The Red List is the new black

On provocations, Green Build, the Red List, a new engagement model for energy, and CitySwitch

Without provocation there’s little incentive to change, right?

This week we’ve had it in spades.

There’s been:

A green bond issued by Stockland

A cool EUR300 million snapped up by European fund managers and institutions, to be allocated to developments that will meet a set of green criteria decided by Stockland and audited by KPMG. Nice way to raise some money, huh?

UBS, one of the underwriters along with HSBC, says the issue raised quite a bit of interest. But they were being a bit coy. We understand they was actually some very excited people banging on the doors and beating on the windows wanting to know how the green bonds worked, who the buyers were and how they could get some of the action.

Good on Stockland chief Mark Steinert for once again taking this company to a leadership position among the country’s biggest property corporates. (And no we won’t mention the past).

Steinert may not be alone. We reckon there’s early signs of a shift in the pendulum again to a more positive climate agenda, after a kind of collective stunned mullet reaction to this most destructive of governments that’s made it clear it’s here on strictly partisan terms.

Maybe the corporates are getting embarrassed by the dumb rhetoric on climate and why coal is so good for you. Or bored.

After all, a corporate’s job – fiduciary duty number one as Willow found in her review of the book Six Capitals ­– is to make money for shareholders. And you can’t do that by burying your head in the tar sands.

But don’t think raising Australia’s first green bond is provocation enough.

Not at all.

Sean Kidney who founded and runs the Climate Bonds Initiative, with the support of partners who claim control $22 trillion of global investments, is happy to add more provocation and question whether the bonds go far enough in their green promises.

Green bonds and climate bonds are different beasts. One is generally pointed to sustainability and the other is all about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We clearly need both and wouldn’t it be nice if sustainability included maximum emissions reductions, always, in everything we do.

The Green Building Council of Australia takes Kidney to task on the issue of Green Star and how ambitious it is on energy outcomes. See what you think. We’ve got one response included, but maybe there are more views we need to air on this.

The ANU provokes, others go to ground

Poor Fred Hilmer, vice chancellor of the University of NSW has been forced to carry the dirty brown coal bucket into his retirement by announcing that his university will not be divesting from coal because to do so would be a political act.

In an email to staff, kindly passed onto The Fifth Estate, Hilmer called on the words of Harvard president Drew Faust, who warned of the risk of using investment funds in ways “that would appear to position the university as a political actor rather than an academic institution”.

A few weeks ago Australian National University, said it would opt out of seven mining companies in its investment portfolio and has copped the most hysterical outburst ever since, including from the PM himself.

UNSW was absolutely not going to mimic such vacuous political actions, Hilmer made clear. It would stick with coal and it would do so despite the clear wishes of its academics and students, recently voiced.

So to divest from coal is political. But to retain investment in coal is not?


Mind, Hilmer in his email made it clear the uni does loads of good work to in effect help the world in general divest from fossil fuels.

“Our world-leading work in solar energy began in the 1960s” Hilmer says.

“And we back our views with our behaviour, running a campus with the lowest emissions per student of any of the reporting universities, according to the Clean Energy Regulator. We also invest in a range of clean energy sources such as solar panels and co-generation.”

We presume the uni is doing its good work because it’s logical, and what universities are supposed to be all about. What’s sad is that it feels it has to treat its investments under some other criteria.

Oops, that cognitive dissonance again.

The Forest Stewardship Council provokes ACF and WA Forest Alliance and they provoke right back

Willow’s FSC story has uncovered issues that are starting to resonate across all manner of rating tools, awards sustainability indexes. Who is designing these tools, what’s the nature of consultation and who are the tool developers in bed with? And what influence do the bedfellows have?

In this case the green groups who are on the FSC board seem to think their influence counts for little and are furious with FSC because of the way it appears to be allowing some spectacular old growth forests to slip through the net and end up as woodchips.

Green Build: climate and Red List are big on the new agendas

According to the feedback coming out of the big US Green Building Council’s Green Build confest recently in New Orleans, the mood there is positive, upbeat and getting more vocal on issues such as climate change. Apparently it’s no longer a dirty word, proving perhaps that the pendulum keeps swinging and hasn’t stopped yet.

