Stockland National Sustainability manager Lauren Kajewski spoke to us about how they measure and program social sustainability to deliver healthy, connected and educated communities.
Please explain your role as sustainability manager
The National Sustainability team has a view over all the different business units and projects across Australia that Stockland undertake. In particular, I support our residential business unit delivering environmental and social sustainability; this is anything from infrastructure through to community programs and services. Primarily I look to maximise the return for our communities, the environment and business; Stockland takes a triple bottom line approach.
What is the Stockland strategy regarding social sustainability?
We have a business sustainability strategy which includes short and long term targets; these are developed by looking at opportunities to improve key environmental and social sustainability issues. Our focus is generally on areas that will have the greatest impact. We can have a greater impact when stakeholders are working towards the same focus.
Social sustainability is also about understanding the current and future community needs. At every opportunity we capture information about our community, their demographics; their preferences; what stage of life they are in. We use these trends to start developing new communities, based on what might be the most sustainable approach for that local area.
How do you measure social sustainability?
We can measure environmental sustainability quite easily using a number of metrics and outcomes. However when it comes to measuring social sustainability it is a lot less tangible and we must use different tools to do so. We use our ‘Liveability Index’ which is completed as a survey and captures the satisfaction of residents in our communities in terms of their quality of life. The index uses several key drivers to understand what makes the biggest difference and impacts their quality of life. We can then focus our investment in this way, and have the ability to check back each year to make sure we are making a difference. Having this direct connection with the community provides a great insight which is both very honest and refreshing. If the survey results told us they were highly dissatisfied with a particular issue then we hold focus groups or a community event where we could get into much finer detail and understand what their particular needs.
How do you approach environmental sustainability?
The approach we take across each of our sites is typically quite different and specific to that project. For example our retirement village at Selandra Rise is Green Star ‘Design & As Built’, which we wondered whether our residents would understand or appreciate what this meant. One of the biggest challenges in Green Star is that you get very strong business-to-business appreciation, but business-to-customer is far less advanced. However, our residents are very happy having a Green Star retirement village and are educating us on the benefits.
At Caloundra we have been involved in the Green Star Communities PILOT. This tool is based on the whole community and how we can drive more sustainable communities. Achieving environmental sustainability is not just about Stockland or the Green Building Council, it’s about the industry as a whole coming together and pushing past best practice and determining what actually becomes innovative or excellent.
Do you consider economic sustainability within your role?
Return on investment is a key measure for our business, but we try and go further to ensure our communities have access to employment opportunities. We have various national community and sustainability partners that help us and our communities in this space.
A good example is our work with disadvantaged youth. If we have unemployed people in our community that are willing to make themselves known to us, then we put them in touch with the likes of Mission Australia who can then get them the coaching that they need to interview for a job and make sure that they get employment. We aim to create strong and resilient communities that are very well resourced, taken care of and finically self-sustaining.
Does Stockland establish targets for the various areas of sustainability?
Under our banners of social and environmental sustainability we have focus areas, which then target where we hone in on social sustainability, they include health and well-being, community connection and education. If we look at education, we have business targets that start to deal with things like jobs and economic resilience using partnerships with the schools in our communities. We offer students the opportunity to participate in a variety of programs that help set them up to be resilient and gain future employment.
How do you best address the lag in the delivery of key community infrastructure in growth areas?
This is always a concern, so we try to always provide a significant park with play space and exercise equipment or walking tracks as early as possible; typically by the time those first residents are starting to live on site. It’s very important to us that we don’t have communities with no social infrastructure at all.
One of the other ways we try and address this is by providing community infrastructure, generally in the form of a community centre, which might form part of the project delivery service agreement with Council. By fully funding a community hub we aim to have it on the ground by the time first residents move in and build. We do this to ensure that the community has a good foundation.
If you can ensure that your first residents on any given project are really satisfied with what you’re delivering, they are more likely to refer us to their friends and family. We know that a referral is a far greater indicator of whether their future friends and family might come and live at our community.
Does Stockland invest in community programs and community development managers?
Typically on a new project the national team takes the lead and we help the development managers build up long term visions for what the community is going to be like. Every project across Stockland has a community marketing manager and their role is to help implement all of the brilliant ideas that we come up with. We get down to forecasting annually, what we will do. So every single Stockland residential community has a community development plan. It has mandatory deliverables, for example, every Stockland community will have an assisted living program that operates once a week. Community development mangers help implement all of those sorts of initiatives across health, well-being and education.
Importantly though we only set up partnerships or initiatives that are sustainable without our long term involvement. Part of our exit strategy for communities is to ensure resident groups or community groups are well established. We start to seed fund it to help it get on its feet and then they can start to take over if they want to continue having events and programs within their local community. We help them get started over a number of years and coach them in how to best invest in that infrastructure for their community.
For example, if you’re coming to one of our yoga classes, it might start as free to get people there. They meet one another and they establish bonds and relationships, and that’s really good for the mentality of the community. Then you might introduce a small fee for service and gradually grow that over time, so by the end of our presence in that community this is actually a sustainable full fee-paying service. Stockland is very conscious of making sure we don’t introduce programs or initiatives that we are then going to take away once we leave on completion of the overall development.
Last year we opened a social enterprise pop-up cafe at Amberton in WA. Within a couple of weeks of it opening, a mother’s group had formed and there was an arts and crafts group. An artist started selling his art in our pop-up cafe and gave a percentage of the return to our ‘Touched By Olivia Foundation’. So by putting in one piece of the infrastructure, all of these little social groups started forming which helped create a resilient community.
Stockland also provides $5,000 grants to their local community. This is an opportunity for smaller organisations to access seed funding, decisions are based on how they demonstrate the difference they’re going to make to their local community.
If you could change or improve one thing to create more vibrant communities what would that be?
My personal passion is having excellent schools in communities and that means having a healthy learning environment, which links very strongly to the design of the school infrastructure and the follow-on effects to the learning capabilities of the students. Without a strong education, in a developed nation, it is very difficult to progress or succeed compared to your peers. So I think I would focus on having how to influence greater investment in the schools and therefore, people’s education.