While a few businesses are on a mission to save the planet, most companies look at sustainability through a more commercial lens. Reducing energy and materials in use production or cutting waste generation can be a good way to save money. These same “green” practices can also provide a useful differentiator in the market when dealing with ever more environmentally conscious customers.
The major driver for customers in the Australian property construction sector in recent years has come from the Green Star building certification scheme. Used across many of Australia’s major new commercial developments and for significant numbers of fit-out projects, Green Star incentivises the use of sustainable products in a variety of ways. For example, the Responsible Building Materials credits (Credit 20) in the Design and As-Built tool offers points for the use of responsibly sourced steel, certified and/or re-used timber, and PVC-free or best-practice PVC-based plastic products.
Similarly, the Sustainable Products credit (Credit 21) rewards projects for the use of products that are re-used, contain recycled content, have EPDs, are covered by an eligible eco-label (GECA, Green Tag, etc.), or are part of a suitable stewardship programme. In the Green Star Interiors tool, which covers fit out projects, Credit 21 is eligible for a whopping 19 points, creating a huge incentive for architects and contractors to specify eligible products. As such, it offers a potentially huge advantage to those suppliers that can demonstrate their sustainability credentials, opening up access to high-profile, multi-million-dollar contracts with prestige customers.
As a consultant, I often hear claims from manufacturers that they don’t get asked for certifications. But I’m also exposed to the other side of the story, regularly hearing from procurement specialists and designers that desperately want to specify sustainable products but simply can’t find them. Often their searches involve hours trawling manufacturers’ websites looking for information, meaning that suppliers often never realise that they’ve been passed by for not having the right credentials. This communications breakdown is one of the major barriers we collectively have to solve, and where resources like Bookmarc can help by creating a one-stop-shop both for those looking to highlight their environmentally friendly products, and those searching for suitable suppliers for their sustainable building projects.
And it’s important to remember that Green Star is just one driver of many. There are plenty of other initiatives that encourage the use of sustainable products. There’s a myriad of other building rating schemes, from LEED and WELL to the Living Building Challenge that provide incentives similar to those found in Green Star. At the same time property and construction companies are increasingly looking for demonstrably environmentally and socially sustainable products and materials as part of their sustainable procurement policies – a trend that will only increase with the arrival of the Modern Slavery Act (more on that in a later blog).
While I’m not unrealistic enough to think that there is, as yet, a strong business case for all building product companies to go “green”, schemes such as Green Star and other industry trends provide a strong and growing incentive. Different approaches work for different organisations, depending on their target market, the nature of their products and the range that they offer. The key is to take the time to understand whether or not there is something in there for your company, not only today but as part of a long-term business strategy.
And for specifiers, the best piece of advice I can give is simply to let potential suppliers know if you have chosen them (at least in part) because of their sustainability credentials, or have excluded them for having none. Businesses will never act unless they hear from you that they won your custom for that Green Star project, or failed to, because of the efforts they’ve made to be sustainable. A few “better luck next time” emails could help to create a revolution!