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Workplace Sustainability – 10 things to look out for in 2021

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In the last few years, sustainability and the themes of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) have increasingly, and rightfully so, risen up the priority ranks for businesses across the world. This year, with the UK hosting the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November, sustainability will continue to dominate the imagination of government, business and broader society.

The built environment contributes to 40% of the UK’s carbon output. For firms in the real estate sector, this shifts the sustainability and ESG conversation or should do, from concept to action.

In light of these developments, DeVono Cresa has identified ten sustainability-related concepts set to dominate throughout 2021.

1. Count the cost of your carbon footprint

The cost of operating a workplace can be high. This became even more apparent when offices were closed due to COVID-19. That said, many factors contribute to a firm’s carbon footprint – from a coffee machine to heating and air-conditioning. Even sending an email has an impact. Workplace energy consumption will become public if the government adopts its new proposed rating system. This proposed rating system will increase awareness of energy usage amongst occupiers and encourage organisations to reduce their carbon footprint.

2. Corporate responsibility leads to green hires

With increased public, government, and media focus on ESG, real estate firms are now making hires to support their green journey. Similarly, larger office space occupiers are employing staff to review policies and practices and make them more sustainable. DeVono Cresa expects such trends to accelerate in 2021.

3. Offsetting or insetting?

Carbon offsetting has been commonplace for several years. Offsetting projects will become more significant as businesses, particularly larger ones, focus on their environmental impact. Organisations will increasingly set carbon emission reduction initiatives within their business and supply chain and enforce them as environmental concerns continue to rise.

Insetting is embedding carbon emission reduction initiatives within your own business and supply chain. Insetting tackles the issue of carbon emission reduction at the source rather than carrying on with the status quo. While this may not be a plausible option for all businesses, we should expect insetting to become a more well-known and understood term going forward.

4. Switching to renewables – driving the energy revolution

Our dependency on electricity will increase in the future with the adoption of power-hungry items such as smartphones, tablets, and electric cars. With increased environmental concerns, a firm’s green credentials could increase or decrease the odds of winning new business. This factor will prompt a greater focus on green goals.

5. Material benefits – sustainable & cost-effective products

Achieving carbon neutrality when using cement and steel in real estate projects is difficult,  with cement alone accounting for eight per cent of global emissions. Considering this, manufacturers and developers will face increased scrutiny over methods and processes used to minimise the environmental impact of materials. By utilising alternative materials and concrete substitutes, businesses can accommodate and switch to cleaner technologies in 2021.

DeVono Cresa’s in-house design and build team, Dthree Studio, can help organisations maximise sustainability in their office design. Get in touch on 0207 096 9911 to find out more.

6. Make secondhand space sustainable

COVID-19, primarily, caused volumes of second-hand office space to increase by 33% in London alone over the past year. With occupiers attracted to modern and efficient spaces, a significant tranche of office stock may become obsolete. There will be pressure on landlords and developers to redevelop and remarket office space in an efficient timeframe. Incorporating a more sustainable approach will create additional hurdles and potentially cost.

Office occupiers will be the ultimate arbiter, with the green credentials of space influencing real estate decisions.

7. Developers pledge to go ‘net-zero’

Developers and landlords are committing to stringent carbon reduction goals. There is a common pathway emerging from developers looking to achieve net-zero carbon portfolios by 2030, adopted by British Land, Landsec, and Derwent London, to name a few.

Real Estate is in the process of a sea change, and shifts in technology, processes, and people within organisations are facilitating an accelerated approach.

8. Transforming through technology

From construction to occupation, embedding technology can support sustainability. There are varying levels of intervention, whether integrating technology into every facet, such as seen in The Edge building in the Netherlands, or updating older buildings such as the Stylus building in London. The Stylus building, for example, is fossil fuel free. Instead, it takes its hot water and heating from air sourced heat pump technology and solar photovoltaic panels.

Developers of buildings will continually innovate and incorporate new technologies, but occupiers will also introduce their own solutions throughout 2021.

9. Catering for the green commuters

When workers return to the office, those who can will choose alternative modes of transport to trains, buses, or the underground. Employers are actively being asked to support and accommodate these choices. This trend will accelerate in 2021.

DeVono Cresa has produced a timeline for businesses to visualise their return to the office. Our timeline takes into account the UK Government’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions and the ongoing vaccination rollout.

You can find out more about DeVono Cresa’s Return To The Office Timeline here.

10. What goes around comes around – embrace the circular economy

As environmental awareness rises, the term ‘circular economy’ will achieve greater prominence in business. Introducing and embedding various policies such as recycling or refurbishing will become more widespread as a means for businesses to reduce their environmental impact.

Looking to the future

As concern for the environment continues to grow, action towards reducing one’s carbon footprint will help businesses stand out, and ultimately blend-in, in the eyes of an increasingly environmentally conscious population. Progress, or lack thereof, in combatting climate change will impact an organisation’s chance of winning new business, reputation, and even their desirability as a potential place to work.

An organisation’s commercial real estate strategy can play a significant role in terms of environmental impact and, therefore, should be carefully considered in any approach to reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint.

At DeVono Cresa, we can help you succeed as you strive to ensure that you have a sustainable real estate strategy. To find out more, you can read about our approach to ESG here.

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