WWF ranks UK housebuilders on sustainability

Sustainability is an issue of growing importance in the construction market as a report on the performance of UK housebuilders published in the New Year underlined. This first survey of 13 of the UK's largest listed house-builders shows very clearly that each recognises the growing importance of sustainability issues to their business. Two companies, Countryside Properties and The Berkeley Group, lead the pack, each scoring more than 70 %. Although the remaining companies lag behind best practice, with an average survey score of 35 %, many examples of good practice are emerging with respect to managing key environmental and social issues.

The survey, commissioned by WWF – the global environment network – in conjunction with Insight Investment, is part of WWF’s One Million Sustainable Homes campaign (OMSH) the aim of which is to move sustainability from the fringes to the mainstream of UK housing. The report covers areas such as house-builders’ impacts on the environment and society, and delves into their governance, strategies and risk management.

Paul King, Director of WWF’s One Million Sustainable Homes campaign, said: “This report should dispel any notion that investors aren’t interested in sustainability. Mismanagement of both social and environmental impacts and risks can cost companies and their investors dear over the long term.”

The analysis reveals that public disclosure of information on sustainability issues in this sector is lacking. Most companies included in the survey did not report the full range of steps they take to reduce their negative impacts. They could have improved their score had they made publicly available more detailed information on, for example, targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, to cut construction waste or details of their health and safety record.

Housebuilders’ role

Responsible house-builders should consider how their developments can contribute to creating a more sustainable future for local communities, as well as for society and the environment more widely,” said Paul King. “After all, the built environment shapes the society in which we live. Our homes have significant environmental, social and economic impacts throughout their lifetime – and this, coupled with the current shortage of good quality housing in the UK, means that the need for more sustainable homes in the UK is urgent.”

All 13 of the UK housebuilders listed on the FTSE All Share index, that derive more than 25 % of their turnover from house-building, are included within this study. They account for 44 % of all housing units completed in the UK in 2002.
The survey revealed an overall average of 35 % based on publicly disclosed information and 47 % estimated as a result of follow-up meetings with WWF and Insight. Countryside Properties and the Berkeley Group score more than 70 % each, three companies score between 40 and 60 %, six score between 20 and 40 %, and two lag behind at under 20 %, based on publicly available information.

For a copy of the report go to www.wwf.org.uk/sustainablehomes/reports.asp

EST welcomes report

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) commended WWF’s initiative which aims to move sustainability from the fringes of UK housing to the mainstream but has called on industry to adopt further energy efficient measures in the construction of houses.
Housebuilders need to be more transparent with information on sustainability issues and report the full range of steps they take to reduce their negative impacts. EST has developed the Best Practice Programme which sets energy efficient standards above current regulations and wants Government to use Best Practice as a benchmark for changes to building regulations in 2005.

Commenting on the survey, Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of the EST, says; “Whilst the survey shows that the minority of housebuilders have their finger on the pulse, we are still a long way from ensuring that the whole industry builds homes to energy efficient standards.

“We already know that people would prefer their homes to be environmentally friendly and that 40% of people are willing to pay more to help their home mend its energy criminal ways.”

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