A note from Tina Perinotto, editor and founder of The Green List and The Fifth Estate

Tina Perinotto

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Photo by Aaron Burden from Pexels

As more of us are starting to emerge from these strange COVID times (maybe not all Melburnians, sadly) it’s delightful to see The Green List is likewise rising from a slight hibernation and growing strongly again! In honour of all the people, businesses and organisations on board, we’re taking a green business focus this issue, with special guest columnist Lisa Tracy from Turning Green, a specialist sustainability strategy adviser and coach sharing her years’ of experience and observation.

Passivhaus Design & Construct

First though, we’re excited to welcome to TGL the extraordinary team at Passivhaus Design & Construct, based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

We’ve been speaking to the company’s creators Dick Clarke and Andy Marlow of Envirotecture pretty much ever since we kicked off The Fifth Estate more than 11 years ago (I know, I know, we’re almost establishment now over at TFE).

Thing is, the more we get to know and understand the Passivhaus system, also known as Passive House, the more it seems absolutely the best way to go in building homes an dother buildings. You can tell by the passion of the people who love it that it’s something special. As Dick and Andy say, one visit to a PH and “you’re hooked”.

The more I learn about it the more convinced I am…But what is it exactly? It’s clean and fresh and healthy, sure. But in the end, when it boils down to it, I’ve also heard it said it’s no more and no less than a way to build houses and buildings the way they should be built. With quality and care. With no incidental gaps, lazy construction or poor performing materials substituted for proper ones while the person paying the bills isn’t looking. What you get with PH is what we should always get: a well-designed, well-functioning, low bills place to home or office, or other building for that matter. Keep an eye on TFE to see how this industry is evolving.

Box Forest Consulting

We also welcome a new legal service Box Forest Consulting run by Mick Coleman, a former partner at top tier law firm Mills Oakley. Mick’s idea is to streamline business models so that emerging social enterprises, charities or sustainable start up can afford his services.

Now isn’t that a great case of the law working for good?

After COVI

So, how’s everyone faring under/after COVID? Many people are still feeling a bit shaky legged, waiting to see what the economic and social trends bring our way.

That’s the macro environment that we have little control over. But the macro environment can be both positive and negative. On the negative side unfortunately, no matter how sustainable or worthy our businesses or organisation is, we can all feel the raw impacts of its machinations.

The most we can do is understand how the macro events impact on our micro environment, our own business, and decide how to respond. Do a 360 examination of our skills and capacity to find new avenues of financial stability. Like the joinery business we heard about that had a booming business in making props for live events and after COVID suddenly found new customers by creating workstations for the home.

For TFE, it’s been a case of looking at our strengths and spreading our eggs, albeit  more thinly, among more baskets. Part of that has been asking for support by calling for more members and it’s been fantastic to see that grow. Of course, we need to do more and provide more and better value for our readers (watch this space) but the most encouraging thing is the strength of moral support that’s come our way. The message is to “keep going”, “you’re doing a great job”. When I think about it, it’s provided a kind of emotional capital that’s very encouraging.

The big trends are towards sustainability and climate action

More than anything though, it’s an important signal: the macro environment isn’t all negative. There are huge positive trends for sustainability everywhere we look: in consumer preferences, in surveys of support for climate action, in the impatience with slow moving governments and policies.

As we peek out from our hibernating caves I’ve been amazed at the strength of these sentiments and preferences. If we thought that COVID would wipe out the existential wake-up call of our summer fires, think again. The momentum for climate action and sustainability is now stronger than ever and it’s global, impacting everything from political and consumer preferences to the ways big corporates and institutions are trying to reposition themselves.

Rebecca Huntley the well known social commentator reinforces that point in an interview about her new book How to Talk about Climate Change in a Way that Makes a Difference. Despite COVID, she says, the momentum behind change is growing stronger, not weaker.

That’s the business we are all in, providing the goods and services that will transition our world to a more sustainable platform.

But how do we deal with the immediate tough stuff around finance?

When cashflow is tight there are two choices: cut costs or grow (without consuming more of the earth’s resources).

COVID has also taught so many of us how to live with less. How little material goods and services we actually need to feel a reasonably contented life. Friends, family and neighbourhood aren’t a bad substitute for work colleagues.

Sustainable growth is a key strategy

But on the growth side, the trick is to look for new opportunities. Read widely, allow our minds to wander freely and play with thoughts that might or might not lead somewhere. At The Fifth Estate we’re trying to help by focusing on businesses that are finding green niches.

Last year we started up a new business focused column called Green Gigs to help.

The idea is to highlight some of the sustainability related programs and projects put out by government agencies through tender offers, as well as other opportunities through grants, accelerator programs and more.

Recent columns, for instance, focused on NSW government offers of funding to help manufacturers upgrade equipment and optimise energy metering.

There’s up to $70,000 on offer for each site and includes options such as boilers/chillers, new fuel or electricity-based systems or a heat recovery unit.

Energy metering and monitoring is also on the cards for up to $50,000 for each project.

In Victoria, Sustainability Victoria is offering up to $50,000 for projects that “reduce packaging waste or manufacture packaging with recycled materials”.

And on the housing front, also in Victoria, there’s $50 million available for repairs and upgrades.

The latest Green Gigs has more.

Lisa Tracy from Turning Green focuses more on how businesses and organisations can focus their sustainability alignment and messaging.

With her background in advising businesses big and small, we’re delighted to offer her insights.