Last week’s blog post was about my speaking engagement at the Responsible Travel Symposium. It reminded me of the presentation I made made back in July I presented at the 7th Making Cities Liveable Conference, so the purpose of this article is to features the presentation and main points from the speech. The conference, also known as “Healthy Cities” is a conference series that will turn eight next year. The event concept is for the 2015 edition captures much of what the 2014 conference was about: “With three-quarters of Australians living in 18 major cities, the way cities are developed is vitally important to accommodate future growth and change. The conference will examine the challenges, opportunities, trends and issues currently facing cities and future development.”

Opening slide for the Making Cities Liveable Conference 2014
Opening slide for the Making Cities Liveable Conference 2014

I personally enjoyed delivering a presentation that had few words per slide: concise, punchy and visual. Certainly a contrast from what one normally sees at conferences! The goal of the presentation was to demonstrate how carbon offsetting can be used to create shared value for local councils. That is, to not only achieve the social and environmental good of reduced carbon and its broader co-benefits, but generate broader value. I talked about how councils use carbon offsetting to drive supply chain change through its suppliers, engage volunteers, match their residents’ values, educate them about sustainable living, and instil a consciousness of global social responsibility into children and parents.

“The Carbon Domino: How a simple carbon mitigation action provided value to the whole Council” – my presentation at the 7th Making Cities Liveable Conference 2014

My speech:

As I had the Healthy Cities conference website open, keen to submit an abstract to deliver a presentation to talk about carbon for Council, I realised I needed a catchy title for this presentation and what came to mind was “the carbon domino”.

What is this carbon domino?

When I ask to people active in Council on the specific topic of carbon, I often get stuck into a closed conversation about targets: a sharp focus on reporting and tracking carbon metrics, working towards the achievement of a set number goal. Occasionally, the topic turns to politics and the impact that the last elections have had on perceptions of carbon and climate change. Inevitably, the conversation turns to a sad story of underfunding, lack of resources, difficulty in getting a winning business case over the line. It’s not easy!

The goal of my presentation today is to flip that around and talk about value: the value that innovative carbon projects and initiatives can bring to Council. I will do that by going through a few case studies of how my local Council clients create shared value; create a domino effect, if you will, and positively impact other departments simultaneous to the sustainability department. Through these case studies, we will find out what the carbon domino is.

Now, I mentioned “creating shared value”, a concept popularised in the corporate world by Michael Porter, which is currently all the buzz in Australia in the corporate world. Mirvac’s “This Changes Everything” is a prime example of an organisation making money or achieving its corporate goals with a social and environmental initiative or approach. Property firms and financial institutions in Australia caught onto this in 2012 and 2013, Michael Porter wrote about this in 2011, and back in 2009 WWF International commissioned a research project on the business case for climate mitigation. This project was called “Climate Innovation Case Studies” and I was a Research Consultant for this project. The goal was to capture global best case practices in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit to teach organisations how a carbon mitigation action can provide benefit and value outside of the simple objective of achieving a target, and actually benefit the fundamental KPIs and goals of the business.

Now as a Business Development Manager for Climate Friendly, I interact daily with organisations and sustainability managers, champions or sub-committee leaders on how to maximise the business value from sustainability. I work with the likes of Unilever, Hitachi, Local Government Super, Green Building Council of Australia and Water Corp, and Climate Friendly’s business in general boasts The Body Shop Australia, PwC, Hilton Hotels and Fuji Xerox. At a global level, we work with UEFA – yes, we kick goals for the environment (World Cup reference, check!).

Needless to say, I also work very closely with local government. That’s why I was at the Best Practices in Local Government conference back in May, and that’s one of the reasons I am here at Healthy Cities. I am driven to using my experience looking at global best case practices and working with corporate champions of “creating shared value”, and bringing this approach to local government. Fortunately, there are a number of exciting switched on councils to draw inspiration from.

