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In November 2021 COP26 once again brought the importance of sustainability to the global stage, highlighting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) report that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land"1. All part of society, from business to government have a role to play and must collaborate in order to deliver net zero.

There are over 30 million buildings in the UK, contributing 17% of the nation’s emissions2. Therefore, the extent to which old buildings are refurbished and new buildings are built to high energy efficiency will have a huge bearing on the success of the UK’s transition to net zero.

It is timely therefore that the UK Government has launched ‘UK Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener’ which established the emissions reductions required to hit net zero. It details a range of directional heat and building commitments including consulting on a higher minimum performance standard, long term regulatory standards for privately rented homes and setting a minimum energy efficiency standard.

The case for developing sustainable buildings and the need to make existing buildings more sustainable has never been more pressing. Recent rises in energy prices have brought into public focus how energy efficient buildings can save money highlighting the importance of the real estate sector acting together, alongside targeted policy focus and support from financial providers.

Admittedly there is a lot for businesses to learn about sustainability and what it means for them. There have been so many different challenges across the last few years with uncertainty on how Brexit would be resolved, the Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues. Sustainability is another topic for businesses to contend with, but one that will have generational impact.

We wanted to learn more about businesses’ understanding of sustainability and the actions they are taking. In November 2021 we launched From Now To Net Zero: a Practical Guide for SMEs which was based on research conducted with over 1,000 different UK businesses.

The research tells us that there is a gap between understanding the importance of sustainability (89%) and what it means for SMEs (40%).

To help businesses, From Now To Net Zero: a Practical Guide for SMEs includes a practical five-step guide covering actions they can take and the support available to help them at every stage of their sustainability journey.

And while there is no one way to get to net zero and every business will have a different journey, it is definitely the case that those who have achieved it have traits in common:

  1. Getting Started – Recognising that sustainability is important and learning about the challenges or opportunities that affect your business.
  2. Short-term Wins and Employee Engagement – Start building a sustainability culture in your business by identifying actions you can take today and acting on them. This might be simple things like reducing energy use or waste.
  3. Measure, Mobilise & Monitor – To achieve net zero you need to know about your existing carbon footprint and establish a sustainability plan. Measuring your progress along the way helps you identify if you are on track.
  4. Navigating the Road Ahead – Once you have established sustainability plans in action you could start benefitting from new business opportunities. This might be winning more contracts on the strength of your sustainability credentials or better sentiment from your customers, shareholders and employees.

To help real estate businesses plan their building strategy, we offer the Green Buildings Tool to clients. It is a digital tool that enables you to identify, evaluate and understand the estimated outcomes of potential investments to make your property more sustainable and energy efficient.

The tool can analyse how different energy saving initiatives can affect the EPC rating of the building and reduce CO2 emissions. To help businesses plan, for each investment it details savings, CO2 reduction and time to recoup costs.

We also offer a tailored green lending product Clean Growth Finance Initiative (CGFI) this provides businesses with discounted lending for green purposes. In real estate common purposes include:

  • Space and water heating: ground source heat pumps, air source heat pumps
  • Lighting
  • Building / Energy Management Improvements: building management systems, storage batteries, voltage optimisation systems, replacement glazing for windows / doors
  • Renewable Energy: wind turbines, solar panels, biomass

There is specific support available on high energy efficiency new build residential and commercial properties. Existing buildings can be supported when minor or major refurbishments result in high energy efficiency.

The decisions we make today will have a big impact on tomorrow. Real Estate has a very important role in building a better future.

Climate change: IPCC report is 'code red for humanity' - BBC News

2 The UK Government’s Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener (PDF, 36mb)

Real Estate expertise

Our accredited property specialists can support your business with finance for your property’s development, construction, rental and refinancing.

Sustainability Hub

Supporting UK businesses transition to low-carbon, sustainable business models and operations to pursue new clean growth opportunities.

Green Buildings Tool

An interactive digital tool that can help you identify energy-efficient investments in your buildings.

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