David Maucor is the Regional Principal at Britomart-based Edge Impact, a global sustainability advisory firm. Here, he speaks to Jeremy Hansen about the pace at which things are changing, how science, strategy and storytelling go hand-in-hand, and how he’s equipping his three children to deal with climate change. 

JEREMY HANSEN David, could I begin just by asking you to introduce yourself?

DAVID MAUCOR Kia ora. I’m David Maucor, I work at Edge Impact. We’re a sustainability consultancy and advisory firm. Our kaupapa is leveraging science, strategy, and storytelling to deliver sustainable outcomes for our clients. Before joining Edge, I worked at Downer Infrastructure and Services for almost a decade – they’re a big construction company here in Aotearoa. I worked on environmental management and sustainably delivering infrastructure projects, particularly on the rebuild in Christchurch. Edge Impact has existed for 15 years, firstly out of Australia. We opened an office two years ago here in Britomart. My role is to build and lead a team and do what we do best for businesses and partners here in New Zealand.

JEREMY One of the things I’ve noticed about work in the sustainability area is that it quickly becomes highly granular. Does that make it difficult when you’re an advisory firm and you’re not in the daily business of the places you’re advising? How do you psychologically prepare those organisations for the level of detail they’ll have to grapple with? 

DAVID The level of detail required really depends on the project. Yes, if you are doing a life cycle analysis or a carbon footprint, you do need a lot of detail. Sustainability strategy development requires business buy-in first and foremost and detail is not essential. What is universal is that it’s essential to understand what the driver is for our clients wanting change. It might be investors, it might be employees, it might be regulatory, or it might be clients that are pushing them. Understanding what that driver really is and fleshing that out in detail is helpful for them to understand what they want to achieve, and how we’re going to deliver it. One principle that often resonates is ‘progress over perfection’: we don’t need to wait to get it all correct.

JEREMY How do you get them through the delivery, where there are so many areas in which a proposal can fall over? 

DAVID You’ve got to be able to tell the story and get people on board. If you don’t have the science to back up your story, it’s equivalent to greenwashing and people don’t buy in. I’ll give you an example. We recently worked with Holcim NZ, who are located just down the road at Auckland’s Port. They have started importing low-carbon cement. Their information suggested the cement can deliver a concrete that’s got 30 percent fewer emissions than the standard general cement product. That’s a big claim to make, so before they told that story we did a life-cycle analysis of their product to demonstrate that it does meet that 30 percent threshold. The final output of that work was an Environmental Product Declaration, a formal process which is ISO compliant and allows Holcim NZ to show independent third-party verification of their product. It’s not just about selling their product: they also want to position themselves as a partner for these projects that want to decarbonise.

JEREMY What’s your perspective on the pace at which change is happening? On one hand it feels like systemic change is happening quickly, finally – but the climate also seems to be degrading quickly as well. Is the amount of change that’s happening appropriate to the levels of challenge we face?

DAVID Any professional that works in the sustainability space is totally aware that it’s not going as fast as we need to. There’s no doubt about that. But there have been some big improvements. New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act is quite progressive – a few years ago, it wouldn’t even have been considered that a country would put a carbon-neutral target into legislation. But then when it comes to implementation and delivering on it, that’s where we’re hitting on-the-ground realities and challenges. I think what’s happening now is the climate’s catching up with us. It’s dawning on people that a climate disaster is looming.

JEREMY How do you keep yourself and your teams motivated?

DAVID Just being able to step back and say, you don’t have to take the weight of the world on your shoulders. The second thing is then saying, do what you can do. Make sure you’re doing what you can to help with the situation. I’m a very positive person and that’s what’s got me through my career so far. You’ve got to be positive when you’re doing these types of roles because you’re always getting pushback and scepticism. 

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