I am fascinated by the common threads of achievement that come to define an individual’s contribution to their chosen field of endeavour. I am equally fascinated by how communities, cites and nations do the same. I now turn that lens onto my own career in a quest to articulate my own contribution.
After founding a retail business in my mid-twenties, I built the company into a national chain before divesting to a public company. I later managed the Rundle Mall precinct, a busy shopping and entertainment precinct prior to being elected as the 78th Lord Mayor of Adelaide in 2014. With a community service orientated approach, I initiated strong sustainability and technology agendas.
My journey then took me on to become the CEO of Business SA, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for South Australia, where my leadership and advocacy supported thousands of business owners during the onset of COVID-19. Today, I am the Chair of the Premier’s Climate Change Council, the Special Envoy for Trade and Investment to Singapore and Southeast Asia for Government of South Australia, a podcaster and private investor.
Throughout each chapter, I have remained passionate about the wellbeing of South Australia, its environment and community. I believe in the power of education, leadership, communication and community service and these are undoubtedly my own ‘common threads’. I encourage you to become familiar with your own.
As we look to the future, I encourage you to reflect on the links between the environment and the economy. Climate change is a complex issue that has far-reaching implications for the planet, people and business community. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that the world is heading towards a catastrophic temperature increase of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which will have severe consequences for biodiversity, food security, public health, and the global economy. It is therefore imperative that we each play our part to address climate change and mitigate the environmental damage as climate change is leading to more extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves. Climate change reduces crop yields, degrades land, and increases the risk of pests and diseases. Moreover, it exacerbates air pollution and poses a threat to public health, especially for vulnerable populations such as the elderly, children, and those with preexisting health conditions.
As Lord Mayor of Adelaide, I ensured that the City of Adelaide became a national leader in addressing climate change. In 2015, I launched Carbon Neutral Adelaide to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, introduced smart city initiatives such as LED street lighting, smart parking systems, electric vehicle charging stations and increased the city’s green spaces while preserving its biodiversity. As a strong advocate for renewable energy, I supported the city’s programs to install solar panels on many public buildings and provide incentives for residential and commercial property owners and occupiers to do the same. Under my leadership, the city bikeway was upgraded and thousands of trees were planted.
At the United Nations COP21 in Paris in December 2015, I delivered a speech at the Sustainable Innovation Forum and ratified the signing of the Compact of Mayors on behalf of the City of Adelaide. At the World Cities Summit in Singapore in 2018, I delivered a keynote speech on the inter-dependencies between green cities and liveable cities, with Adelaide as the case study.
Addressing climate change also presents opportunities for the business community as the transition to a low-carbon economy requires new technologies, processes and business models which create new markets and industries. As companies take action to address climate change, they are likely to improve their reputation, enhance their brand value, and attract new customers who are increasingly environmentally conscious. Addressing climate change can also help companies reduce their operating costs by increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste.
The Premier’s Climate Change Council is an independent body established by an Act of Parliament to provide advice to the State Government of South Australia on how to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. South Australia is on a trajectory to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and the global green economy has been quantified to reach over ten trillion dollars by 2050. Addressing climate change is both an imperative and opportunity and requires a seismic shift in how we go about addressing our energy needs and industrial processes to reduce emissions.
This shift is laden with opportunity for governments, entrepreneurs, academics, policy makers, investors, technologists and so many others who move first. At various times, it is OK to be a follower. This is not one of them. This is South Australia’s time to lead and lead we must.