Cundall recently hosted a round table discussion in Perth on the importance of Sustainable Strategy and Governance in organisations and businesses. Cundall first shared how environmental, social and governance performance (ESG) is increasingly becoming an important factor.
The context within which businesses and organisations operate is rapidly changing. Stakeholders increasingly develop a deeper understanding that unprecedented environmental challenges and a growing awareness of social inequalities and negative externalities effect value creation and long-term success of an organisation.
The group discussed at how to evaluate environmental and social benefits of projects, programs and investments, underpinned by the presentation of international case studies.
Although the organisations represented varied with private developers, councils, designers and universities represented, the challenges and barriers to sustainability had similar themes.
Making a Business Case- Money Talks!
Creating a business case for sustainability was hot topic. With monetary value discussed several times through the discussion, there were positive signs.
“It was a business decision to make sustainability a priority- to help attract students and staff”
“I try to remind my team, there are lots of intangible benefits for sustainability such as opening doors for dealing with governments, that is why it is important for government to drive sustainability.”
However, there was also signs that sustainability is still being value engineered out before it has been properly considered with the room agreeing that quantifying sustainable benefits is often difficult.
“Sometimes it is cheaper to throw it away than figure out how to recycle it- it’s crazy!”
“There are still sectors in the industry that don’t think sustainability is an issue, business as usual is seen to be OK”
The group therefore concluded that making the business case for sustainability, using metrics including financial return on investment, is a critical element to embedding sustainability into a cost driven organisation.
Time- Fantastic Idea- who is going to implement it?
Time was a big challenge that was common with many of the participant’s organisations.
“Fantastic Idea- who is going to implement it?”
This resonated with the room, with many saying there must be an initial investment in time, to embed sustainability in processes, raise awareness and make it part of business as usual.
“We need time to do the initial push to embed into the organisation.”
However, looking long term the room seemed positive that an initial investment in time would result in long term efficiencies and a medium to short term financial payback.
“People will push back at extra work, therefore we try to build them into existing processes that are accepted, so it becomes part of the process and not additional work for another department”
The room had a desire to embed sustainability into everything their business did, becoming very much their purpose, with some of the sustainability professionals hoping their jobs would eventually become obsolete due to sustainability being part of everyone’s day to day practice.
“How we get people to accept accountability for sustainability, included in their job description and embed it into the organisation is a challenge”
With organisations at different points at their sustainability strategy journey, the room shared challenges including getting high level buy in, however they also shared successes such as embedding the SDGs at the highest level of their organisation – because they provide a collective set of objectives that all businesses are, or should be, working towards by 2030.
Engaging staff through all levels was discussed.
“Getting everyone to buy into the fact that we can make a difference”
One organisation was just about to embark on a survey to engage its 750 employees, by asking five questions what sustainability means to them, finding out what they are currently doing and what people are an interested in doing. They can then use these responses to create a strategy which fits in with the current culture.
Another big barrier seems to be people’s knowledge of sustainability.
“Sustainability for our designers is in aspiration, however execution is pretty hit and miss. This is partly due to skill level and partly due to it needing to be part of a fundamental process”
Cundall shared that they had created their own sustainability diploma, which has resulted in the upskilling of over 100 employees, and highlighted work with a major British contractor where they tailored training for specific roles.
Lots of positives
The most refreshing thing of the discussion was that everyone had success stories showing that sustainability strategies can make a positive change. This included putting sustainability at the heart of businesses strategy and using it as a differentiator in their product – allowing shared value to be created, discovering their building already had composting facilities available by asking the right person the right question, reducing waste to landfill of a residential development by implementing an occupier education programme. All of these are positive steps to creating change to WA and beyond.
- Kylie Chrystal, Curtin University
- Lana Dzananovic, Worley
- Arian Gorjy, Yaran Property Group
- Jonathan Lake, HASSELL
- Phill Raso, City of Perth
- Greg Ryan, LandCorp
- Geraldine Tan, University of Western Australia (UWA)
Find out more on how to improve your organisations sustainability strategy click here.