In Australia, building owners are not responsible for their tenants’ environmental impacts, creating a knowledge and resource gap and split incentives for climate action. Establishing the CitySwitch program required navigating uncertain policy arenas and bolstering support among stakeholders for climate change and sustainability actions. Despite these challenges, CitySwitch has continued to grow its participant base and the number of projects supported.
CitySwitch prioritises the reporting of fully auditable achievements, and encourages members to adopt an energy target of between 4-Star and 6-Star on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS). The program supports participants in implementing office improvement projects and tracking performance towards targets using third-party verified measures.
In 2015, the CitySwitch program reported annual savings of 50,625 tonnes of CO2e. In addition to this abatement, members also purchased 296,677 tonnes CO2e in offsets. The cities have calculated that since 2011, program business members have demonstrated cumulative savings of 638,272 tonnes CO2e and have produced energy cost savings of $26 million for their committed offices across the seven partner cities and nationally.
In addition to targeting CO2 reductions, the program is beginning to incorporate more ambitious goals to reduce waste and increase renewable energy usage. Since 2011 nearly 30% of member projects have addressed business priorities beyond energy efficiency. These include over 1,200 staff, supply chain and policy projects, and 130 projects focused on health and productivity sustainability actions.
The program reports that over 850 projects have yielded environmental co-benefits in addition to the core energy goals, specifically in relation to technology, waste and renewables. A technology campaign launched in 2015 saw over 1,800 engagements with a gamification prompting action on green information and communications technology. Over 17% of signatories had utilised the program’s new waste assessment tool within the first 3 months of its launch in April 2016. Work on renewables has shown 13 signatory businesses already delivering on carbon neutrality commitments, with plans underway to support more organizations in achieving this goal.
The CitySwitch program has an overall target avoidance of 50,000 tonnes of new CO2e per year by its signatory businesses. It also aims to support its members in achieving an energy value saving of over $10.4 million USD each year. By including financial saving targets in program plans, the project aims to change the way that the business community views and treats sustainability action from an add-on action to a financially responsible, incorporated component of operations.
By promoting a whole-of-business approach, the program aims to achieve broader environmental co-benefits, and supports these goals through campaigns and outreach work in the specific areas of interest. For waste, the program has set a target of reducing operational waste of its signatory businesses by 20% from their baseline, using its waste assessment tool. A 20% target has been set for members reporting renewable purchasing and carbon neutrality status. The program is also hoping to build awareness of the importance and responsibility businesses carry towards the health and well-being of office-based employees. The program is scoping an outreach campaign and tools on health and productivity in 2017, with the aim of improving the well-being of employees of member businesses, their buildings and beyond.