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Helping redefine our ideas of what a bank does and can do to be environmentally responsible, Bank Australia’s sustainability strategy runs deep in the organisation. To help direct this strategy is Senior Sustainability Consultant Jarrod Troutbeck. Through engagement with other ethical organisations and inspiring everyone involved with Bank Australia to act in line with the company values, Jarrod’s job involves various environmental projects. We had a chat to him about one project that he’s particularly proud to be involved with.
Tell us a bit about your role as a Senior Sustainability Consultant at Bank Australia?
I probably have the best job in the world: I’m working with a bank, and banks have resources to do things, and this bank is choosing to do good things. And There’s support for that right across the board: from top-end management decisions to the choice of (non-toxic) cleaning materials we use to clean our offices and branches.
I’ve worked previously for the government, and I’ve also worked in the not-for-profit sector. That was really interesting because I was working with people with aligned values, purpose-driven and working so hard to deliver positive outcomes, but we had very limited resources to work with.
My work at Bank Australia provides an opportunity to bring both of those experiences together, while harnessing private sector ingenuity and innovation to deliver sustainability outcomes.
Of the various projects you’re working on, what are you most proud of supporting?
Bank Australia has lots of great things happening in the sustainability space, but one in particular is the Conservation Reserve. In 2008 the bank protected some land in Western Victoria, about 1,000 hectares. It started as a means of offsetting the carbon we were in part responsible for through our car loan schemes, but it’s evolved into so much more than that.
Like so much of Australia, the area of land we bought is abundant with ecologically and culturally significant sites. One of the first things we did was get it covenanted in perpetuity, so this Indigenous land is legally protected.
How are you working with the local Indigneous people there?
We’ve worked with the Barengi Gadjin Land Council to survey the entire property for culturally significant assets – as I understand it, the first request the Land Council have had, other than for mandatory compliance. We’d like to see more private landholders engage with Indigenous peoples in this way. We try to act with intention and authenticity in the Reconciliation process, and we feel this needs to begin with a demonstration of understanding and respect of culture. For example, the culturally significant sites are at the heart of our Reserve Fire Management Plan – like the major ecological or structural assets – so if or when a fire hits, we can take swift action to preserve the areas of greatest value. We want to do everything we can to protect and celebrate those sites and ensure they’re accessible to current and future generations of Indigenous people. That’s something I’m so grateful to be involved with: being a part of that journey.
What are some of the outcomes of the Conservation Reserve project?
On paper Bank Australia owns the land, but we’ve protected it under the state system and we’re navigating these colonial structures to do our bit to facilitate a return to Indigenous land practices as much as we can. As an example, harnessing the traditional methods of burning, which have been developed to enhance and not destroy the ecology.
Part of our intent is to demonstrate the ecological and cultural benefits of traditional methods that have been developed in parallel with the evolution of the land. First Nations peoples have been living here and developing these land practices for many tens of thousands of years before the Pyramids of Giza were built, and that to me just puts it into perspective the extent of local knowledge, that would be accumulated over that scale of time.
Agreed. The conservation reserve is also about Australia’s unique native species. What are you doing on the land in Western Victoria?
The reason Australia is so special and unique is that it’s been an island for so long, and our flora and fauna have evolved without predators from other continents, or did at least until colonisation began.
We’re also working on species protection, which is an example of the long-term approach. The red tailed cockatoo, for instance, is highly endangered, so we’re working to conserve their habitat and food sources so that they can thrive. They’re really fussy about what they eat – they eat the seeds of trees which take 80 years to start seeding. So we’re planting trees with an eye to the future and the knowledge that even though we’re unlikely to see the benefit of our work, it’s still essential.
How does this reflect Bank Australia’s mission and values?
What I love about this project is the visibly immediate impact that runs hand in hand with the really long-term mission of the project. I think that’s a reflection of the Bank Australia ethos: the commitment to hopeful future thinking.
Every day at work, the bank’s commitment to that is reiterated through the research they encourage and the projects they encourage me to push forward. What I’m most grateful of at Bank Australia is the integrity of the team, and the commitment, across the board, to our values. The ambition demonstrated by the Bank’s Conservation Reserve project encapsulates this perfectly.
Bank Australia is a proud partner of The Conscious Space. Over the next six months we will be running a series of stories about the bank and the climate-driven projects they are involved in.