Home' Inclean : INCLEAN Spt-Oct 2016 Contents 50 INCLEAN September/October 2016
Net zero emissions
Without doubt, the most exciting recent
development in sustainability was the
historic Paris Climate Agreement forged
between 195 countries at the end of
2015. As one of the signatories, Australia
is now committed to reaching net zero
emissions by 2050.
This agreement adds weight to a growing sense of urgency about
addressing climate change following several record-breaking events
including: the hottest global temperature in March 2016, according
to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and the largest coral
bleaching and die-off in the Great Barrier Reef due to warmer oceans.
Whether they are convinced that the burning of fossil fuels is the cause
or not, most leaders acknowledge that our global climate is heating up
dangerously and that there is a high risk that humans are contributing
to it. Smart governments and businesses are doing what they always do
when facing risk – they are weighing up the cost of action against the
potential cost of inaction. And with the future liveability of the planet
at stake, they have wisely decided to take action.
Climate action is back on the agenda
The Paris Climate Agreement means that climate action and
environmental sustainability are back on the political and
boardroom agenda. Your clients, customers and the general public
will again be expecting you to take sustainability seriously, but this
time they will expect hard evidence that you are.
The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmarking (GRESB)
survey collects sustainability performance information from property
companies and funds across the world. Last year they reported that
expectations were changing rapidly in the global property industry:
‘Investors, owners, tenants, regulators and other stakeholders are
asking for greater levels of transparency in general, and specifically
with respect to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues’.
Zero carbon buildings need energy
efficient appliances and equipment
Because buildings consume almost 25 per cent of Australia’s energy,
with nearly half of that coming from commercial buildings, they play
a significant role in addressing climate change. According to The
Low Carbon, High Performance Report produced by ClimateWorks
for the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC),
emissions from commercial property have actually fallen 2 per cent
since 2005, despite rapid growth in the same period. This is really
encouraging and important for facility management services.
The chief executive of the Property Council of Australia (PCA),
Ken Morrison, puts it this way: “This decoupling of growth and
carbon emissions is the holy grail of climate change policy makers.
It’s why energy efficiency is the underdog policy option that deserves
a second look.”
The PCA recently launched a paper called Five Good Ideas for a
Sustainable Future. It lists one of the five opportunities for reducing
emissions and achieving ‘zero carbon buildings’, as being energy efficiency
and improvements in the efficiency of appliances and equipment.
Therefore any cleaning initiative that can reduce energy consumption
will become hot property, such as vacuum cleaners or service
scheduling – as long as you can measure and verify the savings.
Zero waste initiatives
In a new report by the World Economic Forum, most plastic
packaging is used only once. This means that 95 per cent of the
value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion to $120
billion annually, is lost to the economy. Alarmingly, the report also
predicts that oceans will contain more weight of plastic than fish by
2050 if we continue with business as usual.
For multi-nationals such as Dell, GM and Unilever, environmental
sustainability is fundamental to the sustainability of their business.
Safeguarding their supply of raw materials in a rapidly growing
global population is a very real challenge. Resource and waste
efficiency is one way they can address it.
In 2014, Unilever achieved a zero-waste target of non-hazardous
materials at all their Australian sites while Dell achieved 95 per cent
in internationally. Do these zero-waste programs cost more to run?
No, because they are turning their waste into profit. GM have made
up to $1 billion in recent years from recycling, with profits going
back into clean-energy technologies and innovations.
However, zero waste initiatives can only work with collaboration
from stakeholders – the suppliers and end-users. Last month Unilever
announced a goal to achieve zero-waste in their corporate offices
too. You can be sure they will want washroom consumables and
materials that eliminate packaging waste and encourage responsible
usage by their staff, and cleaning services that can offer innovative
I’m waiting for an Australian cleaning supply distributor to offer a
chemical container collection and reuse system, by turning this currently
wasted resource into a profit. It’s an opportunity waiting to happen.
*Bridget Gardner is director of Fresh Green Clean,
Zero-emissions and zero-waste by 2050
Governments and leading organisations are setting targets of zero-emissions and zero-
waste by 2050. That may seem like a long way off but the implications and opportunities
for business are already here and resource efficiency is the key. Fresh Green Clean’s Bridget
Gardner shares her insights.
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