The pursuit of green

Interview with Romilly Madew CEO, Green Building Council Australia

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By 2030, our biggest cities will almost double in size as our population swells to an estimated 30 million people. Our cities are the engine rooms of the economy – and so building places that are dynamic, inclusive, liveable and sustainable is essential for thriving societies and our future prosperity.

Romilly Madew has been a pioneer and advocate for sustainable building for her entire career. In 2015, she was awarded the International Leadership Award by the US Green Building Council in Washington, and made an Honorary Fellow by the Planning Institute of Australia. During her long service as a board and executive committee member of the World Green Building Council, Romilly drove the global efforts of over 75 green building councils around the world. She sits on the federal government’s Cities Reference Group and is Deputy President of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council.

How did you come to be involved with Green Building Council Australia?

I completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Economics at Sydney Uni, although my mother always said I completed a degree in rowing. I decided to undertake my thesis on a cost benefit analysis of a Land Care Project in Western NSW – to the angst of my Professor who did not think Land Care would ever be relevant. This sparked my interest in sustainability. After a stint as the executive director of the Property Council in the ACT,

I joined the Green Building Council of Australia as its CEO in 2006 and also took on responsibility for sustainability nationally at the same time the GBCA was being established. Peter Verwer, CEO of the Property Council at the time, was on the board of the GBCA, which resulted in me being involved in a number of projects for the fledgling organisation in Canberra before I started working for GBCA in 2005 to write “The Dollars & Sense of Green Building”.

Sustainability is now a key consideration in the development of buildings, but this wasn’t always the case. When did sustainable design reach a tipping point, and what were the main triggers to this happening?

In Australia, the green building movement only gained momentum after the Sydney Olympics in 2000 received worldwide recognition as the first ‘Green Games’. With venues and facilities that established new benchmarks in design excellence and best practice sustainability, Australia’s property and construction industry demonstrated that green buildings were achievable.

But at the time, the industry had few metrics or agreed methodologies to measure green buildings, and few assessment tools or benchmarks of best practice. There was no organised approach to knowledge-sharing or collaboration. Nor was there any way for the industry to promote or profit from green building leadership.

In 2002, a group of green building pioneers recognised the need for an independent organisation to develop a sustainable property industry in Australia and drive the adoption of green building practices. 

The following year, in 2003, the GBCA launched Australia’s first holistic environmental rating system for buildings, Green Star.

The tipping point occurred around the mid-2000s when local and state governments began mandating NABERS and Green Star, tenants were demanding green space, the Stern Review, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, the then PM John Howard initiated a review into an emissions trading scheme and the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.

This drove the industry to take a leadership position in sustainable design and construction. GBCA went from a team of nine in 2006 to 43 in 2009. The number of rating tools developed went from Green Star Office Design in 2003 to eight different rating tools in 2009.  The demand for tools, education and collaboration was unrelenting.

Since then, Australia has certified more than 1,460 Green Star projects. A whopping 37 per cent of the nation’s office space is Green Star certified, and five per cent of the workforce head to a green office each day. More than 40,000 people live in certified apartments, and an eye-watering 1.3 million people visit a Green Star shopping centre each day.

And, turning a full circle, I’m now a board member of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, and am working with a fantastic leadership team that is determined to ensure these facilities continue to deliver leading edge sustainability outcomes for decades to come.

How did the need for sustainable practices disrupt the traditional approach to building and planning?

Sustainable thinking has disrupted the way the entire industry thinks about building. We no longer think about ‘a building’ in isolation (and about the return on investment). The leaders see every development as an opportunity to deliver better outcomes for the environment, for the people who use the building and for the entire community. Barangaroo is an outstanding example of this. The precinct has Green Star – Communities certification. All the buildings will achieve Green Star Design and As Built ratings, and more than 70 tenancies will achieve Green Star – Interiors ratings. 

“Sustainable thinking has disrupted the way the entire industry thinks about building. We no longer think about ‘a building’ in isolation (and about the return on investment). Leaders see every development as an opportunity to deliver better outcomes for the environment, for the people who use the building and for the entire community.” Romilly Madew.