Now it goes without saying that a key way to create shared value with carbon is to work on energy cost reduction projects: energy efficiency and renewable energy. While it is important to please the finance departments and the balance sheets, these solutions are more about reducing cost rather than producing value. One challenge we at Climate Friendly have been trying to crack since developing capabilities in this area is: how can we get a council’s staff or residents excited about a lighting upgrade in the council building. It’s really quite a dry story for non-sustainability people. The carbon domino case studies actually come across as much better value generating initiatives…

The City of Melbourne is using its position as a carbon neutral council to encourage their suppliers to demonstrate their carbon credentials. In effect, it is using its position as a major and influential buyer to encourage businesses to be more carbon conscious. One example is Spotless Facility Services, which has made a commitment to offering a carbon neutral street cleaning service to them.

A few years ago, Randwick City Council offset their emissions from fleet – by offsetting something as visible as its fleet, its staff had a better appreciation for sustainable behaviours it could take in driving and other things.

Leichhardt Council have a Bush Care Volunteering Program, and to reward their volunteers they retire carbon offsets in their name based on the number of hours they contribute. The most active volunteer of 2013 offered 392 hours of her time and was rewarded with 59 tonnes of offsets bought from a fantastic project in Tasmania.

The Council of the Municipality of Lane Cove used “the carbon domino” for their Sustainability Lane, which is designed to improve residents’ understanding and appreciation of climate change and sustainable behaviours at home.

Nillumbik, the Green Wedge Shire in Victoria, recognise that carbon neutrality is simply something their residents are excited about as a part of their interest and pride in nature, conservation and sustainability

Sunshine Coast Council have it in their goals to systematically go through their building portfolio and apply “the carbon domino” to them, make them carbon neutral. They have chosen strategic sites such as libraries, presumably with a similar objective to…

Moonee Valley City Council in Victoria, who offset childcare centre buildings and use the wonderful stories of these carbon projects to engage children and parents. They talk to kids, Mums and Dads about international cultures, social and environmental issues, the topic of climate change, and in turn try to instil a consciousness of global social responsibility.

Stories such as, going from left to right and top to down:

  • Educating Islamic women in Indonesia: providing books, school infrastructure, sewing courses and donation funding
  • Free mobile health clinics in Thailand for rural residents to help the community improve its health
  • Protecting the native habitats of orang-utans in Malaysia by preventing deforestation and strengthening native flora and fauna
  • Reducing the respiratory diseases of Cambodian women and children by giving them more efficient cookstoves that dramatically reduce the carbon monoxide and soot fumes that indoor household cooking generates
  • Exciting nursery age children in Turkey with a projector and a basketball court so they can become better basketball players
  • Cleaning the air of the world’s most polluted cities of India and China with renewable energy power stations as opposed to dirty dangerous unhealthy fossil fuels

And finally… protecting the native forest of Tasmania…

You may have heard a few weeks ago the Australian Government applied to the United Nations to take the Tasmanian wilderness off the UNESCO World Heritage Listing. Where the political will is fighting against the preservation of an iconic part of the Australian landscape, this project strives to keep it alive. Moreover, the forest area protected from logging by this project hosts the native habitat of the Tasmanian Devil. So when our good friends at Zoos Victoria, Taronga Zoo and other zoologists and scientists are able to bring their populations to a sustainable level and be reintroduced into the wild, they have their native habitats to come back to. Their real homes. What a great story. And for what it’s worth, we are the preferred suppliers of credits from this project.

So if you didn’t already figure it out, the carbon domino is carbon offsets. Reducing your net carbon footprint by supporting projects that prevent it elsewhere, all while delivering real, tangible, measurable sustainability benefits that fund and deliver community and development benefits that otherwise would not occur.

If there’s one thing I want you to come away from this presentation with, it is that carbon finance is a mechanism that delivers value. Value for suppliers, marketing, event management, fleet, legal and compliance, volunteer engagement, education and awareness, resident satisfaction, buildings, and connecting with the community. Carbon offsets are the carbon domino.

Thank you.

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