When asking building design clients about the use of non-toxic vs. toxic paints to adorn their board rooms, as opposed to their child’s room at home, the answer may have come down to cost in the past.

Yet a new era of caring and corporate responsibility has dawned, thanks to widely used systems like the sustainability certified projects and the rating schemes certifying them. Plans such as the Green Star®, the International WELL™ Building Standard (WELL™), the Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating tool, EarthCheck®, the Living Building Challenge (LBC), EnviroDevelopment, the United States rating tool LEED, and sustainability frameworks such as ‘One Planet Living’. And the reason comes down to public demand.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) indicates the presence of 2,350 Green Star certifications, 40% Green Star certified office and retail space, ecofriendly offices for 6% of the workforce; the daily attendance of 3 million citizens at a Green Star-rated shopping centre; the residence of 60,000 citizens in Green Star apartments; 480,000 residents relocating to Green Star residential communities.

The WELL™ program has certified about 40% of commercial interiors for the health value of their fitout and corporate operations. Says Rick Fedrizzi, the WELL™ CEO,  performance testing stands at the core of the program, which takes into account more than 60 performance indicators, involving more than 20 tests and employing more than 10 pieces of equipment to verify building performance. At this time, Australia is now the third largest WELL market.

The reason for this is simple: These days, sustainability counts.

Mobium Group’s ‘Living LOHAS 6’ report, prepared in 2019, discovered that The market or LOHAS consumer products has burgeoned from $12bn in 2007 to $30Bn in 2018 and is set to triple by the year 2021. The Food & Nutrition, Buildings & Energy and Transport & Leisure categories have expanded by about $1Bn in spend throughout the past four years…

Government driven, non-consumer/user related projects such as infrastructure are driving the sustainability drive as leaders bend to voter pressure. The ‘IS’ rating tool, which encompasses more than $100 billion worth of projects under certification, and sustainable product certification by acknowledged third party certifiers like Global GreenTag, is an important consideration to get better ratings.

Ultimately, people must be educated about sustainable products, and informed about their quality, reliability and consistency as well.

Ultimately, the promotion and popularity of sustainable products can be attributed to the prevalence of catastrophic problems such as climate change, bushfires, drought, storms, cyclones, coral bleaching, animal and ecosystem deaths, plastic pollution, and COVID-19; and, more positively, by the rise of a younger generation that is now of voting age.

The Lowy Institute in 2019 revealed that six of 10 Australians believe that global warming is a serious issue. And young people in particular express greater concern, with 76 percent of Australians ages 18-44 identifying global warming as a serious issue—as opposed to half of Australians aged over 45.

Fossil fuel energy is on the decline, and the prices of renewable, battery and other storage and electric vehicles are on the decline. And businesses that engage in carbon intensive activities risk major blowback from the public, from customers, from investors, etc.

ASIC now lists climate change as risks that must be considered in structural prospectuses and other disclosures made by companies. They must be forthcoming in reporting their activities, risks, mitigation strategies, etc.

It’s no surprise that the real estate sector is at the forefront of the sustainability movement. Their investments are at stake, and they recognize the intense value of green offices in ensuring employee health and productivity.

This is the same reason that building designers and others in the industry are embracing sustainability—as they should. Sustainable products, in their endless health and environmental value, truly are the wave of the future—in Australia and around the world.