JLL battles with "frustrating" green policy and rapid business growth to 'build a better tomorrow'
EXCLUSIVE: Sustainability must remain a business imperative regardless of the "frustrating" green policy changes that are "stifling innovation and pausing investment", the UK head of sustainability at property services firm JLL has said.
Speaking to edie following the release of JLL’s 2015 global sustainability report this week, Sophie Walker said clients, stakeholders and staff members “continue to demand world-class sustainability standards” from the firm, despite a series of energy efficiency and low-carbon policy changes that have had a significant impact on Britain’s property sector.
“The big picture isn’t changing,” Walker said. “More than 40% of the UK workforce wants to work for an organisation that has a positive impact on the world; renewables are broadly at cost-parity with fossil fuels, low carbon and renewable energy businesses are worth £42bn to the UK economy according to the ONS, and real estate presents one of the most cost efficient sectors for reducing our carbon emissions. And in the future, these social and environmental megatrends only increase in their significance to business and our society.
“There is no doubt that some of the environmental policy changes brought in since 2015 are frustrating – not least because they stifle innovation and pause investment - and we would definitely like to see a clear long-term trajectory for environmental improvements across the UK.
"However, JLL does feel encouraged by the appointment of the new Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Greg Clark, as he has a clear understanding of the economic opportunity from the green economy, which could create around 190,000 new jobs, increase GDP by 1.1%, contribute to mitigating climate change impacts and eventually bring down energy prices.”
Among a flurry of green policy changes brought in by the Conservative Government over the past 12 months, new rules on Zero Carbon Homes – which were due to come into force this year – were scrapped. The rules would have required new housing developments to generate as much clean energy as they used in hot water, heating, lighting and ventilation. But the axing of this policy has created a feeling of uncertainty among the property industry and low-carbon investors, leading to the influential public-private body Zero Carbon Hub ceasing operations.
For JLL, which has 15 offices in the UK, the UK remains a key focus area for the group’s ‘Building a Better Tomorrow’ sustainability strategy, which seeks to “transform the real estate industry” by having a positive impact on communities and the environment.
In its 2015 Building a Better Tomorrow report, JLL reports a 6% reduction in building-related emissions per corporate office employee from a 2012 baseline. The group has committee to reach a 10% reduction in this area by 2017.
However, the company is facing a big challenge in reducing its overall environmental impact whilst undergoing a rapid expansion programme. JLL’s absolute emissions in 2015 were 64,826mtCO2e, compared with 49,344mtCO2e in 2012, an increase of 31% in three years. Forty-six new offices were acquired and JLL’s gross global revenue rose by 52% over the same three-year period.
JLL’s head of global corporate sustainability Sarah Nicholls told edie that the firm is now looking to contribute to global carbon reduction efforts by setting longer-term, science-based targets that are also aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Our current suite of carbon reduction targets focus particularly on our building-related emissions,” Nicholls said. “In the UK, we are tackling our carbon reduction targets through a number of initiatives which have resulted in a 37% per-corporate-office-employee reduction in emissions, and associated absolute reduction of more than 20%.
“We began this journey by certifying our offices to the ISO14001 standard, and we now have 11 offices certified. This has helped us identify energy saving measures at a number of sites. We have been transforming our workplaces by refurbishing existing sites to the SKA rating standard and moving other offices into more efficient buildings.
“We now have smart metering at a number of our sites, which enables us to understand in more depth the energy use of our space where we occupy only part of a building. This year, we have set a reduction target of 5% at our headquarters in London to carry on this reduction.”
With the built environment now accounting for around 40% of the world’s energy consumption and one-third of all emissions, JLL believes its work with clients – which make up four billion sq.ft of space – “presents the biggest opportunity to make a difference”.
In 2015, JLL helped deliver estimated energy savings for its US clients of 424 million kWh (247,000mtCO2e), equating to estimated cost savings of $47m (£35m). The firm also advised on installed or consented renewable energy projects that are estimated to have averted more than 233,000mtCO2e.