. 

“If you want to have a real circular economy, you need to know where the materials come from and where they end up, and to be able to identify the risks in the supply chain.

With some materials at risk of running out, Nebel says it makes sense to have a circular source ready.

“…if you understand a circular option of getting those materials, you are derisking the supply chain as you a have a more constant supply chain rather than risk running out.”