A passion for sustainability and the desire to make a positive impact prompted Amanda Joseph, Associate Director - Sustainability and Climate Change, to help transform the way the natural environment is used to build resilient places and communities.
You are a part of the Green Building Council of Australia's (GBCA) Technical Expert Panels & Advisory Working Group for Nature and Biodiversity. Can you tell us a bit about your role and what inspired you to pursue this line of work?
I am thrilled to be a part of GBCA’s Technical Expert Panels & Advisory Working Group for Nature and Biodiversity. My role is to review the new NATURE credits being developed by the GBCA and ensure that the categories and outcomes of the category will drive a nature-positive future, with nature and biodiversity front of mind. My journey to this position began with my Master of Science in Sustainability Management at the Curtin University. I then worked in natural capital and sustainable finance in Edinburgh. Prior to my work in sustainability, I was a corporate lawyer, but my passion for sustainability and desire to make a positive impact on the environment prompted me to pursue an interesting and challenging career path.
Can you explain the concept of natural capital valuation and its importance in today's world?
Natural capital considers the flow on benefits that nature provides people and the economy through soil, water, forests and clean air (amongst other things!). Natural capital valuation is about gaining an understanding of the “value” of the ecosystem services that nature provides us and including this in the decision-making process. To date, things like access to clean air, clean water, healthy soil and even the aesthetic value nature provides us has not been accounted for in development decisions – to our detriment. It provides a comprehensive view of the value of nature and the environment and allows businesses to understand the impact they have on their surroundings. The concept of natural capital valuation is becoming increasingly important as the world shifts towards a more sustainable future. By transforming the way we account for nature, we can build resilient places and communities for a sustainable future.
Can you give us an example of how natural capital valuation has been used in practice?
I often use the example of whisky production in Scotland to illustrate the concept of natural capital valuation. Glenmorangie, a Scottish whisky producer, partnered with a university to maintain the cleanliness of the water used in production. The company found that the local loch, which was previously polluted, could be cleaned with the help of native Scottish oysters. The oyster reef restoration scheme not only cleared the water, but also prevented flooding and created a local economy for oyster farmers. This example shows how the preservation of the natural environment can improve the production process, create a local economy, and promote sustainable practices.
What do you think are the challenges in making nature a priority in the building industry and how can these be overcome?
It’s important to go beyond just compliance issues and work to make nature a priority. There is a need for large-scale investment in this area and partnership projects are essential to improving the impact of nature conservation efforts. As a multi-disciplinary consultancy, we can provide clients with strategies and solutions that address their broader objectives across the built and natural environment. Our natural capital approach can help clients to uncover the true economic costs of biodiversity loss and diminished ecosystem function, providing a better understanding of how to manage the associated risks, enhance value, and increase resilience in a changing world.
Can you explain the role of nature-based solutions in sustainability and resilience?
The natural environment provides individuals, local communities, and wider society with numerous "ecosystem services" and amenities, such as stormwater management, recreation, and clean air and water. We provide clients with nature-based solutions for green infrastructure that support ecosystem function by integrating biodiversity into the fabric of the built environment, such as constructed wetlands, vegetated roofs, living shorelines, wildlife corridors, and Future Ready Landscapes. Nature-based solutions are also integral for achieving net zero and decarbonisation commitments.
Can you explain the impact of buildings and developments on the natural environment?
Buildings and developments have both direct and indirect impacts on the natural environment. Direct impacts include destruction of ecosystems and habitats through construction, while indirect impacts result from changes to local weather patterns and soil erosion from the built infrastructure. Property developers and managers need to find solutions that positively contribute towards improving ecosystem health throughout a project's life cycle.
What are nature-based solutions and why are they important for property developers?
Nature-based solutions are designed to bring environmental, social, and economic benefits to all stakeholders in the value chain. This includes property developers, suppliers, occupiers, and the local community. By incorporating sustainable practices and certifications into their projects, such as Green Star, developers can demonstrate their commitment to the environment while also creating healthier and more resilient places.
What is driving the growing demand for nature in the property industry?
The growing demand for nature in the property industry is being driven by a number of factors including increasing investor pressure to disclose ESG performance, tenant awareness and expectations, reputational risk, planning policies and development requirements, and the need for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Access to green spaces is also becoming increasingly important for human health and well-being.
What role does the private finance sector play in halting and reversing nature's decline?
The private finance sector plays a critical role in halting and reversing nature's decline. Investment in nature is needed to both integrate strong biodiversity requirements within ESG and to create viable nature recovery projects through innovative financial mechanisms. The finance sector can invest with confidence when there is clear government endorsement, legislation, and policy in place. The short, medium, and long-term economic benefits of these investments must also be brought into the market to demonstrate the materiality of nature to the private sector.
What are the critical elements for success in integrating nature-based solutions into the property industry?
The critical elements for success in integrating nature-based solutions into the property industry include government endorsement, clear legislation and policy, measurement of the economic benefits of these solutions, and strong governance to provide the finance industry with the necessary signals to invest. A diverse range of experts must come together to facilitate the flow of biodiversity data and knowledge between geospatial locations and corporate portfolios. By prioritising habitat restoration and management, urban greening, green infrastructure, and natural flood risk management, developers can create healthier and more resilient places for the benefit of all stakeholders.
WSP’s Sustainability team can help transform the way we account for nature to build resilient places and communities; and helping clients to navigate the relevant biodiversity trends, best practices and regulatory requirements. Just as with financial capital, our natural capital needs to be invested in and sustained.
WSP was present at COP 15 in December 2022 where the overarching mission of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was discussed. WSP is at the forefront of the preservation of nature and biodiversity, as we continue the conversation in Australia.
Amanda joins the Panel: Accounting for Nature at Green Building Council Australia’s (GBCA) 5th annual TRANSFORM conference in March 2023, where the breakout session explores practical pathways for achieving positive and holistic nature outcomes in a sustainable built environment.
Contact Amanda Joseph - Associate Director, Sustainability and Climate Change