2017 City Switch Awards
City of Sydney present the 2017 City Switch Awards.

Sustainability means standing up for a better future, according to CitySwitch national program manager Esther Bailey, speaking at this week’s National CitySwitch Awards in Sydney.

Ms Bailey said the award’s theme of “unleash your inner warrior” was “in recognition that in 2017 sustainability is neither fringe, nor niche, or indeed even optional”.

“We all understand that transforming our economy with prosperity and opportunity for the many, is a mammoth task. Every decision we each make matters. And the next few years are crucial to turning this giant ship around.”

The awards recognise the outstanding work organisations from around the nation have done in reducing energy use, slashing carbon emissions and reducing waste to landfill.

Esther Bailey delivering major address at the CitySwitch Awards, 2017

CommBank wins National Signatory of the Year, as big players become involved

The major award – the National Signatory of the Year – was won by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The bank has cut its carbon footprint in half compared to a 2009 baseline, achieved NABERS tenancy ratings across 80 per cent of its commercial tenancies, added 15 new retail sites with NABERS ratings of 5 stars or higher and invested in rolling out solar across 38 CBA branches.

The bank also won the Signatory of the Year over 2000 square metres awards in NSW, South Australia and WA.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the results of the CitySwitch program showed that Australian businesses get the economic sense of running a green business and take the fight against climate change seriously.

“In the early days it was small city firms taking out the CitySwitch awards – to see a national icon like the Commonwealth Bank win shows just how far we’ve come,” Ms Moore said.

“By rolling out solar across 38 CBA branches, the bank has saved more than $11.5 million annually with its work and slashed CO2 emissions by half, or  80,000 tonnes.”

CBA’s energy and sustainability manager Sanjeet Singh said the bank recognised the role it could play in limiting climate change by making operations more efficient.

“We’ve been measuring, reducing and reporting on our environmental footprint since 2001. Throughout the year we have continued to implement initiatives as part of our sustainable property strategy,” Mr Singh said.

“We’re tracking well towards meeting our 2020 targets. This month we reached a 50 per cent emissions reduction from our 2009 baseline.”

HFM Asset Management and TSA Group win National Partnership Award

The National Partnership Award was won by Western Australia’s HFM Asset Management and business process outsourcing company TSA Group.

HFM’s utility performance management manager Alex Sejournee said the partnership came about as a result of a chance encounter with TSA’s manager of facilities services, Francis Stockwell, while HFM personnel were on site undertaking work for the building owner.

Mr Sejournee said that Mr Stockwell suggested the team come back and discuss with him what could be achieved in his company’s tenancy.

From July 2016, the partnership engaged in a sustainability process that started with a comprehensive desk audit.

“It blossomed from there,” Mr Sejournee said.

The result has been energy savings of 121,440 kWh a year, a projected cost saving of $37,646 and a 1.5 star increase in the tenancy NABERS rating to 4.5 stars.

Since then, Mr Stockwell has rolled out a comprehensive sustainability agenda across the company, including instigating sustainability improvements at TSA’s four other tenancies in Australia and one in Manila.

“HFM’s leadership, communication and strong engagement with the CitySwitch program has translated into a robust partnership and positive impacts for the organisations,” the judges said.

HFM has been involved with CitySwitch since 2013 and Mr Sejournee said many clients recognise “the value proposition of joining up to CitySwitch.”

The technical and advisory services company provides services to asset owners and tenants to reduce costs and energy use across both utilities and making management and operations more efficient.

It is expanding from its original WA base,  with offices now established in Sydney, Brisbane, Ballina and Melbourne.

EML wins New Signatory of the Year Award, with big savings and higher staff retention

The New Signatory of the Year Award was taken home by workers’ compensation mutual EML for its fitout of a new tenancy at 385 Bourke Street in Melbourne. The tenancy achieved a 5.5 star NABERS tenancy rating.

The company implemented an activity based working environment in its new offices and put in place a more rigorous sustainability policy.

Measures include energy-efficient lighting, appliances and HVAC.

The company now sees annual savings of $37,000 and higher staff retention rates. It is also about to recalibrate a company-wide recycling program and plans to use CitySwitch’s ideas for waste signage and staff engagement.

“EML demonstrated exceptional leadership, communication, use of resources and inclusion of government tenders,” the judges said.

