As we adjust to COVID-19’s global effects, it is clear that local and national politics play a critical role in delivering minimum standards and implementing guidelines and best practices. The decisions of political leaders can heavily influence outcomes, effects, and long-term wellbeing on a national—and even local—scale. As we navigate the continuously evolving challenges of COVID-19, it is also clear that effective delivery of standards cannot be done without the support of the private market, scientists, experts, and individual citizens. This multi-pronged approach to addressing the global pandemic is similar to undertaking the carbon emissions challenge.

Australia has created a cluster of excellence for evidence-based sustainability in the property sector. For the last nine years, the Australian commercial building sector has outperformed all other regions around the world as measured by the GRESB index, and has delivered more signatories to net zero than any other region.

There, commercial building owners recognize their role in carbon emissions, often citing that buildings and construction contribute nearly 40% of total carbon emissions in the region. The standard developed to catalyze change in Australia, was the National Australian Built Environment Rating Scheme (NABERS). This scheme was backed by strong government support with elements adopted into local law and state policy. Though NABERS’ success is uniquely impactful on the Australian market, this is also largely applicable on a global scale. In the United States, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and similar ‘green building standards’ have been largely adopted into evolving building code. Though LEED focuses more heavily on design and operational strategies, the next phase of this evolution will focus on carbon emissions.

Nowadays, the significant returns Australian property owners enjoy from capital investment in building data management, operational efficiencies and renewable energy solutions are the only incentives that building owners in Australia need. Because it is clear that meeting carbon commitments makes business sense, private real estate ownership now drive emissions reduction in the commercial property sector, regardless of the politics of national commitments. This Australia-specific example is widely applicable, especially in the United States, where the commercial building industry holds the same significance in total carbon emissions.

The United States has the opportunity to leverage the leadership of the private commercial real estate sector, just as Australia. We have seen the effects of business decisions that lead to the decarbonizing process and have the playbook for effective data management, building operations, and renewable energy purchasing to bring the private commitments to reality. The effective delivery of these commitments will set precedents and establish best practice, which will push the industry forward and guide the establishment of a governmental policy, which is often just a ‘minimum standard’.

Global challenges require multi-pronged solutions. Much like carbon emissions or COVID-19, the private sector has the opportunity to push national carbon commitments and governmental standards. In the US, the private building sector has the opportunity to drive those national commitments in a similar fashion to Australia. With the help of experts and even individuals, the corporate real estate industry can set a precedent that can be adopted into a national standard and together, we can drive the national commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Build your sustainability data foundation, streamline reporting and accelerate decarbonization with the IBM Envizi ESG Suite

Related categories

More from Sustainability

Preventive maintenance vs. predictive maintenance

5 min read - Your maintenance strategy may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the bottom line. Yet, given that machinery, equipment and systems keep businesses running, maintenance strategies have a major role to play. Without due care and attention, things break—regardless of whether that’s a transformer in an electricity grid, an axle bearing on a train or a refrigerator in a restaurant. When assets malfunction or aren’t performing optimally, there can be safety issues and financial implications…

5 min read

What is smart transportation?

5 min read - Every day, people encounter multiple obstacles while traveling to their intended destinations. Sitting in traffic, waiting for the bus to arrive 15 minutes later than scheduled, driving around for 30 minutes to find a parking spot—the modern world is full of inconveniences due to underlying inefficiencies in our transportation systems. However, stalled cars and harried people waiting for public transportation aren’t just an individual nuisance. A less-than-optimal transportation infrastructure affects the economy, hastens environmental impact and lowers the overall quality…

5 min read

How ERP is breaking down silos and driving sustainable change

3 min read - While many organizations have established environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals and made ESG commitments, driven by purpose and emerging regulatory requirements, they face several challenges when making the transition from ambition to action. A recent IBM study found that global executives cite inadequate data (41%) as the biggest obstacle to their ESG progress, followed by regulatory barriers (39%), inconsistent standards (37%) and inadequate skills (36%). The impacts of data challenges are becoming visible to company stakeholders, with consumers making…

3 min read

4 steps to improving your ESG risk management to increase financial performance

3 min read - Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) risk management has emerged as a critical aspect of business strategy for companies worldwide. A 2023 IBM IBV study showed that organizations that are seen as ESG leaders are 43% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. However, 57% of CEOs admit that defining and measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) and economic benefits of their sustainability efforts remain a significant challenge. Focusing on ESG Risk Management can help your organization become more profitable,…

3 min read