Plants Wall And Parquet Floor
Grass Growing on a Green Roof

Sustainability is no longer just nice to have. It’s mandatory.

Employers and employees expect the built environment to share their values

For some, it’s been a surprise that the pandemic hasn’t slowed the focus on sustainability in the built environment. But over recent years, we’ve seen its rise to the top of the agenda – and it clearly isn’t going anywhere.

It’s an important issue, because the built environment accounts for 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. And finding better ways to heat, cool and power buildings won’t be enough, because a building’s construction process accounts for 50% of its carbon impact over its lifetime[1]. It’s clear that, if we’re to meet the Net Zero by 2050 set out in the Paris Agreement, change has to happen now.

That said; there’s more to sustainability than a moral crusade. It can deliver financial savings in terms of a building’s operation and management. It can help employers attract and retain top talent – with 18-24 year olds saying that environmental performance was an area of deep dissatisfaction[2]. It can enhance companies’ brand and standing. And it can attract and retain customers with similar values.

So, as we move forward post-pandemic, workspaces will go beyond simply being places to work. They will provide a commercial edge, and become showcases for businesses’ passion for net zero.

Indeed, a recent survey by JLL showed 83% of senior business figures are looking at ways to innovate and accelerate their sustainability strategies. Yet only 6% see themselves as ‘leaders’ in measuring and reporting in real time on the environmental impact of their real estate holdings.[3]

That could explain why nearly three quarters of ‘leading’ investors planning to invest in net zero carbon assets in the next three years[4]. At the very least, this means net zero in terms of operation. But increasingly, investors are targeting net zero overall, i.e. in build and operation.

A good example is Microsoft. Above committing to be carbon negative by 2030; they plan to remove all the carbon it has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded by 2050.

Vital to this kind of thinking are the leading sustainability building credentials. In fact, 96% of ‘leading’ occupiers expect to make standards like these a core part of their real estate strategy by 2025[5]. Investment into BREEAM-certified buildings has more than doubled year-on-year from £1.9bn in 2009 to £17.8bn in 2019.

And the WELL certification, which straddles some sustainability areas while also assessing health and wellbeing features, is becoming increasingly popular across the board – not least because of the shift to hybrid working and the reassessment of the workspace’s role in society.

So. What can be done? For starters, there are often small changes that can add momentum to your sustainability strategy, like cutting waste to landfill, finding ways to use less resources, and monitoring the way your building performs.

Longer-term, it’s vital that real estate owners and occupiers develop and refurbish assets in light of their whole-life carbon output. Building standards like WELL and BREEAM can help here, as well as green lease clauses.

For more on this, and for advice on setting out a strategy that helps you get to Net Zero, contact us on +44 (0)20 3143 0123 and visit our company CoreFuture.

[1] UK Green Building Council April 2019

[2] What Workers Want Survey




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