Rupert Posner at Green Cities 2014, Melbourne 18-19 March

8 April 2014 – Green Cities in Melbourne recently was a great occasion to be upbeat about sustainability – and we should be. A large number of the buildings that are going up today are a vast improvement on what was being built just a few short years ago.

And as a result it is having a positive effect on the building product sector.

In the push to get those Green Star points, specifiers need to find as many certified products as they can to put into their projects. This has driven demand for more environmentally preferable products.

It has also forced companies to change the way they make products so as not to miss out on contracts to be part of these projects. As companies pitched for Barangaroo we saw a flood of enquires from companies seeking to certify the environmental credentials of their products.

Walking through the factories of many companies that make GECA certified products, I have seen the changes that they have made to comply with our environmental standards. This does fill me with a sense of joy to see that on-the-ground changes really are occurring.

Many companies seek to provide more sustainable products for the right reason and welcome drivers like Green Star for products like theirs.

Some, quite honestly, are doing it simply to get the business. But in the end, their motivation doesn’t really matter so much. Even for those that don’t understand that increased sustainability actually will be better for their business in other ways, the drivers that force them to change still deliver the positive outcome we need. And many, as time goes on, come to recognise those benefits.

But of course it is not all roses and sunshine. While there are many more environmentally preferable products available, very often at the same price as their less sustainable alternatives, they aren’t always being chosen.

I know of one company that was pitching its environmentally preferable product to a major developer that builds many fabulous Green Star projects. The product supplier was told that it will absolutely be considered for future Green Star projects that the company builds. But the product is the same cost as the less friendly alternatives – so why wouldn’t it be used for non-Green Star projects as well?

Many organisations, including those building our new more sustainable cities, also could be doing a lot more to clean up their own act. These products that help them get Green Star points can also be used in their own operations. Sourcing third-party certified environmentally preferable products and services is an easy way for a company to increase the sustainability of its activities.

And in seeking to procure more sustainable products companies shouldn’t feel restricted by the environmental credentials of their current suppliers; they may be surprised by the power they have in asking their suppliers to step up. In a tough economic climate business is important and more often than not they will take extra steps to retain it.

Rupert Posner is chief executive officer of product certifier Good Environmental Choice