Infrastructure is big. Commonwealth and state governments have committed to spending over $150bn on infrastructure over the next four years, and construction as a whole accounts for over 9 % of the country’s workforce. Transport networks and utilities shape our social and economic “ecosystems”, and their surrounding natural and urban landscapes.
The Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) is a member-based NFP and Social Enterprise operating across ANZ with the purpose of accelerating infrastructure sustainability through collaboration. Established in 2007 by 19 industry organisations, our base has grown to over 130 members across industry, government, academia, and consultancy. Over the past decade, we have worked to make infrastructure sustainability a mainstream concept through the IS Rating Scheme, a 3rd-party verified framework that measures the sustainability performance of projects and assets.
Through IS, ISCA has provided a common framework and language for sustainability requirements which are now included as standard in project tenders – something that was not the case when our organisation was founded. Infrastructure’s impacts are complex, and this is reflected in the tool – the latest iteration of the tool, ISv2.0, covers 46 different topics across Governance, Economic, Environmental, and Social themes over the lifecycle of the project; it is also mapped against 15 of the 17 UN SDGs, and directly addresses SDGs 9 (Industry, Innovation, & Infrastructure) and 11 (Sustainable Cities).
Our approach is truly collaborative, involving government, engineering & construction, suppliers, academia, and consultants: released in 2018, ISv2.0 involved 185 people in development, contributing 1,200 hours of work in kind. Since launching in 2012, 118 assets have registered (with 213 individual project registrations) with IS across Australia and New Zealand, totalling an estimated $160bn in capital spending. IS-registered projects exist in every state except for NT in Australia and are present in both metropolitan and regional areas.
The impact of these projects cannot be understated: the 23 projects certified at completion (As-Built) cumulatively avoid the emission of 2.2 million tonnes CO2 and use of 4.5 GL of water corresponding to an impact reduction of 18 % in energy, 31 % in water, and 29 % in materials. On top of the environmental impacts, the IS tool drives projects to implement better processes, and with social sustainability and social licence becoming increasingly prominent, we are working to quantify how infrastructure can effect better social outcomes.
The evolution of the IS scheme speaks to progress that our industry partners have made in a short space of time: ISv1.0 went through two revisions, while ISv2.0 represents a bigger step-change, incorporating new aspects such as economics as a standalone topic, holistic resources management, and climate resilience which is now a major consideration in the investment space. In partnership with our members, we seek to raise the bar continuously, and to drive sustainability across the lifetime of the asset, from the birth of a project’s concept to its decommissioning, working towards a brighter, more resilient, and inclusive future.