What are the core ingredients to a truly sustainable building?

The Green Star rating system assesses buildings against nine environmental impact categories: management, indoor environment quality, energy, transport, water, materials, land use and ecology, emissions and innovation.

Explain the role of the GBCA in nurturing an understanding and commitment to sustainable building.

Our purpose is to lead the sustainable transformation of Australia’s built environment. To do this, we: 

  • RATE the sustainability of buildings and communities through Australia’s only national, voluntary, holistic rating system – Green Star
  • EDUCATE industry and government practitioners and decision-makers, and promote green building programs, technologies, design practices and operations
  • ADVOCATE policies and programs that support our vision and purpose.

Which cities around the world do you think are delivering meaningful sustainability, and how does Sydney fare?

It depends on what is being measured, whether it’s the whole city or local government area. Singapore is aiming to be the greenest city, as is Vancouver.  Zurich, Stockholm and London also top sustainable city indices, as do Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Australian cities fare very well when it comes to sustainability. In some sectors, like the commercial office market, we have a higher ratio of green-rated space per capita than any other market in the world – even the United States.

This is backed by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) report, which in 2016 found Australia’s property market continues its “unbroken streak of global leadership” and is the world’s most sustainable. GRESB surveyed a record 759 real estate companies and funds, representing more than 66,000 assets and AUD $3.7 trillion in gross asset value. In 2016, the average GRESB score of companies and funds in Australia/New Zealand was 74, compared with the global average of 60. This is the result of sustained collaboration, knowledge sharing and a willingness to take risks.

How will sustainability continue to disrupt thinking around green buildings, cities and communities? What is the future of “green”?

I’m confident that our future will be green. The definition of this though maybe different for different audiences.  I can see a future in which zero carbon buildings are found in every street and suburb of Australia – these buildings will be energy efficient and cheap to operate. Looking broader, energy efficiency will become our way of life. Electric charge points and e-bike sharing schemes will be the norm.

Precinct-wide energy generation systems, like that currently being trialled at Barangaroo, will turn our cities into large-scale energy storage systems. There won’t be a blue-chip company in the land that will operate from a building that is anything less than carbon zero, because tenants will understand that their workspace is not just bricks-and-mortar, but a symbol of their social license to operate, and an engagement tool to support staff. 

Your recent decision to make International Towers your home is significant - possibly the highest endorsement a building or precinct could have on a sustainability level. What were the key factors in making that choice?

Late last year, we approached more than a dozen of our members to explore our requirements – which included timing, floor space size, costs and Green Star certification. After carefully considering each proposal, we have chosen Barangaroo South’s International Towers, Tower Two and its next generation office space. We are excited to be moving into a business community anchored in diversity, high performance, wellbeing and innovation – characteristics that we believe are pillars of a sustainable future.
How will you be working with tenants within International Towers?

Many of the tenants within International Towers are members of the GBCA. We look forward to working with them collaboratively to continue to transform the built environment.

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Feeding diversity, sustainability, and community

Interview: Ian McKenzie, KPMG Head Chef

Since the beginning of time and the earliest of civilisations, food has brought people together. The preparation and sharing of meals – whether it be around a tribal campfire in the remote outback or a boardroom table in the heart of the city - provides a profound opportunity for people to bond and connect, share stories, debate ideas and to defuse differences.

Food service is also an opportunity to embrace wellbeing, celebrate diversity and champion sustainability, and few know this better than professional services firm KPMG. With commercial kitchen facilities at Barangaroo that would rival those of any international five-star hotel, the organisation takes meal preparation and food service very seriously indeed.

“As an organisation, we believe KPMG is a reflection of the general community itself,” says Ransdale Dinger, National Client Experience Team Leader, KPMG. “We are an international company, which means our people are incredibly diverse, as are our clients. However, we feel some things are universal – great hospitality and service, celebration of community, and the provision of nourishment, and our goal is to use thesethings to bring all people together.”

