News from the front desk: Issue No 322 – On getting set for 2017

The world turned on its head in 2016. But it does that a lot. This year we’ve had Trump, Brexit, everyday terrorism, driverless cars, drones in the sky, 3D printing and the sharing economy infiltrating the housing market and forcing establishment property to pay attention like no one could have predicted. No private laundries, no car parking, no buying off the plan and no investors. For details check out what our Surround Sound on housing brought to the party.

But notice one thing – how quickly we absorb and move on. We’re programmed to adapt, but never forget that frog in the pot of water slowly coming to the boil. It too adapts well and quickly.

Politically the US is going to be the biggest worry. By politically we mean the climate agenda, since that will drive the real politics of the future and it’s already had a significant impact. Many believe for instance that Syria’s troubles started with a drought that drove the populace to the cities and ignited simmering pressures.

Climate change denial is big on Trump’s agenda but something tells us it’s not going to be easy for him. The anger in the US at what he’s promised is fierce and there are many people sitting on the fence who will now jump into the fray.

Yes it will be dreadful, but maybe we can help our friends in the US. Australians in the sustainability and clean energy space have plenty of experience of this kind of rabbit hole-dwelling aggression from the top. We know it helps to remember where it comes from: the death throes of the fossil fuel industry. It will take a while for this industry to lay down and properly die but dying it is and Trump is making all the noises his mates expect him to make; think of it as smoke and mirrors, however choking and distorting these are.

In Australia now, it’s pretty clear what the direction is.

350.org founder Bill McKibben writing in the Saturday Paper last week said Australia had the highest divestment rate of any country in the world. It’s no surprise. We had the craziest man on the planet – at the time – denying climate, denying the need for clean green and money saving measures, and what it did was spur us on to take action for ourselves.

Now, solar prices are plunging, battery prices are falling, and globally a wall of investment money is increasingly going green and ethical.

This time last year we hoped the bubble-burst of Tony Abbott’s regime would be redirected to inflate a new PM who said some good things and promised some backbone and vigour.

It hasn’t happened, Malcolm Turnbull has disappointed. He’s been like a wet lettuce as PM and promises more of the same as time wears on and wears him down.

In some ways, that’s no longer so disastrous.

After the fire and brimstone of the Abbott factor like some bombastic preacher from the Inquisition, Mal has kind of defused himself. No one seems to particularly take any notice of him. Say one thing or its opposite, it’s all the same for our PM. One week he’s singing the praises of tax reform, the next he’s not.

One day he says we’ll have an emissions intensity scheme, the next it’s no way.

Not even his own party seems to pay him any attention, in particular, the treasurer who’s off on his own hobbled horse, looking like he might suffer the same fate as the former incumbent.

The people, or should we say, the man, who really has the power is Cory Bernardi. And he said no to an emissions intensity scheme. Echoing who? Speaking for whom? The Institute of Public Affairs, no doubt. Stuck in an echo chamber. A dark underground.

But in sustainability, the world moves on.

In one article this week, Why banks and financiers are desperate to fund energy efficiency, we learnt that the banks and equity funds are desperate to get a share of the clean green investments offered by energy retrofits for buildings.

On Tuesday we fielded a call from a man who’s joined an energy consultancy but whose background is with ASX-listed corporates.

They need good PR; they need investors, he says, but the investors are asking what their ESG records say because they don’t want to risk a reputational backlash from their ultimate shareholders and stakeholders.

The two events we ran in the lead up to Christmas were immensely revealing of the sentiment that’s in this industry right now.

Simply, it’s on fire.

Mad Men for the Planet was designed to refocus our attention to the people who are outside the choir but are the ultimate stakeholders in our work, the people – the staff – who spend a huge part of their day inside office buildings. They are the perfect captive audience and this industry’s job as influencers and change agents is to make sure they are aware of their options and their rights and let their corporate bosses know they know.

The Surround Sound on housing was another event that hit a nerve.

So after some of the roughest political period in history we have lift off, good and proper. There is momentum in this industry that will not go away.

