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Being Green is no longer a tick the box exercise

By Romilly Madew | March 21st, 2016

Most of us can recall the early green beacons that sent shockwaves through the sector.

Think 30 The Bond in Sydney, with Australia’s first application of chilled beam technology, or Council House 2 in Melbourne, with its iconic yellow wind turbines.

We remember these buildings because, at the time, they were rare gems.

However, a green building, once a disruptive force in the industry, is now business as usual.

Australia has been recognised as the world’s green leader by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark for five years in a row.

A massive 600,000-plus Australians work in Green Star-rated offices; that’s 4.5 per cent of the nation’s workforce.
In an industry always looking for that first mover advantage, what are the disruptive forces shaking things up again?

As we chalk up our hottest global temperatures on record, we must move from “low carbon” to “no carbon”.

The Green Building Council of Australia is working on a new “net zero” label to recognise buildings, fitouts and communities that are energy, carbon or water neutral. Expect net zero to become the new 7 Star Green Star.

“Wellness” is another trend reshaping the industry. Green Star kicked off the conversation by rewarding design and construction choices that enhance indoor environment quality and minimise the use of hazardous chemicals, for example.

However, what happens if the cleaners use harmful products, or the office cafe serves unhealthy food? Organisations are looking at everything from workplace fitness programs to how lighting affects circadian rhythms to help them capitalise on their most important asset: people.

Our understanding of “resilience” is also changing. We can’t adapt to climate change without thinking about how we access fresh food and water, limit urban sprawl, create diverse employment and foster social equity. Melbourne and Sydney have chief resilience officers. And when both cities are expected to double in size over the next 15 years, it’s easy to understand why.

Social sustainability is increasingly in the spotlight as property companies recognise their obligation and opportunity to influence the communities within which they operate. The Homes 4 Homes project, for example, encourages home buyers to donate 0.1 per cent of their sale price to fund social housing for homeless people.

Finally, with workplace equity champion David Morrison named Australian of the Year, expect to see the property industry embrace diversity not because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

This article was originally published at the Sydney Morning Herald, read the original article here.

Sectors: Business

Australia’s economic future lies to the north

By Angela Mentis | August 31st, 2015

It’s time all of Australia realised our playing field is much bigger than we believe. The reality is it is global, but increasingly centred on Asia and its growing middle class. Every day Australian businesses find more ways to move up the value chain and export our products, professional services and expertise.

Our proximity to Asia provides the Australian economy and Australian business with huge opportunities. Today there are an estimated 500 million middle-class people in Asia. That figure is expected to rise to 1.7 billion by 2020 and to more than 3.2 billion by 2030 when they will account for 66 per cent of the global middle class.

By 2050 it is estimated Asian food imports alone will grow by $US470 billion ($655bn), offering opportunities for huge growth in our agricultural exports. Asia’s share of global output has risen from around 15 per cent in 1952 to almost 30 per cent in 2010, and it is forecast to exceed 50 per cent by 2050.

Volatility in sharemarkets globally in the past week illustrates just how important China’s economy is. Investors are right to be watchful, but it is important we take a long-term view. That’s because the potential is enormous. Are we doing our best as a nation to realise that potential? Are we giving Brand Australia every chance to succeed? Free-trade agreements are opening doors in the region, the falling dollar is making Australian business more competitive, and technology can enable a small business to compete with a big one.

As Australia’s biggest business bank, NAB knows well the opportunity for our customers who are facing north. About half of our institutional banking clients, a third of our corporate clients and one in 10 of our SME clients currently trade with Asia because of the opportunities to grow. Australia is uniquely positioned as more of Asia shifts from “build” to “grow and consume”. While resources remain critical to our future, the burgeoning Asian middle-class wants our services — our expertise in health, education, governance and business, financial and professional services. The demand for agriculture grows daily because in Asia, where food security is paramount, Brand Australia means clean, green and fresh.

Australian businesses growing north include Shepparton-based Pactum Dairy Group which NAB helped introduce to then develop a relationship with China’s Bright Foods and New Hope Group, resulting in a supply agreement for high-quality milk. And then there’s Skybury Tropical Plantation from far north Queensland. Skybury is experiencing growing demand for its single-origin Arabica coffee among coffee lovers in Asia. These are just two of many Australian companies whose futures are being propelled by the Asian demand for Australian produce and expertise.

The opportunity in Asia is not limited to exports. We also see our role for Australian business and the economy as the bridge that extends both ways. Just as the trade flows shift north, increasingly the investment flows are coming south from Asia. I was recently in Hong Kong and Singapore with major clients and institutions who are hungry for opportunities in Australia because of the long-term value. They have the capital to invest and are attracted by our natural resources, stability as a nation and economy; and in particular the huge potential pipeline of infrastructure ripe for investment.

This long-term approach our Asian clients take is something Australia’s political and business leaders must heed, and the National Reform Summit co-hosted by The Australian and The Australian Financial Review last Wednesday is a show of intent. But the hard work is ahead of us. We must think and act long-term if we are to not just talk and plan for the next phase of nation-building but deliver it.

