Who: Rayne Neave
Where: Eco Standard South Africa, a Resource and Standards Council for the sustainable building product and material sector in South Africa, and EcoExhibit, South Africa’s first physical space designed to give builders and contractors a chance to view groundbreaking products and services in one convenient setting.
In a building world of many men shines one very busy lady, Rayne Neave. She is the granddaughter of Laurie Wale, a renowned pioneer in the building industry who among many achievements started the Building Center. By blending the work of her influential grandfather with her own drive for a sustainable world, Rayne came up with Eco Exhibit in August 2008. From Eco Exhibit spawned her latest project, Eco Standard South Africa.
Q: How did the need arise for Eco Standard South Africa?
A: Being concerned with my own credibility within the industry, I wanted to represent products at the Eco Exhibition that were legitimate. Many companies who claim they are ‘greener’ than next, and we have no real way to gauge if their claims are accurate statements or not. Hence the birth of Eco Standard South Africa.
Q: Can you tell us how you put your idea into action?
A: I started with the idea of creating a checklist to tick a couple of boxes so I could gauge whether they were genuinely environmentally orientated or not. But I quickly realized that to only do a checklist would further greenwash the industry. I would be offering people the opportunity to brand themselves as green, which wouldn’t be robust and would only perpetuate the problem. I engaged with Jeffares & Green, an environmental consulting firm, and Keith Struthers, an architect from Natural Architects. I really just facilitated the process, I’m a great visionary, but I’m not an expert and won’t claim to be. Together we came up with the first criteria which we have piloted on a couple of companies.
Q: And Eco Standard is not for profit, right?
A: Right. In coming up with the pilot, we realized there is a huge need for a standard body for sustainable building materials and to become a commercial body would defeat and limit our opportunity to really affect awareness and change in the building sector. It became obvious that a non-profit organization could facilitate the industry and South Africa far more objectively then a commercially driven entity.
Q: How will you ensure transparency? Will assessments be available online?
A: Yes, we will encourage transparency and disclosure of an organizations environmental practice. Whether to gain an eco-label or not, by doing so you will become part of Eco Standard’s database of information, such as water, waste and so forth. This will be freely available online for people to access.
Q: Will you be helping companies who don’t meet the standard?
A: Yes, currently its set up where each assessment requires an on-site audit and then documentation verification, and depending on the rating results, this is followed with the auditors feedback. Jeffares & Green have audited all companies in the piloting phase and will continue to manage this role, Eco Standard hopes to open it up to industry and train different organizations in the assessment audit process, allowing for many organizations to carry out on-site audits, these independent auditors will filter all assessments through our panel at Jeffares and Green. This will open up business opportunities and economic opportunity for South Africa as a whole.
Q: What have been the obstacles?
A: Because it’s new, a lot of people feel threatened because they know nothing about it. Industry are resistant, it’s the unknown, but companies who are already green are ready to support this movement and are keen to have their efforts legitimized. The government sectors overall have been a bit difficult in facilitating us; however the City of Cape Town has been great in supporting the initiative. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
Q: For people who want to get involved, what can they do?
A: Create industry awareness. We will have a technical committee so people with expertise who want to participate in sitting can come forward and those who are well known in the green industry may get involved in the advisory board. Another thing that would make a huge difference is if corporate organizations start specifying that their building suppliers need to disclose through Eco Standard. That is one way to accelerate the movement towards legitimately green suppliers.
Eco Standard offers industry the opportunity to meet their environmental and social responsibilities and make a genuine difference.