The time for sustainable big picture ecosystem thinking is now. Post-Covid recovery programmes need to be structured to address wider impacts than just economics and job creation. The "building back better" everyone talks about should involve "building back" from a new, much more aspirational, model, not be about reinstating the old system and ways of thinking.
Incrementalism will not do. The scale of the investment required for economic recovery means if we don't take the chance to do something bold now, the opportunity may be lost. Post-Covid we have this pincher movement of rising public awareness around the urgency required to address climate change and resilience, and a social licence and regulatory landscape that is rapidly changing. Consumers and employees are more attuned to the nuances of organisational action. They will select and deselect on the basis of purpose and authenticity.
Investors are alive to this, the risks of redundant assets and the call to properly value what have traditionally been regarded as externalities (the negative costs to society of an organisation's activity) — a clarion call answered with the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD-like) requirements recently imposed on financial institutions.
Coupled with the clear articulation of risks in the National Climate Change Risk Assessment, New Zealand directors now have quite a different risk profile to consider.
It's no different in infrastructure. There are winds of change at play. For a long time what we celebrated was the asset itself and the amazing engineering and technical competency that delivered it. Then we started to realise the asset could do more than be, it could be an enabler for people and communities and their aspirations and maybe even designed to create wider good. Now more than ever, we need our Infrastructure projects and assets to be that vehicle for good.
Successful organisations will be those that seize this opportunity and deliver prosperity and better outcomes for people and planet.
On Friday 18 September, when the news cycle was dominated by the crash on the Auckland Harbour Bridge caused by an unprecedented (possibly climate-change related) wind gust, another event of some significance to the infrastructure landscape was announced that went largely unreported at the time.
It was the announcement by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency that they would be to partnering with the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia(ISCA) to deliver sustainable outcomes across land transport infrastructure. That policy change and it's decision to use the IS Rating Scheme for capital projects over $15m is aligned with Waka Kotahi's April 2020 sustainability action plan, Toitū Te Taia, which sets out their vision for a low carbon, safe and healthy land transport system.
The ISCA rating tool assesses all aspects of sustainability including governance, environmental, social and economic outcomes, and also drives innovation.
The rate of return on investment is not to be sniffed at either. In fact, analysis confirms that over the life of the asset, IS projects deliver up to $2.40 for every dollar spent.
The scheme has not gone unnoticed internationally. A research paper by Stanford University concluded that ISCA's IS Rating Scheme had the most rigorous and comprehensive assessment process, relative to other global sustainability rating standards assessed.
So who is ISCA?
It's a member-based, not-for-profit operating across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand whose purpose is enabling sustainability outcomes in infrastructure. It is also an industry collaboration success story.
Founded in 2007 as a result of a collaboration between 19 founding industry organisations, the ISCA of today emerged in 2012, In September 2017, ISCA launched the IS Rating tool. The tool was developed by ISCA and its members or, as we like to say, "by industry, for industry".
ISCA's membership is a who's who of the sector, including most tier 1 engineering and contracting firms and a number of significant procurers and supply chain partners, all contributing to better outcomes. This committed "community of contribution" across the membership ranks is one of ISCA's strengths.
So what's the take up?
In Australia there has been widespread mandating of the scheme by public procurers, particularly in the roading sector. Unlike its Waka Kotahi predecessor, the IS rating can be applied to all asset classes (not just roads) and right across the life cycle of the asset.
Here its been used on well-known projects like the Central Interceptor and the City Rail Link as well as lesser-known projects at Scotts Point, the Wynyard Quarter and Cardrona. Pace is now starting to pick up. Te Ahu a Turanga (the Manawatu Tararua Highway) and the AMETI Eastern Busway project will be IS Rated. Kiwirail will also use IS on their iReX — Interislander terminals — upgrade. Ports of Auckland has also just kicked off an IS Rating on its operations. Auckland International Airport earlier rated airside operations work.
Across Australia and New Zealand projects with a capital value in excess of $165 billion have undergone rating.
Recently released statistics, confirm aggregate results to June 2020 of a staggering 68 per cent reduction in energy use, 34 per cent reduction in water use and 11 per cent reduction in materials use against declared baselines for As Built ratings, let alone social outcomes. Avoided emissions total 56.3mtCO2e.
It's worth measuring what matters.
- Adrienne Miller is General Manager NZ for the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA).