News from the front desk, Issue 507: So, Australia is on an economic tear so that means there is nothing stopping sustainability, right?

Out of our recent Building Circularity came some gems of insights into the urgent tasks to

hand to reduce the carbon in our structures. And the immense ambition and possibilities opening up to our built environment world.

It seems it’s an expanding world.

This recent survey confirms we are not alone.

The research found one in three of the 1000 Australian consumers and 300 small businesses surveyed are more worried about sustainability and climate change now than before Covid.

A further eight out of 10 respondents to the survey by waste management company iugis see sustainability as a great way to keep Australia rocketing out of recession.

It’s not just Australia that has snapped awake by the unsettling alarm bell that is Covid, with a recent survey commissioned by global climate change experts South Pole showing that 38 per cent of organisations have not taken the accelerator off their climate mitigation efforts, and 27 per cent have even kicked it up a gear.

Perhaps most interesting is the sectors that have ramped up their efforts: the financial services (19 per cent) and technology and telecommunications (16 per cent) sectors.

We heard all about the FAANGS (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) at our Building Circularity event last week, with Microsoft getting a special mention for committing to remove all the carbon it has ever emitted over 20 years.

Money is also getting greener.

“We’re seeing tremendous growth in the interest in sustainable investing,” founder of sustainable finance business Sustainalytics Michael Jantzi said at a recent Morningstar Digital Investment Conference.

Jantzi says that the old adage that welcoming ESG into financial decision making will somehow hurt returns has been “flipped on its head”.

“Well, I do think there has historically been caution around this space, because people believe that if you’re mixing an examination of environmental and social issues into a financial decision-making, for some reason that’s going to hamper or lead to a negative impact on returns,” he said.

“That’s been flipped on its head now because as I said the growth in this space has really been about integrating environmental, social issues into a process to make smarter decisions, again, to position you better down the road.”

Jantzi says institutional investors have driven this trend around the globe.

“There’s really not a developed market in the world where this isn’t gaining traction, and it’s really driven by the institutional investors saying, you know, environmental, social issues are not just about values.

“These are real risks and opportunities that need to be looked at alongside the traditional financial analysis that we’ve always done in the investment side to really position us for good outcomes on behalf of our clients.”

The green-rush is here, and even the big carbon emitters don’t want to miss out.

BP chief of staff Dr Dominic Emery joined the Carbon Market Institute’s 7th Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit at some ungodly hour from the UK to talk about his company’s net zero by 2050 commitment, which includes reducing its oil and gas production by 40 per cent in the next decade. 

“We see the world wants and needs change, and we want to change, and we see a huge business opportunity in making that change,” he said.

“This is not an altruistic act, but it’s got business sense behind it.”

While a net zero commitment from a company that built its fortunes on fossil fuels might feel like a win, a quick look below the headline announcements reveals a distinct lack of ambition that is out of step with the reality of meeting the Paris commitment.

The stench of greenwash didn’t bypass Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes, who was also on the panel to announce his own company’s net zero plan had got the tick of approval from the stringent Science Based Targets Initiative steering committee.

Cannon-Brookes isn’t the only one on high alert for the latest shade of greenwash: net zero pledges with little or no substance.

Investment bank HSBC’s “net zero ambition” has copped flak from for failing to outline when it plans to stop financing coal, oil and gas projects.

Becky Jarvis, coordinator of campaign group network Fund Our Future UK,

compared this to “saying you’ll give up smoking by 2050, but continuing to buy a pack a week, or even smoking more”.

And as another activist group, Market Forces, quipped: “This is zero ambition, not ‘Net-Zero Ambition’”.

The consensus seems to be anything less than a Science-Based Target – like the one Atlassian has just got – is all smoke and mirrors, or at least, needs a very fine-toothed comb run through it. 

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