Project: Sustainable Thinking for Large Projects

Johanna is a Senior Sustainability Consultant at Arup working primarily on infrastructure and master planning projects, and with a passion for corporate sustainability and CSR.

She achieved a first class honours in environmental science and received a medal from the University of New South Wales for her thesis on disseminating sustainable technologies before moving to the US in 2010, where she spent six years in New York managing corporate sustainability for a renewable energy start up with operations in the US and China.

In 2016 she moved back to Sydney and joined Arup where she works with a range of clients including universities, developers and government bodies. She also holds an internal sustainability role within Arup and has driven and contributed to several in-house sustainability initiatives and projects, including a transition to Green Power, a commitment to carbon neutrality by 2020 and the development of sustainable strip out and procurement guidance.


I am involved in many large built environment projects, including infrastructure, master planned precincts and cities. However, legislated sustainability requirements for major projects in NSW sometimes leave room for interpretation and what is considered ‘best practice’. As a result, sustainability thinking is often inconsistently or incompletely applied to these projects, which limits their ability to affect change.

Arup has made a commitment to the SDGs and is working hard to use them to reframe our work and redefine what ‘better’ looks like in our mission to shape a better world. The SDGs can provide sustainability themes and reasoning to inform the earliest stages of a project. The SDGs favour collective action and address broad themes that aim to support sustainable development. These include good health and well-being, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action. The SDGs are interdependent and therefore take a holistic approach to sustainability.

My project aims to use the SDGs as a framework to inform how drivers of city-building projects approach sustainability. This framework would be used at the earliest stages of the project before major design decisions are made and would aim to upskill designers, project teams and clients to consider all aspects of sustainability in their work. Ultimately, this approach would allow projects to benchmark and find synergies between projects using the same framework, driving even larger outcomes and expanding their reach. If successful, my project will allow Arup, and the projects we work on, to set targets for sustainability outcomes that are far reaching, ambitious and address multiple human, economic and environmental criteria.  


I have been interested in how people understand and communicate about sustainability and climate change for years. I think that poor communication or understanding is a barrier to collaboration and advancing sustainable outcomes. Sometimes sustainability issues and solutions may seem too large and daunting to act upon. This project is about just that– providing people with a framework to think about sustainability and how it applies to what they do.

As Greta Thunberg has said, “The future of all coming generations rests on your shoulders. What you do now, we children can’t undo in the future. So please, treat the crisis as the crisis it is and give us a future.”

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