Human endeavour is an inspirational thing. I recently interviewed a very brave guy who struck out on his own to start a business that closely aligned with his value set. A few years down the track that one man show has expanded considerably both in employee numbers, client base and positive impact.

This blog post is the first in what will become a regular feature on this site and profiles the achievements of Terence Jeyaretnam, founder of Net Balance Management Group. If you are wondering how I found out about Terence then you probably haven't read the Engineers Australia magazine in a while. As an engineer and a member of the Society of Sustainability and Environmental Engineering (SSEE) I have been reading Terence's articles on sustainability for about five years now, in fact, it is pretty much all I read in that mag. This is not a comment on the quality of the magazine, simply an indication of my priorities when it comes to reading the rest of it. The following is an excerpt from the Net Balance website:

Welcome to Net Balance

Net Balance is a different kind of company.

The Net Balance team is made up of energetic, passionate individuals who see sustainability as core business, presenting exciting opportunities for innovation, industry leadership, risk management, and cost reduction. That’s why Net Balance has become one of the leading providers of sustainability advice and assurance in Australia.

I asked Terence a number of questions to find out what inspired his work to create this company and what he thinks can inspire other sustainability practitioners.

Q1 - Why did you decide to launch Net Balance?

Because the company I was with at the time, URS, decided to step away globally from providing assurance to sustainability reports due to litigation fears. This was, and has been, my area of passion for the past 15 years, and I needed an entity to house my interests. Besides, it presented an opportunity for a unique experiment in setting up a company – one that measures, offsets and reports its sustainability performance, has a strong focus on non-profit work and is based on a strong set of values. The experiment has been a phenomenal success so far, proving that there is indeed much room for sustainable business models.

Q2 - What are the key resources you employ in the conduct of your work (an example of some that I have listed for readers is located here)?

Editor’s note: As a time management guru, Terence typed up his reply to my questions while in the air between Sydney and Melbourne so he lacked the capacity to check the list of resources I provided in a recent post.

Jud, again, as I’m in the middle of the air, I can’t see your list, but my key resource (and to an extent the only resource) is my brain. I find that one of the fundamental issues (even with sustainability) is that we do not use our brains as much as we could. Lazy brains lead to lazy people and a lazy planet – I’m not saying that my brain is not lazy – it is, and it does try very hard to coast, but I keep challenging the possibilities!

Editor’s note: Wow. Insights like this are exactly why I started this blog. That was not what I was getting at with my question but it provides a great wake up call. What is your first point of call when you have a hard decision to make or a complex problem to solve? Do you make a conscious effort to extend yourself and make the most of your own mind? Consider the sheer volume of information you can access. It quickly becomes clear that it is your discerning mind that will actually make sense of it all and turn it into a useful resource. Thanks Terence, excellent point.

Q3 - What inspires you to work in the field of sustainability?

The possibility that we may leave this planet to our kids just the way we found it.  When I was a child (which by the way was not that long ago!), there was very little waste, very little pollution and much more time in the day. I would like to give the place back the way I found it – and the reason my work continues to get me out of bed very early every morning is that it has the potential to change large institutions and create much more change than I could ever achieve on my own.

Q4 - What are some examples of work you have been involved in that you think may be inspirational to other sustainability practitioners?

Two things.  Most companies that I have worked with have improved their performance each year and have gone from strength to strength.  This makes me proud.  Secondly, I’m proud of what Net Balance has done as a company – ticked most boxes in a sustainability journey from day one.  Hopefully, it will inspire other sustainability and engineering companies to practice what they believe is good for business and reap the rewards.

Editor’s note: The impressive list of clients that Net Balance has managed to support along their sustainability journey can be found here. Some high profile clients include Fosters Group, Bunnings Warehouse and BHP Billiton.

The next sustainability practitioner to be profiled will be freelance writer Leon Gettler of Fairfax, G Magazine and Sox First fame. Do you have anyone you would recommend I try to profile on this blog? If so please feel free to add a comment below.

Inaction is a terrible thing. Reasons for inaction abound and at the end of the day one can always look back and say 'well we could have moved a bit quicker on this or that'. One common reason for inaction is cost. We see a potential change we would like to make and we think that we can't afford it. Long term return on investment calculations take time and tire our brains so we simply avoid the cost. This single factor is a massive barrier to the kind of changes that need to be made in order to wind up a lot of unsustainable practices. The following are some examples of what exists in a lot of homes today:

 - archaic hot water systems;
 - no or ineffective insulation;
 - short eaves leading to negligible summer shading;
 - single glazed windows;
 - low voltage (but high consumption) downlights; and
 - plumbing systems and stormwater systems that let a lot of good water simply run away from your property.

The choice to let these practices continue is a result in some cases of people not being aware of the alternative but in many cases simply being averse to the expenditure. In Australia the time has come to try and reverse a bit of that. In their first budget announcement back in 2008 the Federal Government allocated funds to a Green Loans program. The steps are as follows:

1. Register. Home owners register for the service by calling 1800 895 076 or visiting (I recommend calling for a more speedy result);
2. Assessment. A Home Sustainability Assessment is conducted by an accredited assessor who makes recommendations on what needs to be done to improve the sustainability of your home in terms of energy and water consumption;
3. Obtain Finance. You apply for a $10,000.00 four year interest free loan through one of the nominated financial institutions; and
4. Reap The Benefits. You spend the money on the necessary home improvements and pay the loan off over four years interest free.
Bargain. Based on a personal loan rate of 13.40% this is a saving of $2,972.70 over the four years or approximately $62.00 per month. The really cool thing about this is that it can be used in conjunction with other rebate schemes. Whether you feel like spending the money or not I strongly recommend booking in for the Home Sustainability Assessment as it will help you with future planning regarding repairs and renovations. There is nothing like the view of an independent professional to help shed some light on the options available.

But Jud, what if I don't own my own home?

Then get yapping and pass this onto people you know who do.

But Jud, what if I don't live in Australia?

Then alert your member of parliment to what is a great example of a Governement taking the initiative.

I don't want to spend $10,000.00, I have other financial committments, what is the value of this to me?

Although you may not feel like spending it now if you make the assessor aware of your situation they can identify relatively cheap or heavily subsidised options that can save you money in the long term, potentially make your home more comfortable and reduce the impact your lifestyle has on our precious resources.

Have you had a Home Sustainability Assessment done? What was it like and what were the recommendations? Have you implemented them?

More to come in future posts as Rebate Hound continues snooping. In the meantime pickup the phone if you haven't already.