Compass Housing

Compass Housing has been selected as an ABA100® Winner for Sustainability in The Australian Business Awards 2020. The Australian Business Award for Sustainability [SYA] recognises organisations that execute initiatives that demonstrate leadership and commitment to sustainable business practices.

Compass Housing Services Co Limited (Compass) is an enterprising and socially committed international NGO that provides social and affordable housing for low to moderate income households. With almost 6900 properties under management, Compass is one of the largest nongovernment providers of subsidised housing in Australia. The community housing Compass provides is about much more than accommodation as it is also about building communities. The company’s vision is for a world in which all people have access to safe, affordable and adequate housing and are actively engaged in their communities. In pursuit of that goal, Compass has developed an approach to service delivery which integrates tenancy and property management within a broader network of services and maximises opportunities for tenants to increase their economic and social participation.  While providing housing is their core business, Compass is also an increasingly powerful advocate for structural reform to Australia’s housing system. Underpinning the company’s vision is a belief that safe and adequate housing is a basic human right. As promoters of the right to housing, we produce innovative research papers and participate in cross sectoral campaigns and lobbying to help bring about a more equitable housing system that meets the needs of all Australians.

Compass Housing has a long-standing commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability and strongly believes real success in any of these can only be achieved when all three are addressed. Its business’ vision is “That all people have appropriate and affordable shelter and are engaged in sustainable communities.” The United Nations has achieved ground-breaking agreements in recent years which, if implemented, will move the world to greater environmental sustainability and greater social justice. These are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda (NUA) which address the two critical problems of our age – the challenge of climate change and the widening gap between rich and poor. Compass has recognised that integrating the two approaches is essential. It has mapped its alignment of the individual SDGs with the commitments made in the NUA. As part of this work, Compass is pursuing ambitious environmental and social justice objectives through advocacy and program delivery to tenants and their communities.

Compass’ Operations Plan and Strategic Plan both include statements on three aspects of sustainability; environmental, social and economic. Compass’ current specific goals for sustainability are to achieve accreditation of Gold Status in the NSW Government’s Sustainability Advantage program and to align and operate Compass’ operations with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Compass also hope to have all their staff see sustainability as part of their role.  Compass’ plans are also aimed to assist in the broader promotion of and sharing of tools to promote business environmental sustainability. These innovations are also designed to establish a Zero Waste initiative, particularly to reduce plastic waste to zero as well as achieve a carbon reduction of 10% over three years per FTE staff numbers. Lastly, the company also have the goal to investigate models to increase the use of solar power at Compass properties.

Sustainability is something that every Compass staff member is responsible for and this is outlined in Compass’ vision and planning documents. This is reinforced during Compass’ induction and orientation program. Compass has implemented a range of activities to meet its sustainability goals. These actions are overseen by its Sustainability Manager and staff sustainability champions but driven by senior management. Sustainability is seen as the responsibility of every staff member.

In 2019, Compass was awarded Gold status in the NSW Government’s Sustainability Advantage Program and its Sustainability Manager awarded the honour of the state’s Sustainability Champion of the Year. The results show Compass has reduced its use of electricity, fuel and improved waste management – exceeding its objective of a 10% carbon reduction on base year. Compass’ carbon reduction achievements outlined in the previous questions have had a direct improvement on the business’ bottom line, business opportunities, as well as benefits for staff and customers. Helping Compass tenants to save money on their power is extremely valuable given their socioeconomic status, but the benefits are more than economic. For example, the community gardens initiative helps to also bring neighbours together over a common purpose to reduce solation. It also teaches tenants skills and improves nutrition. Through the implementation of staff and tenant awareness sessions, training and programs, Compass provide a practical and welcome opportunity for both staff and tenant engagement. Compass has tenant satisfaction ratings of 94%, much higher than the industry average. It believes that this rating is in part due to value added services such as its sustainability program. Compass has also assisted in advocacy work to promote sustainability and enhance its own programs, which has fostered new business relationships and opportunities.