The Net Positive principle acknowledges that our businesses have an impact on the environment and on society. Some of these impacts are negative, and some are positive. At the core of all these ideas is one thing: to do more good and less bad.

For companies to be Net Positive, we need to ensure that our positive impacts outweigh the negative.

Is this a simple matter of mathematics?

Perhaps – but it also requires organisations to reject business-as-usual to bravely and boldly challenge their business models.

The built environment industry has a growing list of bricks-and-mortar examples of a Net Positive approach.  Carbon or water positive buildings, while certainly not run-of-the-mill, are beginning to arrive on the scene.

Take Melbourne’s Pixel Building, for example.  This was the first building in Australia to not only offset carbon generated in operation, but also the carbon embodied in the materials used in construction.  Factoring in a 50-year life cycle, Pixel will deliver a net carbon benefit to the environment.

On a broader scale, the Barangaroo precinct in Sydney is being designed to minimise the use of potable water through water efficiency measures.  Combined with black-water treatment, which will include sewer mining, Barangaroo will be water positive – which means it will be capable of exporting more recycled water than potable water used within the precinct.

These are two simple Net Positive examples that are good for the environment.    However, sustainability is about more than simply carbon and water.  Sustainable thinking demands that we consider not just the planet, but people too.

The building industry has been on to this for some time.  Take a simple thing like bike racks.  Encouraging staff to leave their cars at home is not just about cutting carbon emissions – many large corporates are seeing this as an opportunity to encourage healthy, active living.  At NAB’s new headquarters at 700 Bourke Street, 600 bike racks and 1,000 lockers have been installed for staff.  Rather than relegating cyclists to the bowels of the building, the cyclist facilities are front and centre to help people make healthy, sustainable choices.  As Australia’s obesity crisis grows, companies are beginning to understand that investing in sustainability measures can also deliver far-reaching impacts for people.

A strong sustainability strategy can help businesses in many ways: enhancing reputation, reducing costs and engaging staff are just the start.

A Net Positive approach can amplify these benefits.  But more than this, the Net Positive approach is one that is growing across industries, as sustainability moves to the core of business profitability.