Environmental Consultant | Eden Suite
We recently sat down with John Hutchinson, an Environmental Consultant and integral member of the Eden Suite team, for a Q&A session. With a passion for sustainability and over 25 years of experience in the field, John sheds light on his role within the company, providing environmental reporting services to a number of organisations.
Can you tell me a bit about your role working as an Environmental Consultant for Intelligent Pathways Environmental Reporting Software, Eden Suite?
We provide environmental reporting services to a range of different organisations – government, healthcare sector, and the private sector. A major part of my daily routine involves engaging with these clients – gathering and processing data, inputting it into the system, answering questions and providing training to ensure seamless usage of our software. My role is inherently customer-focused however, I also collaborate closely with our technical team to drive software enhancements and explore new ideas and releases. It’s a tight-knit team, and we are supported by the broader IP team. We strive to continuously improve the software, ensuring it remains at the forefront of the industry and aligned with the evolving needs of our clients.
How did you first get involved within the ESG sector?
My journey into the ESG sector took an interesting path. Initially, I studied chemical engineering, but upon graduating, I realised that most of the available jobs were in industries like mining and chemicals. Being a bit of a hippie I didn’t want to do that, so I pursued a career in hospitality and travelled extensively. Those travels further fueled my passion for the environment so I went back to search for jobs. There were limited opportunities in the sector besides a unique establishment called Going Solar, a shop that sold solar panels, solar hot water systems, composting toilets, and even beekeeping supplies. I approached and expressed my interest in joining their team. Despite my previous engineering degree I was required to obtain a Certificate IV in Renewable Energy. From there I secured a position with Sustainability Victoria, and then I transitioned to the Department of Environment in Victoria, eventually becoming the Whole of Victorian Government Environment Manager. In this role, I supported environment managers across various departments and facilitated their environmental efforts.
One day, out of the blue I received a call from IP’s founder Gary Crosby, who was working on data exchange concepts and wanted to understand the challenges we faced in environmental reporting. We arranged a meeting in Melbourne, where the seeds of a comprehensive environmental reporting system were planted. In the department we worked on preparing a comprehensive set of business and capabilities requirements – some 363 in total! Subsequently, we released a tender to the market, and IP emerged as the victorious candidate with their Eden Suite proposal. Roll forward a few years and after some changes in government which had some policy impacts I decided to take a redundancy. I joined Ironbark Sustainability which focuses on local government sustainability, along with some part time work at IP. As Eden Suite grew I transitioned to a more full-time role, but with some flexibility so I can continue contributing at Ironbark.
You’re obviously quite passionate about sustainability and the environment, what makes you so passionate and what do you find fulfilling about your work? What motivates you to make a difference?
My passion for sustainability and the environment stems from the urgent reality of the climate crisis. It has been an issue for the past 50 years, and many people feel a sense of helplessness in the face of its magnitude. Personally, I find purpose in leveraging my engineering skills to contribute in this field. I’m not solving climate change by any means, but I believe that every small effort counts.
As a parent of three kids, I am driven by the responsibility to create a sustainable world that they can thrive in. The desire to leave a better planet for future generations serves as a powerful motivator. I also recognise the privilege I have to work in an industry that aligns with my values and allows me to contribute to positive change. Not everyone has the opportunity to be a part of a feel-good industry, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have found my place in this meaningful field.
What’s something in the market that excites you at the moment?
One thing that really excites me at the moment is the work being done by Ironbark. They have developed a fascinating snapshot tool that allows users to log in and explore the emissions of their council and community. It goes beyond just analysing emissions from council buildings and includes data on electricity usage, gas consumption, transportation, agriculture, etc. The best part is that they offer this tool for free to anyone interested. The goal behind this tool is to eliminate data as a barrier for action. By providing easy access to emissions data, councils can now ask themselves, “What can we do about this?” Ironbark is taking it a step further by encouraging collaboration among stakeholders.
The collaboration, data-driven approach, evidence-based decision-making, and action planning are all aspects that genuinely excite me. I also strive to incorporate these principles into my work with Eden Suite. It’s not just about providing data; it’s about leveraging that data to drive meaningful action and positive change.
Is there anything you practise in your own life, being particularly environmentally conscious, that you would like to encourage others to adopt? If you could influence a common behaviour, what would it be?
Encouraging sustainable behaviours can be challenging, as there is often criticism and pushback. We must remember that we are all operating within a society that may limit our options. For example, when Greta Thunberg flew to an event people called her a hypocrite. It’s unfair to label someone simply because they had to travel for a meeting or an event when alternatives are limited – it’s not Greta’s fault that airlines have transitioned to more sustainable alternatives.
I believe in focusing on the little actions we can take in our daily lives, especially those that offer dual benefits. For instance, using e-bikes not only reduces energy consumption but also promotes physical exercise and allows for an enjoyable exploration of the city. I love using mine! These small steps can make a difference. A goal of mine is to transition away from using gas at home, although I recognise the switch is not affordable for everyone. We must be realistic and not be too hard on ourselves when doing the best effort possible.
What is something that you do outside of work that you really enjoy?
Outside of work, one of my biggest passions is attending live music. Since moving up to Brisbane earlier in the month I’ve already booked tickets for five upcoming shows – Bad Dreems, King Stingray, Beddy Rays, The Presets, and even The David Bowie Experience with a group of friends. We weren’t sure how the live music scene would be up in QLD but so far, we’ve seen plenty of tours stopping locally!
What’s something that you are learning about at the moment, or find interesting?
Scope 3 emissions. It involves examining the environmental impact of your entire supply chain and finding ways to influence it. If we aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, it’s not enough to focus solely on our own operations. We need to ensure that the products and services we procure are also aligned with sustainability goals.
A significant trend emerging in this area is the practice of engaging with suppliers and encouraging transparency. We inquire about their reporting practices and if they have set any sustainability targets. By incrementally increasing our expectations, we can leverage our purchasing power to motivate suppliers to move in a more sustainable direction. It’s an effective way to extend our influence beyond our immediate operations and create a ripple effect throughout the supply chain. The potential of using purchasing power to drive positive change and shape the behaviour of suppliers is something I find particularly intriguing. It’s an opportunity to align business practices with environmental goals and foster sustainability at a broader scale.