Our common future – Why sustainable development matters

Our common future - Why sustainable development matters

Sustainable development is all about our common future and, with the launch of GemLife’s first sustainability strategy this month, we spoke to our newly appointed director of sustainability, renewables and energy, Mark Langdon, about why it matters.

A 15-year veteran of sustainable development and energy in private sector businesses, where he also worked on significant state government projects, Mark has watched the rapid pace of change in this ever-evolving field.

“Economic, social and environmental sustainability is a must in today’s business environment, particularly for the building and construction industry which produces 39 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions,” Mark said.

“It is an exciting area that is changing all the time and it is important companies take a proactive approach and be part of that change.”

What exactly is sustainability?

While the concept of sustainability is relatively new, it has roots in conservationism, but now combines a range of concepts under the banner of ‘sustainable development.’

“When people think about sustainability, they immediately think ‘environment’, but it is broader than that. It also encompasses social and governance considerations,” Mark said.

“For example, under the social aspect, we look at sustainable communities which includes access to amenities, connectedness, health and wellbeing, safety and security,” he said.

“But in a nutshell, sustainability means meeting current needs without compromising future generations.”

Why have a sustainability strategy?

A sustainability strategy is a formal commitment to sustainable practices that provides a clear framework for future operations.

Mark said GemLife’s strategy, which built upon existing practices, was designed around four key pillars: Our environment, our communities, our people, and our business.

Aligned with the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, as well as national standards, he said the strategy centred on practical applications and solutions with a focus on energy mitigation.

“For example, typically up to 60 per cent of a building’s power usage is from heating and cooling, and hot water. GemLife homes are minimum 6-star energy rated, featuring a host of energy-efficient features as standard inclusions to reduce this power consumption. We complement this with installation of solar across all our resorts, delivering energy-efficient homes with low energy costs,” Mark said.

“In addition, I am excited about the roll-out of GemLife’s innovative virtual solar power plants. This significant technology investment by GemLife will result in reduced power costs for homeowners,” he said.

“It is a pragmatic approach to sustainability that cannot help but resonate with homeowners, especially with rising energy costs.

“In my opinion, GemLife is leading the sector in terms of practical sustainability. The company approaches the construction of homes and its communities by doing what’s right for homeowners. By this, I mean taking into consideration the cost of living and reliance on the energy grid, and reducing our combined carbon footprint in practical ways.”

Other areas covered by the strategy include water management, waste reduction and recycling, biodiversity management, ‘future proofing’ of projects, as well as actively supporting physical and mental health of homeowners and employees.

Where next?

Sustainability is the future but what is the future of sustainability?

Mark believes the greatest opportunities will come from the overlap between technology and sustainability.

“There are already some visionary initiatives taking place around the globe, and tech will continue to present exciting new possibilities,” he said.

“One overseas project – a high-rise mixed residential and commercial development – has integrated smart-tech, allowing residents with smart fridges to send automatic or manual orders through to shops downstairs for wine, milk, or other items. It is like a concierge service that builds into the social aspect of sustainability,” Mark said.

“This is something I can see being available for implementation in the not-too-distant future.”

Closer to home at GemLife, and forming part of our virtual power plants, will be a tech overlay that will optimise the total system. As an example, integration with weather data enables GemLife to store excess energy where days of overcast weather are forecast or manage generation where we have excess energy. This smart-tech ensures that what we install delivers real value to our homeowners and the broader energy network.

“Electric vehicles are another area that will transition rapidly, and we are working to ensure all our future resorts are EV-ready.”

GemLife’s Sustainability Steering Committee

GemLife’s Sustainability Steering Committee

Meet the newly formed GemLife Sustainability Steering Committee, the team responsible for overseeing the implementation of the strategy across the company’s operations.

In addition to Director of Sustainability, Renewables and Energy, Mark Langdon, the committee comprises heads of departments and is chaired by GemLife Director & CEO Adrian Puljich.

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