Charter Hall and Cbus Property’s 171 Collins Street recently achieved a record NABERS Waste rating. We dig deep beneath the rating to learn the lessons from the leaders.
“We do not believe managing waste is expensive,” says Cbus Property’s chief executive officer, Adrian Pozzo. “When we get buy-in from everyone, the dollars are negligible.”
It does require engagement along the entire value chain, Pozzo adds.
“You have to take a behavioural, common sense position on waste – from the developer to investor to property manager to tenant. But when you do, there is no real cost impost. And the tenant customer wins because their outgoings are less.”
According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority, more than three quarters of the typical commercial office waste bin is filled with paper and cardboard, a further 12 per cent is food waste and six per cent is glass. All of this can be recycled – and when it is, the Better Buildings Partnership estimates the saving amounts to around 10 per cent.
NABERS Waste benchmarks buildings against best practice waste generation, recycling and resource recovery, as well as supply chain management; and tracks an eye-watering 51 waste streams.
“Time is the biggest commitment in a NABERS Waste rating,” says Charter Hall’s regional portfolio manager for Victoria and South Australia, Nicole Ward.
All waste leaving the 17-level office tower is tracked daily. Bins are separated by tenancy and floor to track waste on a micro level, and waste audits are undertaken twice a year.
Monthly waste monitoring, undertaken by Ausnviro, identifies trends and areas for improvement. This gives Knight Frank’s facilities management team the critical reference points they need when talking with tenant customers BHP, Evans & Partners and VicSuper.
Alongside the usual waste streams – co-mingled recycling, paper and cardboard, organic material and general waste – 171 Collins Street also has facilities to recycle coffee cups, batteries, printer cartridges, hand towels and coffee pods.
“We constantly communicate with our tenant customers and share reports – there’s a real ownership among them and a little bit of healthy competition not to let their recycling rates slip,” Ward explains.
But educating the 2,000-plus people who work in 171 Collins Street on good waste management isn’t always easy. People often think they are doing the right thing, Ward explains, like tossing the hand towels in with the paper recycling or soft plastics in with hard plastic. Constant education without bombarding people is a delicate balancing act.
Empowering the building’s cleaners, given they are directly managing a lot of the waste and conduct the regular audits by hand, is also mission critical.
“Our cleaning team is proud to work in a building with Australia’s best NABERS Waste rating. They have a real sense of ownership over the achievement,” Ward adds.
Scaling up sustainability
Cbus Property and Charter Hall are now taking the lessons learnt from 171 Collins Street to other properties in their respective portfolios.
Pozzo says Cbus Property will continue to apply its knowledge to other investments, as part of a broader vision to reach 75 per cent recycling rates across the fund’s commercial office portfolio by 2022. This sits alongside Cbus Property’s net zero commitment by 2030 – a commitment Charter Hall has also made.
“We want to be at the forefront of innovation in sustainability,” Pozzo says. Last year, Cbus Property was ranked second of 964 companies by GRESB. “I know it is a small portfolio, but it’s a premium portfolio and we have the backing of our fund to continue to innovate,” he says.
“It’s about adding up all the little things to return a positive – to the environment and to people. Our fund will be here forever, so we look at investments where we can leave a lasting imprint,” he says.
Ward says Charter Hall’s investment in long-term initiatives, such as the industry leading waste management program at 171 Collins Street, is part of the group’s climate resilience policy.
“We have Australia’s largest Green Star rated portfolio and are investing in renewables and managing down all forms of waste to reduce our footprint. Going further, driving new technology innovations and partnering with our tenant customers will ensure we’re able to meet our sustainability goals and be prepared for future challenges,” she says.
Carlos Flores, NABERS’ director, says the NABERS Waste tool is “empowering businesses to lead Australia’s transition to a circular economy”.
“We are seeing a significant increase in commercial buildings using NABERS Waste, and it is quickly becoming the industry standard for commercial buildings to correctly manage their waste and material flows,” Flores says.
The main lesson from 171 Collins Street?
“Consistent communication and collaboration with our tenant customers,” Ward explains.
“Leadership in waste management is about continual improvement. Whether your building’s recycling rate is 10 per cent or 74 per cent, if you can improve year-on-year, you are doing the right thing.”