“It’s no wonder they achieved such positive outcomes.”

EML national building services manager Roger Stamford said the publicity from winning the award would be used internally to support ongoing sustainability programs and measures.

The organisation signed up to CitySwitch in Victoria around four months ago, he said.

“We were looking to kick start our sustainability and recycling program. We saw that they offered great support and offered great resources we could draw on including case studies.”

Next in line for a NABERS rating of the company’s 10 tenancies is the Sydney office, he said.

For Melbourne, the spotlight is now on waste and recycling, and a NABERS waste rating may be on the agenda.

The Melbourne office is a “little more motivated right now” in terms of improving sustainability, Mr Stamford said, thanks to the award.

Coffee cups have already been a target, with ceramic mugs provided in all tenancies. Paper cups are available, but they are kept put away in a cupboard so “people have to make an effort to find them”.

In Sydney, EML’s largest office, all staff were issued with Keep Cups, but one year down the track almost none are being used as staff found the effort of washing them too much of a chore. The ceramic cups can just be put in the dishwasher, he said.

The office also has an interconnected floorplate, with a quality coffee machine on the middle level right near the stairs providing staff with free coffee. If they take the mug to a local cafe instead, some are giving a discount of 50 cents.

Mr Stamford said the plan is to convert all other offices to activity-based working over time, and to engage staff with the ongoing sustainability effort.

CitySwitch showing major growth

Overall, the CitySwitch program has seen enormous success over the past year, national program manager Esther Bailey said.

In 2017, participants abated over 580,000 tonnes of CO2 through carbon offsets alone  – twice 2016 levels.

Another 60,000 tonnes of saving were made from energy efficiency savings.

Nationally, there were 1500 projects in 2017, and around $15 million in energy savings achieved.

Ms Bailey urged attendees at the awards night to consider the power they wield with their purchasing. “The organisations in our program represent about one million Australian workers who each work for organisations that have committed to environmental leadership,” she said.

“Now let’s say that each one of those employees makes an average of three procurements of $10,000 a year. That adds up to $30 billion in spending power.

“Let that sink in – $30 billion of money spent each year in our economy that could go to companies doing less bad or more good.”

That equates to “an awful lot of incentive for the business community to make better products and services to meet this demand”.

And that is before the impact of every business demanding a 4 star or above NABERS base building, great lighting, end of trip facilities and wellness program, she said.

“But, my point is not just about economic influence,  it’s about density of ecosystem. It’s about a richness of personal and professional connections and positive feedback loops. The more we connect and create different kinds of ideas and responses, the more innovative and resilient our thinking becomes.

“We are the creators of the insights that sits over the data. We create the vision. We test the hypotheses. We are the ones that turn ideas into real life.”

Ms Bailey outlined some of the good news in the broader sustainability environment. Highlights include:

  • Stronger environmental policy commitments to divestment
  • Sustainability moving to the corporate strategy level and associated with core brand values
  • A global task force set up by the G20, has developed a framework for climate-related risk disclosure, which is already supported by more than 1000 companies with $11 trillion dollars of assets
  • Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook 2017 predicted renewables will make up three quarters of the world’s electricity supply by 2040
  • Net zero has become a hot topic this year
  • AMP, Investa, GPT, Lendlease Barangaroo and Mirvac have all committed provide net zero office
  • First State Super has invested in large-scale solar power generation in the Philippines and Thailand, and wind farms and hydro power in India.
  • Commonwealth Bank has rolled out solar across 38 sites nationwide with 554 KW of installed capacity
  • NSW OEH installed onsite solar in regional areas, saving 723 MWh on their previous years’ energy bill
  • The CitySwitch Choose.Reuse avoidance campaign has been a big hit. Its templates and toolkits give you a ready to go campaign that you can roll out in your business or building. Members have used this engagement strategy to open a broader conversation about corporate values, and emphasise that companies who care, take care of the details (that includes not turning up to meetings with a piece of instant landfill in their hand)
  • The NSW container deposit scheme has arrived and we think this can create some exciting new opportunities for charitable giving programs in the office

Ms Bailey said, “Personally, I am thrilled with the diversity and ambition on the projects we see.

“Framing sustainability projects with a human-centred lens opens up new approaches for collective action and impact.

“And by sharing our successes – and failures through a supportive network like ours, we get to be a bit savvier each time.”

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