With a team of approximately 2,500 in Sydney, and just over 7,000 nationally, the KPMG community is a mirror of modern Australia, and the organisation relishes its role as a responsible corporate citizen in every aspect of its operations. One of those is in the preparation and service of meals to its teams and clients. On any given week, the kitchens within its Barangaroo office at International Towers, Tower Three, prepare an average of 500 fine-dining lunches and dinners, cater to hundreds more for breakfasts and casual meals, bake thousands of muffins, and deliver an endless supply of fruit and beverages.

“The sheer volume of food we prepare each week means we have a genuine opportunity to make a difference to not only our own community at KPMG, but the greater community too,” says Ian McKenzie, Head Chef. “We work very closely with our community of farmers and growers, not only so that we can source the very best, seasonal produce, but also to minimise waste and food miles. We adhere to a paddock-to-plate and nose-to-tail ethos, which helps us to deliver an experience that is as sustainable as possible, and that is also very much focussed on the health and nutrition of everyone we serve.”

Currently, around 80 per cent of all waste from the KPMG kitchens is recycled or repurposed. An achievement like this doesn’t happen by accident. By taking control of the supply process – for instance, sourcing sustainably grown, whole fish and preparing them in-house, using the bones to make stocks for soups and other dishes, Ian and his team have been able to dramatically reduce the amount of food waste, as well as the organisation’s environmental footprint. A Waste Management Induction process, hosted by Lendlease and International Towers management, also provided valuable insights into how the industry-leading, recycling and repurposing facilities within the Towers work, enabling all involved with food preparation at KPMG to work together toward a common mission, and introduce processes to ensure they were working as sustainably as possible. This includes a highly disciplined approach to recycling, as well as other initiatives, such as supporting National Recycling Week, promoting multiple-use coffee cups, and working with organisations such as food rescue charity OzHarvest to distribute surplus meals.

Ian, who has cooked for CEOs, dignitaries and royalty all over the world (he was once the chef on the Royal Yacht and cooked for Lady Diana), also understands his unique position to influence the wellbeing of the community he serves. “The way people eat has changed, and continues to evolve,” he says. “People are much more conscious of the role of diet in their overall health, so we try to support that – and even drive that – through our kitchen. For example, we’ve replaced many of the biscuits we used to bake as team snacks with fresh fruit and nuts; we’re serving less carbohydrates, making cold-pressed juices and we recently established a close relationship with Bell & Brio from within our Barangaroo community to make our bread, using pure ingredients and amazing, whole grains. We even adopted a cow from the dairy in the Camden Valley that supplies our milk. The milk is bottled at the farm and delivered straight to us and, on a clear day, we can even see the dairy farm from our office at International Towers. It doesn’t get more local than that.”

Community responsibility at KPMG isn’t confined to the dining table. Outside the kitchens, the organisation has a robust program of events and initiatives, and uses every opportunity to engage with its own community to support a range of causes, from distributing white ribbons to its service teams in support of ‘White Ribbon Day’; purple neck ties for ‘Wear It Purple Day’; and hoodies in support of NAIDOC Week, to even decorating the coffees they serve with icons relating to national causes and community initiatives to raise awareness and start conversations.

“It’s all about experience,” says Ransdale. “If we can improve the life of a single person through our actions, then everything we do is worthwhile. If we can improve the lives of all in our community and beyond, then we have achieved something incredibly special.”

Disrupting the market

Interview: Rosie Kennedy, CEO, OnMarket

OnMarket is a unique, crowdfunding and venture advisory business that is helping democratise finance for investors and bring new, early-stage funding to startups and small, scalable businesses. The company recently completed its 100th IPO and introduced the world’s first App for crowdfunding IPOs, and was one of the first to receive the new crowd-sourced funding licenses in January 2018.

We spoke to Rosie Kennedy about how her traditional finance background led her to help build the OnMarket business.

As a professional, and now an entrepreneur, you have a wonderful mix of experience across traditional finance, financial governance and disruptive fintech. What are the highlights?

I began my career in the money market, then ran the government bond trading desk for what is now UBS.

