Collaborating on Sustainable Property Practice

01 Dec 2005Archived News Energetics in the News


PUBLISHED: Ethical Investor Magazine.
By Tony Cooper, Energetics Pty Ltd

Best practice means six property companies, State government and a consultant are working together. This type of 'industry cluster' program allows businesses to learn from each other and improve efficiency.

Launched in June 2005, The Department of Environment and Conservation, NSW (DEC) initiated a property sector program as Australia's first integrated sustainability project for businesses. To pilot the project, DEC selected 6 of the country's largest property portfolio managers to participate in the 6-month program: AMP Capital Investors, Colonial First State Property, The GPT Group, ING Real Estate, Macquarie Asset Services Limited and Stockland. Participants chose to include one building from a portfolio in the program, with the intention of rolling initiatives and knowledge learnt from the program across the entire portfolio at a later date.

To support businesses, government agencies have traditionally focused on individual issues such as energy, water and waste. Whilst many of these programs have achieved results, companies have for some time been asking for a solution that combines the key aspects of sustainability into a single integrated program. This has been achieved in the integrated Sustainable Property Project.

In addition to addressing the fundamentals of energy, water and waste, the program takes a much broader approach to sustainability by including elements such as supply chain management, stakeholder engagement, social issues, land management, transport, biodiversity, training, operating and maintenance procedures and reporting.

And by building on existing and successful government programs for energy and water, the program will help to provide the participating property companies with a coordinated interface between other government programs they may be currently involved in.

So why is the DEC concentrating on the property sector for this pilot project? When addressing the 6 participating businesses from the property sector, DEC's Director Business and Community Programs, Bernard Carlon said at the project launch, 'The DEC recognises that the commercial property sector has demonstrated environmental leadership in the last 5 years. This program is a trial with future objectives for roll-out into other areas of the property sector, to retail and industrial as well as broader industry sectors.'

This type of 'industry cluster' program allows businesses to learn from each other and improve efficiency. Following 2 cluster meetings to date, Carlon noted, 'The Sustainable Property Project is definitely helping to facilitate learning from others in the same sector through a well proven cluster approach.'

At the launch, Carlon also stated that our own natural resources like Sydney's water reserves are under great pressure and that it's time for us all to reconnect in a balanced environment. He said that the DEC hoped to see efficient energy systems, water recycling, zero waste outcomes and significantly improved indoor air quality. 'We would hope that these types of behaviours are destined to become the norm among all industries,' said Carlon.

The DEC appointed Energetics to deliver the project to the 6 participating businesses.

Getting top level buy in

To begin with, all companies participated in a 2-hour One-2-Five® Sustainability Diagnostic. The main aim of this tool is to engage senior decision-makers, including asset managers, building/facility managers, procurement managers, financial controllers, marketing managers and some sub-contractors.

The tool helps the business to look at sustainability as a strategic business management issue rather than just a technical issue. The diagnostic identifies strengths and areas requiring improvement on a range of sustainability issues including eco-efficiency practices (energy, water and waste), supply chain management and stakeholder engagement.

Of the diagnostic session, Michael Carabetta, Portfolio Manager (ING Office Fund) said, 'The biggest thing we learnt from the One-2-Five® Sustainability Diagnostic was that, although ING Real Estate was doing a lot of work in a variety of sustainability programs, we did not have a formally documented policy�which made progress difficult. We needed to start transferring knowledge to stakeholders more effectively and the action plan that came out of our day has certainly helped with this.'

Following the diagnostic session, the businesses were led through a walk-through survey to identify critical areas for improvement and, as a result, receive a detailed action plan for implementation over the next 6 months. This included hands-on support from both the DEC and Energetics. The program methodology integrates a successful mix of management and technical actions that has proven to be strongly synergistic. Implementation is now underway and full results from actions implemented are expected to be available for release in early 2006.

Testimony to achievements

The GPT Group (GPT) has met with a group of tenants to discuss integrating energy efficiency into their fit-out guidelines. Amy Hogan, Sustainability Manager, Jones Lang LaSalle, acting on behalf of GPT's office portfolio, said: 'Energy, water and waste is a primary focus for GPT but we need to run parallel programs to make a significant change towards true sustainability. One of the important aspects of this program is partnering with stakeholders to achieve behavioural change. The DEC's program has provided GPT with a great vehicle to help us engage with tenants who are now looking into energy efficiencies with respect to lighting.'

AMP Capital Investors has provided energy management training sessions with Facility Managers from the selected portfolio. Stephen D'Alessandro, Regional Operations Manager, Commercial & Industrial Management, AMP Capital Investors, said: 'The Sustainable Property Program has provided Commercial & Industrial Management with the support and focus to extract improved environmental performance from the assets that we manage.'

Macquarie Asset Services Limited is utilising a plasma screen installed in the foyer of its buildings to communicate resource efficiency initiatives, such as changing single flush toilets to dual flush and the water savings achieved by doing so. Chris Breach, Managing Director, said: 'Macquarie Asset Services Limited has a long standing commitment to improving the environmental sustainability of the properties we manage. By being part of the DEC Sustainable Property Project we have been able to further work towards that goal with the assistance of DEC and Energetics, while at the same time working with our peers to collectively improve our environmental performance.'

Greg Johnson, Manager Corporate Sustainability, Colonial First State Property, said: 'The project has been a means by which we can engage more closely with our Managing Agents to promote and raise awareness of sustainability in the management of our buildings. Building the competency of our service providers greatly assists in the implementation of our own sustainability objectives, with the additional benefit that it becomes integrated into normal management practices offered to all clients.' The company also produces a regular newsletter containing information such as helpful resource efficiency tips and associated achievements made.

The CEO of ING Office Fund, Tino Tanfara, says: 'I am in full support of the DEC's program and realise that in order for ING Office Fund to move forward and start practising real sustainability, it needs to be embraced by the entire organisation. We are now exploring new ideas to increase individual accountability and awareness such as introducing employee KPIs to enable us to measure and meet our sustainability objectives.'

Alongside a variety of common management actions that are being implemented, the participating companies have also identified a number of common technical areas for action that can be categorised into: resource efficiency actions, maintenance actions, supply chain actions and metering and monitoring actions.

As an example of technical actions implemented, Stockland found that the measuring and monitoring of energy, water and waste was imperative within their portfolio. George Websdale, General Manager, Commercial for Stockland, says: 'Through the diagnostic process, we realised that it was critical for Stockland to understand its environmental footprint before we could talk about taking any actions to improve. The first step was to implement sound monitoring systems that have consequently helped us to understand and quantify our consumption levels at a portfolio level. This data is now accessible to Asset and Facilities Managers and has greatly helped us to gain their support for the program and sustainability in general.'

Through quantifying water consumption in relation to urinals at one site, Stockland was able to trial the use of technology to significantly reduce water use through the introduction of waterless urinals. The water savings achieved through the trial were outstanding and, as a result, Stockland has now implemented the system across other buildings. A business case is currently being presented to gain approval for eventual rollout across the entire portfolio, including existing buildings and refurbishment.

Back to the launch event, where Carlon also said, 'It wasn't until 1996 that the word "sustainability" appeared in the Macquarie Dictionary. Now there's a growth in ethical investment and therefore it's a prime time to integrate sustainable management of energy, water and waste into the way you do business. We are looking to refine this process for future roll-out across a diverse range of industries. We look forward to continued long-term relationships between you, the property sector, and government, a vital partnership for the sustainable future of our environment and business climate.'

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