A few months ago I was in the United States, where both Earth Hour & World Water Day were promoted on huge billboards normally reserved for the latest movie blockbuster.
Meanwhile West Hollywood was abuzz celebrating the launch of H&M’s new ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection, a range made of ethically sourced, sustainable fabrics, including recycled fabrics. In April the ‘Fashion Revolution’ remembered the victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse, calling on consumers to ask ‘Who Made Your Clothes’.
Elsewhere waiters in cafes and restaurants embraced farm-to-fork, explaining the provenance of food from local suppliers to certified organic coffee from women-owned Peruvian plantations.
It’s clear: green isn’t the new black, sustainable and ethical choice is.
As Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion is architecture”. Real estate has become another luxury item and I say building design and fitout follows fashion. And so the property industry needs to step up.
Some say we’re already there, or at least well on our way. But are we?
I’d say it is not just about complying with government regulations and stating a commitment to building green. Nor is it enough to have a sustainability report or achieve credits for certification. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s none of those things. It’s when there is no need for a separate sustainability report – not because it doesn’t matter anymore, but because it’s an integral part of the company’s business strategy, operations and culture. And, flowing from that, when certification is not the goal but, rather, good business.
It’s when the CEO lives and breathes sustainability – supported by an engaged Board of Directors; when the motive is doing good rather than simply less bad; and when corporate values are lived – rather than mere words on a website. This is when sustainability goes beyond the company’s corporate headquarters or the buildings that are designed, built and managed, into authentic employee, supplier and customer engagement; where the value goes to the communities in which the organisation operates and to the outer reaches of its influence to awareness and transparency around the supply chain. Just like we are seeing in the fashion industry.
In late April I went to Mumbai to discuss supply chain and sustainability strategy. Where is the supply chain sustainability strategy of any leading Australian property company?