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The U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce is excited to bring you our newest Q&A series, Global Sustainability Leaders.
We’ve traveled the globe searching for the best and brightest sustainability leaders and we’ve found them. In our series, you will meet the
people who are creating a healthier and happier planet for you, your business and your community. Click here to view all of our Global Leaders

Phill Raso

Company/NGO Name:

CitySwitch Perth

Region, Country:


1. What is the mission of your company/NGO?

The mission of the CitySwitch Green Office Program is to see all Australian office-based
businesses receive the support and resources they need to make their tenancies healthy,
efficient and sustainable. CitySwitch is a powerful network, driving essential action on climate change, made possible by the partnering of capital city governments.

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2. What is the most innovative or environmentally/socially impactful project/practice your company/NGO has implemented?

CitySwitch is always innovating. We combine research with creativity to find new ways to deliver sustainability, such as through the Better Buildings Cup: a competition between high profile office buildings to find Australia’s happiest, healthiest and most sustainable building. We bring together buildings owners, tenants and occupants to undertake challenges that are engaging, fun, competitive and collaborative.


3. How have those projects positively impacted the local community and/ or your country?

Each year, CitySwitch signatories reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and improve their energy management. In 2018, more than 600 businesses in over 900 tenancies around Australia avoided AU$23M in energy costs while reducing and offsetting 711,000 tonnes of Co2-e. Furthermore, these organisations regularly increase their literacy on all aspects of sustainability through their participation in CitySwitch. CitySwitch now represents around one million Australian workers committed to environmental leadership. We’ve conservatively estimated that CitySwitch signatories hold AU$30B of spending power with which we support them to do more good in the world.


4. Please share any new projects you will be implementing in the near future. 

CitySwitch began over ten years ago as a sustainability program focused on supporting office tenants. Eventually, we started to hit limits of what changes office tenants could independently make in their buildings to improve sustainability. Today we’re helping tenants by engaging a lot more with their facility managers. Facility managers in Australia are doing fantastic work on making their buildings more sustainable but often they don’t realise their tenants are also working on creating better office environments and mitigating climate risks within their businesses. With everyone striving towards the same goals, we’re helping to bring whole building communities together to decrease effort and multiply results.


5. What are your top 3 career accomplishments?

I’ve loved running CitySwitch in Western Australia. In less than four years, I grew the number of Program signatories in WA by 25% to cover a quarter of Perth’s occupied office space. I significantly reduced the price per tonne of carbon abatement and grew the energy savings for signatories to $13 for every $1 spent by the Program Partner, the City of Perth. I am perhaps most proud of assisting WA signatories to win five out of nine national awards for excellence in sustainability, in a three-year span.

On the innovation side of CitySwitch, I created the brief and structure for the e-book, titled ‘Healthy Offices: Why wellness is the new green’, written by Australia’s leading online newspaper for the sustainable built environment, The Fifth Estate. The e-book became the most widely read of The Fifth Estates twenty-four e-books, helping to shape the way in which Australia views the symbiotic relationship between people and their office buildings.

In the days before I was involved in CitySwitch, I helped to devise a new sustainability program to address issues around a lack of funding, expertise and resources in West Australian schools. The program, called ClimateClever, has been so successful, it is now a national program.


6. What inspired you to choose your career path?

My career path was a long, slow evolution that ran in parallel with the evolution of sustainable development in Australia. I started out in environmental education, natural resource management and bushfire firefighting. At that time, sustainability was a fringe movement known for people building houses out of waste and living off the grid. Over the decades, as sustainability became more mainstream, new careers emerged – mine being one of them. Now I’m lucky enough to be in a place where I get to assist multinational businesses and government agencies to create policies, strategies and buildings that are restorative for people, communities, the economy and nature.


Waste Tour.jpg7. Personally—Why do you care about sustainability? What is your story?