My next major role was heading up business development at ASX, where my focus was on trying to allow retail investors to invest in fixed interest securities, or debt securities, because Australian investors are traditionally very equity-focused.

I went on to work at ASIC in the area that supervises exchanges. I also helped simplify the prospectus regime for debt issuers – again hoping to free up the debt market so retail investors had an opportunity to participate.

Then you met your co-founder at OnMarket, Ben Bucknell, who was trying to do something very similar in the equity market?

Yes. My passion came from being intimately involved in the bond market, and seeing the importance of diversification of portfolios. It was clearly apparent that retail investors were not being given the same opportunities to diversify their portfolios as institutions. Ben had the same vision in the equity market.

Initially we licensed our intellectual property to ASX, to build ASX BookBuild. This system was built within ASX’strading platform and was a tech-driven solution to improve the pricing on equity issuance by listed companies and improve participation for investors.

As this was a B2B model, we really needed some firms in the big end of town to grasp the opportunities arising out of digital disruption in financial markets. But remember, when we were launching ASX BookBuild, it was before the word ‘fintech’ was in common usage. The reality was that there were a lot of powerful, vested interests in the existing process, and it was not easy to get support for an innovative new approach.

Ironically, that lack of support drove us to develop OnMarket, which is a B2C service on desktop and in the App Store. It’s simple, and a far cry from what we were originally doing, but it seems to solve a real problem for investors (by giving them access to discounted IPOs) and companies (by providing a cost effective way of reaching investors).

What companies do you think stand out in the crowd-financing area?

We’ve had a few firsts. We closed Australia’s first equity crowdfunding offer, Revvies, in March 2018. And we’ve completed the largest crowdfunding deal in the world in terms of the number of investors. The company is called DC Power. They got 15,000 investors, and previously the largest number of investors globally was about 6,200.

One of our more interesting offers is The Cup eXchange (TCX) – which is a sustainable, coffee cup business which is solving the disposable cup conundrum. This offer opened in November 2018, and the minimum raise was covered in the first seven days.

It’s a subscription model where consumers are given two cups and they exchange those cups via scanning. Each cup has an identifier, and they scan the cups for credits. Once the coffee is finished, you pop the cup back to that particular café, or to another participating café.

That cup can be used by any participating café, and it never finds its way to landfill because if the coffee cup is ever damaged – which is unlikely because it’s made in a durable way that is very sturdy – it’s crushed down and made into another one.

It’s on trial in Sydney and Barangaroo, and in Melbourne as well. And they are the first-to-market with this product – there is no reason it can’t go global.

Does a crowdfunding raise also help with marketing and awareness of a business?

Definitely. The smaller companies can also use this process to engage their whole stakeholder chain – from employees, to the suppliers and the customers who really embrace the product and engage with the whole process – it’s a nice way of tying all the stakeholders in. For example, we completed a successful crowdraising for PT Blink – a technology company that is revolutionising the construction process. The key benefit for that group was getting referrals from customers. People saw their story whether they invested or not. As a result, large building companies got in touch with PT Blink to use the product.

You expanded your business to Tower Two at International Towers in 2018. You were previously based in Bligh St in Sydney’s CBD, what was behind the move?

We were looking to scale our business – and the tenant model at International Towers was beautifully configured for that kind of progressive growth.

Also, OnMarket is very much in the innovation business and the incredible strength of the innovation community at International Towers was a big attraction for us. We were drawn to the powerful community of enterprise and growth companies and the partnership approach International Towers takes with its tenants.

I think it’s a great benefit that we’re able to work together in such a collaborative environment, especially on our floor. As an example, with The Cup eXchange I spoke to fellow tenant partners, the Green Building Council Australia about relevant contacts in the sustainability area. They connected me with a terrific person at one of the large accounting firms, who has since put us in touch with a facilities manager, and as a result they’re about to sign a large partnership deal.

...which in an enterprise world is very fast-tracked?

Unbelievably. That all happened in 3.5 weeks. That’s a classic example of the working environment, but also of the collaborative nature of the people here. It’s certainly early days, but the camaraderie we’ve already experienced is fantastic.