In these pages two weekends ago, The Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan warned of the risk to Australia’s business reputation posed by the mixed signals sent to investors through decisions such as the cancellation of contracts for the East West Link in Melbourne and campaigns against the China free-trade agreement. My meetings in Asia tell me these investor concerns are real.

The nation must recognise and remember that foreign investment brings new wealth, new opportunity and jobs. That’s why NAB’s submission to Infrastructure Australia’s first national infrastructure audit advocates for certainty over which projects will be developed. NAB argues government policy needs to be formed on the back of an agreed plan of infrastructure priorities, based on transparent cost-benefit analysis. This will help realise priority projects by assuring investor confidence — confidence vital at a time when Australia is competing with other markets for investment.

Corporate Australia has a significant role to play in advocating for reforms to ensure Australia’s long-term infrastructure requirements are met, but this leadership must extend to our elected representatives. A bipartisan and depoliticised long-term approach has the capacity to deliver greater confidence in the infrastructure pipeline, thereby elevating Australia as a preferred destination for offshore capital.

Our future is in facing north. The potential and possibility is there for enduring growth for the prosperity of generations to come. Build Brand Australia and build our nation.

This article was originally published at The Australian.

Sectors: Business, Finance

Australia needs to fix management pipeline to get female CEOs

By Annalisa Haskell | April 30th, 2015

We keep lamenting and wringing our hands about Australia’s appalling progress on gender equality in the senior leadership of our companies’ boardrooms, business tables, small businesses, academic institutions and, even in my own local government industry, which is proudly focused on community representation.

No one debates that it seems odd there is a dearth of female talent at the top when we have, for quite a while, educated our girls at what appears to be an even faster rate than the boys. But one thing’s overlooked and it’s not rocket science.

In Australia today (and for some time) there is not anywhere near an equivalent pipeline of female managers, ie people responsible for operational line management decisions such as budgets, projects and people. There are a twice as many male managers than female managers.

It’s a fact that if there is less in the bottom, then there must be less at the top.

This is true even in local government, where we are committed to having community representation, diversity and supportive flexible work practices (under a hugely generous industrial relations framework). Our recent local government workforce results from what has been probably a world-first collaboration with my organisation, PwC and 80 NSW councils, quantitatively reinforces this picture. We already knew women were missing as councillors (23 per cent of all mayors and 30 per cent of all councillors nationally) – they are also missing from management.

You don’t get to the senior leadership heights if you have not travelled through lower and middle-management ranks first. That means getting the best talent into a first-time manager role and then promoting on merit into upper management. This requires focus and confidence in the skilled individual and commitment from organisations.

So why are Australia’s gender pipelines very different sizes?

INDUSTRY FOCUS

Goldman Sachs and JB Were’s 2009 report, Australia’s Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Female Participation, quantified startling realities and it has little to do with the fact many women become parents at a time their careers take off. Women all around the world have children and a lot more of them are leading international business and government when compared with Australia.

The facts are: Australian women are overly concentrated in very specific industries – education and training, health and social assistance, and retail, and are only half as likely to become managers (despite them being equally likely to be in full-time roles in a professional capacity).

Management skills are a fundamental stepping stone to leadership. It builds confidence and competency in: decision-making, resource management, self-accountability. It’s also competitive and requires effective communication skills and emotional intelligence. Managing and motivating others different to you, builds personal and professional resilience. So if women are not there to start with, then they miss this critical development and will continue to be relegated to “support roles”.

This is the unspoken issue of the talent debate missing.

In NSW local government, not only do we see mirror images of low female managers (31 per cent), it’s lower again in the larger, complex and asset-intensive councils (28 per cent). Precisely where there should be more opportunity, there is less, which seems counter-intuitive.

FACTORS

What’s going wrong and when? The answer may lie in a combination of environmental factors.

Children live up to expectations. Are we setting equally high expectations of our daughters as our sons? It’s clear it is the girls that are not completing the foundation subjects such as year 12 maths, which is in worrying relative decline.

Are we ensuring girls are making highly strategic, as opposed to convenient or safe, career choices? Are they being set to build transferable skills for the longer term? Are they properly being informed and considering the risks and trade-offs of industry choices (high vs low paid) and subjects (breadth vs specialist)? And why are we so keen to: a) push the merits of fitting careers around having families, rather than force the adult discussion (finally!) as to how childcare system is a necessary support for everyone’s careers or b) sell the populist “work part time” mantra. Anyone with business experience knows its career suicide unless you are in enviable positions of having built some professional power (for example, an experienced lawyer) or you are lucky to work for a large, enlightened, Australian company or multinational. Both are rare.

Serious career-planning to build transferable skills over the long term needs to be the focus. Continuing to pat ourselves on the back about how well we educate our women is just not addressing the absence of skilled women across our varied industries. But the most worrying thing, regardless, is the alarming, continued over-representation of our working, skilled women in support functions and not line management.

Let’s stop lamenting and get cracking. Parents, schools, universities, business and government need take responsibility to plug the gap together for the future economic and social health of our girls and our economic and social future.

Annalisa Haskell is chief executive officer of the Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW, and a director of YMCA NSW.

This article was originally published at the AFR here.

Sectors: Business