We, at Uncommon, had strands of ESG in our DNA from the beginning. While we didn’t call it that, at our core, we want to be a company that positively impacts the world. It would have been October 2019 when we first discussed with the team what the term even meant and the embryonic ideas/links. It was a discussion that was linked to the UN’s strategic goals and thinking about what areas of real estate we can impact at Uncommon, then we went onto focus & research what ESG meant to us and our position.
ESG being such a broad and complicated topic we didn’t want to rush into anything that wasn’t carefully considered. This is tough when there are no clear guidelines, agreed standards or accreditations. These standards do need to improve/ rationalise/ standardise, but an advantage we have as a brand vs a traditional developer is that we can talk about accreditations clients have heard of and care about. B-Corp is a much more powerful accreditation to the majority of clients that have BREAAM. I am not saying they don’t have a place, but we have the wonderful position of being able to do both. One thing that became very clear was that we had a tremendous opportunity to have a wide-ranging positive impact and create a USP due to our client base/reach and our freehold model.
People are at the heart of everything we do. Whether our Clients, Team or Suppliers, we decided to engage all key stakeholders on the topic of ESG and drive the agenda together, that buy-in is crucial for a project of this complexity and magnitude. Together with our ESG partner, we started to measure our emissions to understand what our baseline is and agree on the ambitious targets we currently have in place. Carbon reduction plans followed soon after that and we started rolling out initiatives that were quick wins for us such as water and waste reductions. We have narrowed down credible offset projects to support our journey to Net Zero.
We are actively working on launching the new Supplier Code of Conduct as well as an ESG Questionnaire so that our partners are aware of the expectations going forward. In parallel, we introduced several employee-related initiatives, including mental, physical and financial wellbeing, as well as learning & development. We launched our full plan in March 2022 which sets out our steps until 2030.
On a daily basis, our clients are asking for their carbon position as they embark on the journey of carbon neutral and then Net Zero. At Uncommon, we will be carbon neutral from 2023 and have a clear plan to get to Net-zero by 2027. Through the Uncommon App we will soon be able to provide more insight for our clients on how they use the space and ultimately, report to them on the emissions associated with their office. We want to share as much data as possible and build awareness whilst supporting our clients on their own ESG journey.
We are very clear that the topic of ESG will be hugely disrupting to the property industry over the next 10 years. This is driven by companies demanding high standards because their staff have ESG questions and will not work for them if they aren’t answered. Therefore, the ‘war for talent’ and ESG demands will drive rents for the best quality space higher and higher, with B/C grade space becoming unlettable over the next 5-10 years. Many landlords are not prepared for what’s coming.
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