Every day I walk a fine line between careful optimism and pessimistic fatalism (eek!). Working in sustainability is quite the roller coaster ride of emotions. When you know the science and you understand how urgent the climate crisis really is, you understand that we are out of time to transform economic and social paradigms that have been more than 150 years in the making. It can be overwhelming to think about it but then I see organisations doing some truly transformative work, school kids challenging our leaders in the streets and innovators that are creating currents that sweep us all along with them. It’s both the highs and the lows that motivate me and I can’t imagine doing anything else.


8. What is/are the biggest environmental or social challenge(s) facing your country today?

There are many incentives driving sustainability in Australian businesses. There are ‘move towards’ drivers, for example, demonstrating leadership; branching into new sustainability conscious markets; or attracting talent by having sustainability-aligned core values and office buildings that support employee health, happiness and productivity. Then there are ‘move away from’ drivers. These are drivers such as reducing the business’ climate risks for reporting to investors, lenders, shareholders, insurers and government regulators; or hedging against increasing energy price rises through energy efficiency and renewables; or divesting away from potentially stranded fossil fuel assets. The list of drivers is growing all the time.


9. What is the most positive action your country has taken to positively impact its environment or social well-being?

Australia is particularly vulnerable from the effects of climate change. The Great Barrier Reef is dying, taking tourism with it; much of eastern Australia is in a severe drought and farming communities are suffering; there’s no consensus on how to manage the precious little water left in our most important river catchment; we’re having to work hard to keep iconic Australian species such as koalas, Tasmanian devils and platypus from becoming extinct; and Australia’s variable weather has become more extreme leading to worsening floods and bushfires. Meanwhile, Australia’s economy is reliant on extractive industries such as coal and gas – energy sources the world is weaning itself off. These are just some of the sustainability challenges facing Australia, made more difficult by an outdated parliamentary system of government that promotes conflict rather than consensus. 

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10. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when pursuing or trying to promote sustainable practices/projects?

In 2012, Australia implemented a price on carbon. With no negative impacts on the economy, the carbon price began to substantially reduce emissions, particularly emissions from electricity generation. In 2014 however, there was a change in government and the carbon price was repealed. Since then, Australia’s emissions have been rising again.

11. What are your thoughts on climate change? What is your company/organization doing to help bring awareness or to help mitigate climate change?

I believe climate change is so difficult to deal with because it challenges who we are. It’s a challenge to how we relate to nature – as a steward, as a master or as cohabitating species. It’s a challenge to the beliefs of people who deny climate science – the same science that gave us medicine, space flight, the amazing phone in our hand and the brakes in our car. It’s a challenge to those in the world who benefit the most from maintaining the status quo. It’s a challenge to those who are acting on climate change when the inaction of others speaks so much louder and it’s a challenge to those who stand in the way of climate action – how they will justify their reasons to their children.

12. What are the biggest challenges you have faced when pursuing or trying to promote sustainable practices/projects?

I’m lucky that in my work with CitySwitch, I spend my time working with people who are enthusiastic about creating change. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. People have legitimate challenges around budgets, approvals, human resourcing, project timing or ‘other people’ being barriers. Often these issues occur because of an organisation’s approach to sustainability. If sustainability is made an organisational value rather than a side-project, sustainability becomes strategic rather than operational. When it’s strategic, it’s supported at the highest levels and all the challenges can be more easily overcome. It also means there’s no longer a lone sustainability officer trying to do a few sustainability projects while hundreds of other staff are inadvertently causing harm in their projects. By strategically integrating sustainability, you find ways for all projects to be sustainability projects and there is a net-positive impact by the organisation.

13. How dedicated are your nation’s businesses to corporate social responsibility? List some practices you think would be helpful.

We’re seeing real leadership come from Australian businesses on corporate social responsibility, particularly in the area of reporting under frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative, Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Australia also has world renowned green building benchmarking programs such as Green Star and NABERS, while leading in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmarks for the last eight years running. The Australian Government recently introduced reporting under the Modern Slavery Act for larger organisations. Being transparent, especially when it comes to disclosing financial risks, is quite transformative because money still talks. Whether you’re a business or an individual, you can send a huge signal to the market by divesting away from fossil fuels and businesses that deal in them. A friend once told me, to take climate action, change three things: your bank, your retirement fund and your energy provider. 

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