Last Friday was not just another day in the office. Instead, I joined hundreds of colleagues from the built environment sector, and thousands of others, marching through central London as part of the global climate strike.
The youth-led climate strike and this week’s World Green Building Week clearly highlight and underline the message we are hearing from scientists: we must act urgently and with more ambition to reduce our carbon emissions and adverse environmental impacts, if we are to rise to the challenge our children and grandchildren have thrown down on behalf of future generations.
Reducing our sector’s environmental impact has been at the top of the agenda for many companies for some time now. This is absolutely imperative given that, according to the World Green Building Council, some 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions come from buildings and construction. We have a critical role to play in protecting the environment – a responsibility recognised by our industry’s leaders and increasingly by the shareholders and investors they answer to.
Safeguarding the environment is rightly one of the four pillars of the BPF’s Redefining Real Estate campaign – a long-term rolling programme of action to ensure that the social value our industry creates is better recognised, and to support the industry to do more to play a positive role in people’s lives and deliver ‘net positive’ outcomes in local communities.
We are living through a global climate emergency and business as usual is not an option
There are many different initiatives under way to help make sure that the built environment plays a positive role in protecting and enhancing our environment, from biodiversity net gain to whole supply chain emissions, energy efficiency to zero waste. The present and future governments must set out a clear and consistent vision and roadmap for action, and regulation will be important in reinforcing this and ensuring that everyone plays their part. But many of our industry’s leaders are being proactive and more ambitious.
Indeed, on the day that millions marched through cities all over the world to demand action, some of the UK’s most influential property companies signed the Better Buildings Partnership’s Climate Commitment to deliver net zero carbon real estate portfolios by 2050. I was delighted to see so many BPF members among the signatories of the commitment, which is reported to cover some £300bn worth of assets under management.
The UK Green Building Council is also championing industry leadership through its call for property companies and their corporate occupiers to sign up to the World GBC Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment – and providing support through its climate leadership model.
We are living through a global climate emergency and business as usual is not an option. It’s imperative that all stakeholders come together to create a built environment that secures a sustainable future. As an industry that invests, builds and manages properties that will be part of our communities for decades, this must be at the heart of our vision to “redefine real estate”. I believe that we can rise to the challenge: as one sign on Friday so brilliantly asked: “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
Melanie Leech is chief executive of the British Property Federation