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Brookfield Properties: Walking the talk on its plastic avoidance journey

Brookfield Properties embodies the power of large organisations to enact widespread change by ‘walking the talk’ in their daily operations. Joining Plastic Free July to launch their ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ initiative in 2021, Brookfield Properties is now on track to remove over 1.75 million single-use plastics from its supply chain in Australia each year.

Brookfield Properties oversees real estate investments for leading global asset manager Brookfield Asset Management. After initiating change at their Australian corporate offices, staff have created a multiplier effect, sharing their learning journey with suppliers and tenants and now other offices around the world.

Taking stock

The annual Plastic Free July challenge is a great time to engage others and build momentum. In 2020, Brookfield Properties turned their interest into action, conducting audits to work on ways single-use plastic could be avoided or removed, and pinpointing ‘quick wins’ as well as point-of-production challenges. Coinciding with 2021’s Plastic Free July, the company launched its plastic reduction initiative with pilot programs in two major urban precincts – Brookfield Place Perth and Brookfield Place Sydney.

Walking the talk

Brookfield Properties started by removing more than 25 single-use plastic products from its Australia-wide offices and engaging staff through ‘lunch and learns’ delivered by Plastic Free July founder Rebecca Prince-Ruiz.

Impactful changes have included working with bathroom product suppliers to remove plastic wrapping from deliveries and requesting that all Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) be delivered in cardboard packaging. By ‘walking the talk’, staff are now able to share what has worked with their stakeholders.

Pilot program initiatives and wins

Pilot initiatives have resulted in vast plastic reduction wins. Brookfield Place Sydney’s hospitality venues are now recycling and use fewer bottles by buying in bulk. The installation of a “wet umbrella dryer” has provided a great alternative to single-use plastic umbrella bags.

In their Brookfield Place Perth food court, Brookfield Properties installed a reverse vending machine resulting in over 4,000 plastic bottles diverted from landfill. A water bottle refill station encouraging customers at the café court to embrace a sustainable alternative has led to the avoidance of over 6,700 single-use plastic water bottles. Reminders for staff to BYO reusable cups for takeaway coffee helped create a new coffee culture.

A journey of learning

Any significant change presents opportunities to learn along the way. Following contamination of recyclable coffee cups in its recycling stream, Brookfield Properties is running staff education sessions. It also immediately replaced oxo-degradable bags with naturally compostable bags after learning that oxo-degradable bags simply ‘break up’ into smaller pieces of plastic.

The multiplier effect

Brookfield Properties is rolling out changes on a national basis with initiatives including ‘lunch and learns’ and tours of local recycling plants for its tenants.

Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications Mathew Chandler is thrilled with Brookfield’s impressive plastic avoidance statistics and the way enthusiasm for change has spread.

“We are removing over 1.75 million single-use plastics from our supply chain annually. Even better, our program is igniting conversations and causing individuals to rethink their relationship with plastic; the multiplier effect is fantastic.

“We knew our company’s culture had changed when I went to buy flowers from the florist downstairs and asked for them to be wrapped without plastic packaging. They said, ‘You work for Brookfield, don’t you?’

“Our program is igniting conversations and causing individuals to rethink their relationship with plastic; the multiplier effect is fantastic.”

Mathew Chandler –Senior VP for Marketing and Communications

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