Get set to capture it in 2017.

The Chinese horoscope says it’s the year of the Rooster.

Here’s how one site put it:

The Year of the Rooster will be a powerful one, with no middle of the road when it comes to moving forward. This year, impressions count. You’ll want to look your best and be clear on your intentions concerning love, money, and business.

In a Rooster Year, all of the Chinese animals can reap great rewards by tapping into Rooster traits: loyalty, commitment, hard work, family values, and top-notch appearances are just some of the characteristics that will be rewarded this year.

The big trends for 2017

On the big trends for 2017 here are a few that caught our attention.

From IPSOS, this one is good news:

Australians measure success has shifted from the traditional markers of achievement – career, wealth and status – to a much more personal inventory of things such as happiness, wellbeing and having good relationships.

Even home ownership, once the bedrock of the Australian dream – no longer figures in the picture of a successful life. Experiences, not things, are the new symbols of status and tickets to life-enrichment.

It’s subversive – but not necessarily (still your beating heart, George Christensen, you “father of eco-terrorism” you). It rejects the manufacture of “stuff” fuelled by the energy we haul out of the earth, but opens the way for a new form of economy that values non-material things. The accountants need to catch up, though.

On the other side of the consumption story, when we want something, we want it now, with no messing and no friction, IPSOS says.

Another interesting one for our space is that the crumbling faith in institutions as consumers question the role of government, corporation and mainstream media play in their lives. Which goes hand in hand with the rise of sustainability, clean energy and the sharing economy.

Out with the old, in with the new, that we do for ourselves.

On the direct property side came warnings recently in the form of a new report on mega trends from EY, the Green Building Council of Australia and Property Council of Australia.

The property industry needed to prepare for the disruption on the way, namely from the move to carbon zero, big data, the sharing economy, virtual reality, cyber threats, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, robotics and even eco-terrorism.

Right now, there was not enough weight given to some of these movements, in particular, big data, robotics and autonomous vehicles, which could have “vast impact”, including making city parking obsolete.

From Forbes comes another bunch of forecasts, with the business publication teaming up with the mega-powered computer IBM Watson.

Key among this combo pick for property is the potential disappearance of offices altogether.

A Fortune 100 Company Will Go Office-Free

The first to go was the personal office. Then the cubicle bit the dust. Now even the open office is at risk, with the rise of “hot desks” that belong to everyone and no one. In 2017 the slow dissolution of the workplace will reach its natural conclusion: The first Fortune 100 company will jettison the office altogether. After all, why foot a hefty real estate bill when telecommuting is an option? A backlash may be brewing, though, as mentoring drops off, laptop-bound workers report ergonomic issues, and employees burn out when they find themselves literally living at the office.

Others included:

Climate Change Rules Are Rolled Back (in the US)

Yep, heard that one.

The Internet Will Get Shut Down Many More Times

No more high heels for Victoria Beckham

No more high heels for Victoria Beckham

Good news or bad news depending on your point of view, as more devices and even home appliances such as toasters plug into the internet and destablise it.

Fortune pointed to Jeremiah Grossman of security firm SentinelOne, who said after a recent strike that it “could easily be just a canary in the coal mine.”

Drones Will Deliver Pizza (but Not Toilet Paper)

A Tesla Will Drive Itself Across the Country (With Help)

Oil Will Cost $50 a Barrel Next Year

China Keeps Booming

Make no mistake, when President Xi Jinping last year called for GDP growth of at least 6.5 per cent for the coming five years, China was signaling it would prop up growth in any way necessary. The domestic debt-to-GDP ratio rose by an astonishing 28% in the 12 months through June, according to Emerging Advisors Group. The result: Real estate prices are up, consumers are spending, and GDP growth is hitting targets (though actual growth will be at least a full percentage point below the government’s official releases).

High Heels Go Out of Style

Victoria Beckham has ditched her Christian Louboutins this year for comfy sneakers. Increasingly health-conscious consumers now see high heels – once the epitome of elegance – as an unnecessary bodily risk.

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