More than 14 years ago, Australian property and infrastructure group Lendlease made the decision to “go green”. Today, sustainability is our core guiding principle. What are some of the things we can share with aspiring companies in Singapore?
According to a United Nations Environment Programme study, buildings and construction together account for 36% of global energy use and 39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) estimates that the building sector consumes up to 38% of the nation’s electricity.
To ensure that Singapore remains a vibrant and liveable city for current and future generations, the government has designated 2018 as the year of climate action. To achieve its longterm goals, Singapore is pursuing four strategies: improving energy efficiency; reducing carbon emissions from power generation; developing and demonstrating cutting-edge low-carbon technologies; and emphasising the collective action of government agencies, individuals, businesses and the community.
Lendlease’s mall in prime Orchard Road Singapore, 313@Somerset (Pictures: Lendlease)
The multiple benefits of such activities are well documented. Less so are the opportunities and the simple question of “where do we start?”
Road to sustainability
While there has been great support to embrace Green Mark certification to drive sustainability in new and existing buildings, it takes more than execution to walk the talk. Very often, it extends to the very ethos of the company and this is where some companies can find opportunities to drive change.
1. A case of push and pull: Defining sustainability
As a property and infrastructure group, our vision is to create a sense of place, pride and purpose — for people from all walks of life. As our founder, Dick Dussledorp, said in 1973, “There are two things in life. You can be out for the maximum amount of profit you can possibly squeeze from your effort, or you can aim at a reasonable profit and have a feeling that you leave something behind.” It has always been his view that the company should make a genuine and meaningful contribution to the community. This consciousness was pervasive in the company right from the start.
So, when a 1992 report on water shortages, congested transport and increasing energy demands challenged building practices in Australia, we took a hard look at how we ran the business and made a pledge to change the way we operate.
Simon Wild is head of sustainability for Asia at Lendlease and is based in Singapore
Without any framework to refer to, we started small with an interim initiative called the environmentally sustainable development process (ESD). It would require us to kick start any project with a consultative approach with all stakeholders — owners, the community, authorities, subject matter experts — that had local and national interests. This then led to formulating a management strategy, performance criteria and tracking method to ensure delivery against the targets.
It was when things came to a head in the early 2000s that we had to take a harder look in the mirror. With an economic crisis, we went through a down cycle, which affected our stock performance and employee confidence. We were also having trouble attracting talent and our taking-on of the relocation and rebuilding of the old Bond Building in 2002 in one of the most contaminated sites in Sydney was causing alarm on all fronts.
Spurred by economics, business and changing demographics, we bravely took this time to rethink a corporate strategy to revitalise Lendlease and re-establish our reputation as the leading property group in the industry. Equally important was our need to rebuild employee and shareholder confidence for the future of the company.
The Bond project was an experiment in which we tested our new sustainability philosophy push by focusing on lowering greenhouse gas emissions. During this time, we were also aware of the “sick building syndrome” driving occupant health problems and, through workspace design, we aimed to improve indoor environment quality. We also made a commitment to engage the community during the development and construction phases.
At 313@Somerset, we have also installed solar panels on the roof to harness the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity, which enables energy generation within the center and lower energy use
The Bond project was a huge success and gave our fledgling sustainability practices the validation it they needed and a boost to our reputation. It was the first office building in Australia to receive the five-star greenhouse rating under the Australian Building Greenhouse Rating scheme and has one of the lowest running and maintenance costs of any building of its size, signalling long-term costs savings. This reinforced our reputation as a builder of efficient and resilient buildings that maintain their value over the longer term.
In 2004, we signed a sustainability covenant with Environment Protection Authority Victoria to work together to protect and contribute to a more sustainable environment. The aim of this declaration was to ensure that Lendlease was empowered to develop a strategic approach to sustainability issues. In hindsight, it was a precursor to the Sustainability Framework we introduced in 2014.
Today, our Sustainability Framework is a more refined and detailed pledge that responds to the macro trends affecting our world and defines what sustainability means to our business and what we want to achieve in the long term. So, defining what sustainability means to your company will help to focus efforts that are aligned with your business strategy to establish effective and clear communication on sustainability with your stakeholders.
2. Taking a bottom-up approach
A sustainability framework, which pilots the company towards achieving its environmental objectives and metrics for success, also needs to create operational impact. Funnelling down to the specifics of how the framework will be delivered on a day-to-day basis drives organisational performance and success in this crucial area.
In our case, we focused on being operationally efficient, which meant that we had to be mindful of our usage of a) energy and b) water and c) how we tackled waste. Aligning what we were doing on the ground to the overall strategy meant constant reviews, tracking of performance and adjustment of plans. This requires concerted efforts across different business units within the organisation to see it through: from people on the ground to middle management who report and evaluate to long-term commitment from senior management.
3. Driving innovation through sustainability
By taking the long-term view, we found that over time our adoption of sustainability practices — rather than being restrictive — encouraged us to pursue new and complementary areas of improvement. As we were always looking at ways to improve and reduce, we explored a wide range of technological innovations.
For example, at Paya Lebar Quarter, we implemented high-efficiency water fittings, along with monitoring and leak detection systems, a move that is expected to save more than 40% of water (and costs) annually. We also anticipate energy savings of more than 30% from a variety of design solutions, such as high-performance façades and the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
At 313@Somerset, we have also installed solar panels on the roof to harness the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity, which enables energy generation within the centre and lowers energy use.
Across our retail assets, we have installed food waste digesters to help manage food waste by converting it into non-potable water, helping us reduce disposal costs. Moreover, data collected will help better manage food waste in our malls.
Meanwhile, at the construction site, we implemented Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) technologies, which resulted in greater labour efficiency, and a reduction in on-site noise, air pollution and waste, as many construction works are done off-site.
We have installed food waste digesters at all our retail assets to help manage food waste by converting food waste into non-potable water, helping us to reduce disposal costs
4. Being tenacious It has been a roller-coaster journey at times, but the outcomes have been immensely rewarding. We are proud to say that, in FY2017, 98% of our development pipeline has either achieved or is targeting green certification globally. In addition, we are pleased to report meaningful progress against our 2020 reduction targets of 20% for energy, water and waste.
Everyone plays a part
Drawing from our experience, we believe companies have a huge untapped potential to steer public discourse and change mindsets by pledging climate action at their own places of work.
Having a vision, commitment from senior management, empowered people on the ground and alignment of processes, as well as aspiring to best practices and standards are critical to companywide engagement. By constantly engaging colleagues and employees on ways to fight climate change together internally and externally, the workplace can be a pivotal piece of the puzzle in fighting climate change in Singapore.
Looking back, we are proud at how far we have come at realising our founder’s desire to make a positive impact on society. It has given us enormous satisfaction while building a strong corporate identity. We hope our story inspires Singapore companies to do the same. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
Simon Wild is head of sustainability for Asia at Lendlease and is based in Singapore
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