One visitor to the event was Ché Wall of Flux Consultants who said,climate change is most definitely on the agenda and it’s openly stated as a priority. Not something you could have said in years gone by when you could talk about anything but climate change.”

We asked how the PVC issue is going, knowing the vinyl industry and its “chemical brothers” have thrown squillions of dollars at fighting the USGBC for trying to make the use of chemicals of concern transparent in LEED ratings for buildings.

Wall says the USGBC is not bowing to the PVC industry. But what’s very interesting is the Red List idea is catching on fast, he says. This is the list of chemicals banned in the crazy ambitious Living Building Challenge.

Speaking of the Living Building Challenge we visited Australia’s first, the Sustainable Building Research Centre at University of Wollongong on the weekend during an open day, thanks to hosts and building architects Cox.

Energy monitoring is becoming decentralised

We know the current trend is disaggregation and grass roots movements that can power their own agenda despite the political hurdles, but now it seems energy monitoring is moving in the same direction – out of the boiler room and into the lunch room.

According to WA’s Fabian Le Gay Brereton of Greensense who attended our Surround Sound in Perth, there’s a shift from a centralised energy efficiency management model to disaggregated models that more “owned” by the ordinary folk that congregate in office canteens and the like.

Information about their building or floor by floor performance on energy might come bouncing to them off a lunchroom wall or through a tablet. Or it could be a note about an electricity spike that needs to be investigated or a reminder to turn computers off. It’s enabling people to take charge themselves, Le Gay Brereton says.

Essentially it’s giving power over energy consumption to people who are not expert at it, so not the building manager.

Among the customers taking advantage of the new technology and creating demand for more and better versions of this are multi site operators such as supermarket chains.

Greensense has quite a nice line of work it’s recently won with a major chain that’s interested in this new approach. It means empowering store managers and staff instead of engineers or corporate head office people.

This sector, he points out, with its prolific use of energy through lighting and refrigeration, has huge scope for trimming costs, which has got to be most welcome in an environment of extreme competition and razor thin margins.

“When you’re a multi-site customer you don’t have an energy expert in all of your stores,” Le Gay Brereton said.

Some of the tools offered for such staff include dashboards on tablets, but include a whole raft of options, he says.

There’s also an interesting spinoff from greener buildings with a demand for educational features to be built into the green buildings. “Consultants are now specifying that,” he says.

“Not just building controls but video walls and kiosks or screens in staff meeting rooms and cafeterias. They want to see interactions by staff with how the building is performing.”

More on energy

CarbonetiX’ Lou Banadio said that the endless speculation about government policy is damaging the sustainability industry, as it is making the investors nervous.

What is working for his firm and others surviving the dismantling of policies like the Greener Government Buildings program in Victoria is being a lean team with a focus on providing green services to clients based on a solid business case.

What we’re hearing a lot is, “people aren’t daft, they know they need to do something about the climate/energy bills/water/carbon/waste.”

CitySwitch looking for a leg up

Speaking of pointy-end sustainability CitySwitch national coordinator Esther Bailey says the organisation is getting some great uplift from the entries coming in from around the nation for the annual CitySwitch Awards. So many great projects, and tremendous gains being made, she says.

At the same time, though, this program too is seeing the end of the funding pipeline – another great program that’s contributing to major reductions in carbon emissions through energy efficiency and behaviour change. You only have to attend one of the awards nights to see the packed audience and enthusiastic participants to see it’s working.

But now the program is seeking new sponsors. A great opportunity for a government agency or even a corporate leader to stump up and fly the logic and leadership flag.

This is capacity building work that the team is doing, lifting industry capacity to show leadership and save money at the same time. You’d think that’s a winning combination.

Bailey is also manager of the Better Buildings Partnership, another outfit that is in the game=changing business and doing well. Well we tend to think so since we’ve been working in collaboration with the BBB program on the “Happiness” ebook series on green leasing and in this issue you will see work on the much neglected and much needed waste sector.

“The foundations for the property sector remain,” Bailey says  – the commitment to sustainability and the drive to cost-savings.

Nice little sector when it has its mojo going.