Having a Positive Impact

A Sydney real estate agency with an employee carpool program and four bikes on hand for locals to borrow has been named the 2012 Energy Australia Sustainability Award winner in the City of Sydney Business Awards. Martin Property impressed the judges because they established specific targets for reducing their impact on the environment and a system to measure their progress. Kevin Turner talks to Martin Property Sales Director, David Bettini.

Kevin: David, do you find that buyers and sellers care about greening initiatives and sustainability practices?
David: I’m not sure it’s necessarily quantitative that buyers are going to choose us because of our green initiatives; it’s more for our staff and for the business in general to know that we’re having a positive impact on the environment around here, and I think only good things can come from that.

Kevin: in addition to carpooling and bikes for locals, what are some of the other initiatives that you’ve implemented?
David: Another good one that we use here is that we try not to waste any paper at all. So all paper that doesn’t need to go out of the office we reuse as scrap paper on the back side. This means we at least get full use out of both sides of the paper. It seems like a small amount but it’s a massive saving, because most real estate agents go through a whole lot of paper. So that’s a good little initiative and we’ve seen great results from it. And it’s also a bit of a cost saver as well.

Kevin: Tell me about the carpooling. Who organises that and how does that work in the office?
David: A lot of our stock in this area is quite close together, so because we’re based in a high-density area with a lot of apartments, all of our managements are really within walking distance. We try to encourage our property managers, in particular, to walk to appointments rather than driving. Also we’ve got three or four staff who live in the Coogee area and they come to work together a lot of days of the week when they don’t need to have their car. It’s really just managed on a day-by-day basis.

Kevin: I love the idea of the bikes for locals. Where did you get that idea from, and how does it work?
David: It was a bit of a borrowed idea from when I was over in London a couple of years ago. I think it was Barclays Bank who had an initiative over there; they have bikes out the front of their banks and you stick two dollars in a coin slot. You can take the bike for as long as you want, and when you give it back you get the money back. Because we’re based right across from a park, a lot of our clients come down during the afternoon and go for a walk around the park. We thought it’d be good to have some bikes out the front; people can come into the office and give us their driver’s licence and take a bike for as long as they like. When they bring it back we give them their licence back. It’s been really popular.

Kevin: Many people think it’s expensive to go green. What would your advice be to those people?
David: I think initially it’s a small expense, but once you start getting the right systems in place the money is made back tenfold. For small measures like carpooling, and the scrap paper and those sorts of things, the money’s earned back very, very quickly. So it might be an initial upfront cost, but once you get it all under control it’s going to work out to the benefit of your business in the long term.

Kevin: How have you made your sustainability policy pay its way, or isn’t that important to you?
David: Not necessarily important to us, I don’t think. Again, we haven’t really been out there looking at it as a money-making venture, so we haven’t been trying to measure it in a business sense to see how much money we’re making from it. It’s more about just trying to create a great working environment for our staff, and for the people in the area to come into the office knowing that we’re working on a positive environmental front. And again, we think that that’s only going to work if there’s a benefit for us in the future. I think that was shown by us winning the Sustainability Award at the Business Awards. Obviously little things like that are great publicity for a company.

Kevin: You mentioned that a lot of this is done for the benefit of the staff. Has it actually helped you with recruiting?
David: Yes, absolutely. We’ve grown massively over the last three or four years – I started here seven years ago when there were literally three of us in the office, and we’ve now got 12 full-time people here. Initially, when people came we had to try and sell the business to them, whereas now people are approaching us, wanting to come and work for us, and I think that’s the big difference. That’s when you know your business is growing.

Kevin: What did winning the award mean to you and the business?
David: It’s just a great pat on the back for all the hard work we’ve been doing. We’ve been putting in a huge effort in the local area here, working with the council, working with the local residents. We’ve put on a big food festival in the park; we really try to give back as much to the community in this area as we can, and it was just a really great reward for all that hard work.

Kevin: What would be your advice to any real estate business wanting to follow your example?
David: Just stick at it. I think people have got to look at the bigger picture; it’s not just about going out there and trying to make dollars from selling properties. When you start really making it more about a community-based effort the business will benefit.

Listen to Kevin Turner daily on RE Uncut,

Show More

Kevin Turner

Kevin Turner host real estate radio shows in Brisbane and Sydney, an online show at, and a daily 7 minute podcast for real estate agents through and in North America.