New research published recently by the Supply Chain Sustainability School of Australia has revealed a significant jump in the importance of sustainability knowledge for property, construction and infrastructure businesses, with 63 percent of survey respondents reporting that it has become more important over the past twelve months – up 11 percentage points from last year.
These findings from Australia’s leading sustainable supply chain educator confirm that sustainability across property and infrastructure supply chains is becoming a higher priority, with businesses recognising the need to upskill their workforce and suppliers in order to meet their own goals and align with the requirements of customers.
“The increased value of informed and skilled employees to organisations is reflected in the survey results, with over a third of organisations now having base-level knowledge requirements for employees and more than one in four embedding it into job descriptions,” explains Robin Mellon, chief executive officer of the Supply Chain Sustainability School.
“Almost two in every five members have noticed an improvement in their supply chains since they’ve been a member of the School (37 percent), and 46 percent of members have seen economic, environmental or social benefits from improved supply chains,” Mellon adds.
The survey finds that an understanding of key sustainability issues is fast becoming a requirement when assessing prospective employees. Similarly, expertise in sustainability is more of a consideration in project and tender assessments, with sustainable procurement now a key driver of innovation in materials, waste and energy.
“There is a growing call for enhancing sustainability skills across our built environment disciplines, across infrastructure projects, and across Australia’s extended infrastructure supply chains,” says Ainsley Simpson, the chief executive officer of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia which is a founding partner of the School.
“Better educated businesses mean more sustainable infrastructure projects, with reduced environmental impacts, improved social and workforce outcomes and wholesale efficiency gains,” Simpson adds. “It’s particularly encouraging that 20 percent of members have already seen improvements in the quality of Infrastructure Sustainability (IS) rating submissions.”
However, realising a higher level of sustainability knowledge across a workforce can prove challenging, with employees sometimes slow to engage with sustainability activities and learning and reluctant to change behaviour. According to the School’s members, one of the most effective ways to motivate employees in this space is good communication and ensuring clear links are made to project outcomes, organisational objectives and career development. Furthermore, they suggest that sustainability needs to be embedded within ‘business as usual’, and that this approach has helped boost engagement with the School’s sustainability learning resources.
Respondents to the survey also highlighted that senior management needs to be driving sustainability to ensure that it isn’t simply seen as an added cost.
“Laing O’Rourke has backed the School from the very beginning because we understand how our supply chains can help us achieve our sustainability goals,” says Hollie Hynes, head of Sustainability for Laing O’Rourke and co-chair of the School’s Advisory Board.
“Now that so many survey respondents have sustainability plans in place – 83 percent, in fact – the vast majority of the School’s members feel that the most important factor for the success of sustainability programs is real commitment from management,” she adds.
This year’s survey also revealed the areas of sustainability knowledge that are most sought after, with social sustainability (and modern slavery) in particular being the most pressing need. This was highlighted as an issue across organisations and across the industry.
Energy was also identified as a key area (including renewables and battery storage, energy efficiency, literacy, efficient design and retrofitting) as well as waste (diverted from landfill, reduction, management and closed loop) and ‘the business case for sustainability’ needing strong educational support.
The annual survey reported a year-on-year increase in satisfaction with the School on every measure; the vast majority of members are satisfied with the School and most (84 percent) would recommend it to colleagues.
“We encourage small, medium and large organisations across Australia to take advantage of the School’s free sustainability learning resources, and to work with their supply chains towards more sustainable outcomes and more efficient businesses,” Mellon concludes.
More information and the results of the survey can be found online at www.supplychainschool.org.au.