Tanya Cox

Early this month the Green Building Council of Australia held an extraordinary general meeting to usher in significant changes that broadened membership to trade associations and signalled a leaner, more efficient organisation. Chair Tanya Cox explains some of the board’s thinking that drove the changes.

The drivers for sustainability are changing – and our industry must change too.

Once a market differentiator and a demonstration of leadership, today sustainability is about managing risk.

Around the world, investors with a long-term view – banks, sovereign wealth funds and superannuation funds to name a few – are increasingly adopting environmental, social and governance principles to manage their risk.

ESG values resonate with shareholders concerned about the security of their investments in the face of extreme weather events, their risk exposure as a result of labour and safety conditions along global supply chains, and stranded assets as a result of climate change.

The latest GRESB report – which ranked Australia’s real estate market as the global green leader – finds “investors are demanding reliable data on energy efficiency and sustainability to help guide their decision-making”.

IPD’s Australian Green Property Index has consistently demonstrated that buildings with a Green Star or NABERS rating outperform non-rated buildings. The June 2015 report found Green Star-rated offices outperformed the broader CBD market by 280 basis points.

It’s clear that building ratings provide more than reliable information. Verified green buildings are also better performing assets – which explains why GRESB says some superannuation funds and large foreign institutional investors are now “divesting from non-sustainable holdings”.

Just last month, an academic paper found that environmental disclosure has a significant impact on shareholder value. Researchers from the universities of Michigan and Virginia analysed the impact of Newsweek magazine’s carefully-researched environmental performance rankings of the 500 largest firms in the United States.

In the week after the magazine’s release, the firms ranked most sustainable enjoyed market returns up to one per cent higher than those ranked least sustainable. In fact, those companies ranked in the top 100 for environmental performance gained an average of $100 million in market value in just one week.

Green Star has been around for more than a decade, and has certified almost 1000 projects. Green Star certification is more than a measure of a building’s environmental attributes. It’s a measure of quality assurance.

Take a look at the recent green bond issuances from Stockland and ANZ. Both have specified that proceeds will be spent on Green Star-rated buildings, as well as on renewable energy projects. Independent verification through Green Star gives investors confidence and provides a solid guarantee that a bond is truly green.

The demand for independent verification – for everything from health, safety and security of building occupants to labour relations and responsible procurement – is only going to grow. The GBCA is determined to support the market meet that demand.

In early September, the membership agreed to changes to the constitution to enable the GBCA to attract a wider range of talented and experienced directors to further its ambitious strategic agenda. Membership has also been opened up to include all like-minded organisations.

Green building is no longer driven by developers, architects and engineers, but is a movement that has captured the hearts and minds of bankers, lawyers, digital disruptors, educators, the community, local government and so on. The GBCA is now engaging with a much larger group of players to drive change.

The GBCA has always been a lean, agile organisation, and is again adapting to market forces, evolving to meet emerging challenges, and expanding its vision to create sustainable places for everyone.

Tanya Cox is chair of the Green Building Council of Australia

One reply on “The green building revolution is now about the hearts and minds”

  1. Hi,
    I’ve just arrived back from two conferences overseas. The first, the European Straw-bale Conference where being green, sustainable, and best practice in residential and commercial buildings was paramount. The second,the Life Cycle Management Conference in France which was attended by university students, interested people and representatives of business from many European countries, was very disappointing from a green and sustainable point of view, especially from the multi-nationals present. I expressed my dissatisfaction out loud, because I was concerned about the bad example being given by the presentations given on behalf of the multi-nationals, to the university students present. Several presenters and members of those who attended the conference thanked me for my intervention. Why I have made comment about this experience is; my belief is any large, and especially multi-national building material supply company should be fully vetted regarding their claims regarding their products, before being allowed to claim any association with the GBCA.

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