Quick Chat: Alexi Lynch talks evidence-based emissions-reduction at Ironbark Sustainability

By Rose Mary Petrass

Alexi Lynch, business manager at Ironbark Sustainability

Ironbark Sustainability has worked with councils and their communities for almost 20 years on the issues that matter to our future; climate change, greenhouse emissions, and sustainability projects and programs.

The Green List’s Rose Mary Petrass sat down for a chat with Ironbark Sustainability business manager Alexi Lynch, to talk about what’s been going on at the company and his top tips for local governments.

local governments

Ironbark Sustainability provides climate and sustainability advice to local governments and their communities.

Thanks for chatting with me today. Can you give us a quick elevator pitch of Ironbark Sustainability?

We work with councils and communities around Australia to help them reduce emissions and tackle climate change. We have 45  staff and all we do is help to create climate action plans, strategies, and evidence-based solutions to reduce emissions. 


What does a typical day look like for you? 

I talk to a lot of people; councils, city networks, Climate Council, Cities Power Partnership, greenhouse alliances, Google, Beyond Zero Emissions. We work with them and councils to lean on my 20 years of experience to try and provide the best advice I can. 


How long have you been working there? 

The company has been around for 18 years, and I’ve been here for around 13. I previously worked in the local government, and climate and environment space. 


What is the best part of your job? 

Working with great people. I love the people I work with in the office and over Zoom. 


And how many local governments are you currently working with?

It is hard to tell because we work on a lot of regional projects including groups of councils. Our Snapshot Climate Tool has emissions profiles for a large number of councils in Australia. So, I could estimate that we probably work with 150 local governments. 


Can you tell me what projects are you currently working on?

We are currently finishing up Greater Shepparton’s development of a climate emergency action plan. We are also working with the City of Yarra to create net zero pathways. We have too many smart lighting projects to mention. We have some fascinating projects with the Cities Power Partnership, Beyond Zero Emissions, and other partners and are looking at developing dashboards and online services to facilitate data exchanges to help councils and communities make decisions.

City lights

Ironbark Sustainability offers services in the areas of lighting, climate, buildings and sustainability.

So your business offers services in the areas of lighting, climate, buildings, and sustainability. Can you start off by telling me about the work you do with lighting? 

We have 30 staff who work with councils, distribution businesses, and local government associations on changing inefficient lights to more efficient lights, and working on smart city and smart lighting designs. We are taking the whole sector to the next level. 


Can you tell me about the work you do in the area of climate? 

In climate we work directly with councils if they want to develop a strategy for operational emissions (in their buildings, lights, and fleet), or community-wide (in transport, commercial, residential, or industry). We provide them the tools we have developed with other partners to ensure the work they’re doing to reduce emissions is based on evidence and will reduce emissions beyond and above business as usual. We work with data tools, workshop facilitation and community engagement. 


And what about sustainability? 

This service is for councils that want to look more broadly than climate and emissions. For those councils that want a more comprehensive environment and sustainability plan, we use broader frameworks, for example, the One Planet Council and the Sustainable Development Goals, to understand and develop gap analysis’ on how the council is going and how they can improve in a broader context – including water, waste, biodiversity, health, happiness, and financially, et cetera. 


So part of the Quickchats is getting an idea of how your business is going at the moment. Have you hired any new employees recently or are you planning on hiring anyone new? 

Yes, we are hiring a lot. We are growing, which is great because there are a lot more councils setting targets and increasing their ambition and sophistication, wanting to work with their communities and experts, and using tools which help them get what they want – getting to net zero in 10 years. 


How was Ironbark Sustainability impacted by COVID?

Like everyone, we miss going to the office and seeing each other’s faces, but we’ve been able to transition quickly [to work from home] because we have had systems set up online for 12 to 15 years, so it didn’t have the same impact as for other businesses.



“My advice would be to really understand and interrogate where your emissions are coming from. Take an evidence-based approach. Take the courage to fail, and also the courage to share.”

What’s something that you wish every local government knew about improving their sustainability?

It’s a common question we’ll get at events and workshops: what’s the one thing we can do, or the best 5 actions we can do [to improve sustainability]? I can’t answer that – it depends on the local context. If you’re in New South Wales and you still have emissions in council buildings, you should have signed up to a power purchase agreement yesterday. But, in South Australia and Tasmania your grid is already decarbonising so there is no need to focus on this. Also, metro and rural areas are so different. So my advice would be to really understand and interrogate where your emissions are coming from. Take an evidence-based approach. Take the courage to fail, and also the courage to share. 


What’s the most difficult aspect of your job? 

Having too much interesting stuff to do, and not being able to do it all. And of course, difficulties dealing with stakeholders doesn’t make life easy. Some councils are not doing enough, but you always find pockets of gold within those councils. Underneath, there are always smart and savvy operators getting things done despite climate-skeptic councillors. So that’s a challenge, but not a challenge to my job.


If you had the opportunity to work with anyone, who would it be? 

Jimmy Barnes. Can I choose anyone? John Lennon.


What are your plans for the rest of the day? 

Pick up kids, cook dinner, sleep. It’s been a busy day. 


Thanks so much for talking with us! 

Find out about Ironbark Sustainability and their services here

If you’re a Greenlister and want to appear in Quick Chat, send a note to hello@thegreenlist.com.au


Jobs available at Ironbark Sustainability:

5 New Positions in Climate Action (yes 5!).
Applications are due Midnight Tuesday 22nd February, email admin@realaction.com.au

The roles are:
A Climate Technical Officer to join our Climate Program https://lnkd.in/g-drv5rn
A Full Stack Developer to join our Lighting Program https://lnkd.in/gFPC7fyS
An Audit Team Project Officer (also Lighting Program) https://lnkd.in/gPM6uJSg
A Lighting Program Project Officer (Lighting Program) https://lnkd.in/gqe7zGjb, and
An Operations and Administration Officer https://lnkd.in/gwxiWYVH

Our team has directly delivered projects to save over 4 million tonnes of emission and are serious about real action. You are passionate, personable and would love to help councils and their communities achieve real action on climate change.