Last week I attended the London Real Estate Forum (LREF 23) organised by NLA; an organisation dedicated to London’s built environment. It was a very well attended event with more than 950 delegates joining together at the Barbican Centre.

This year’s theme was focused on environmental, economic, and social value in our buildings, places, and infrastructure and what was especially apparent to me was the overwhelming sense that despite the recent announcements on green policies, the housing industry are keen to drive forward decarbonising our new and existing housing stock. I felt a great sense of togetherness within the industry to push forward with plans to deliver low carbon homes now and in years to come.

Just this week, we have seen Gleeson, setting science-based carbon reduction targets as part of its sustainability journey. Whilst RICS also launched a 10-point roadmap in the leadup to the UK General Election on ‘Empowering a Sustainable Future’, to help create sustainable and affordable homes for all and help develop future skills for a sustainable built environment industry, which shows the ongoing commitment by industry to deliver climate action.

What we are seeing across the property industry, is an increasing pressure to adopt ESG principles as we see the devastating impacts of climate change on our planet. Slowing down just simply isn’t an option for those who are looking to take this plan seriously.

When we discuss the three ESG principles, these refer too:

  • Environmental – an organisation’s impact including its carbon footprint, waste management and energy consumption on the planet.
  • Social – the impact and benefits to people that is created by the activities of an organisation.
  • Governance – corporate governance is the set of rules, certifications and processes that determine how a company is operated and controlled and underpins the E and the S.

The well-known statistic that is constantly referred to within the property industry is that our buildings contribute to around 40% of our global greenhouse gas emissions. As one of the biggest emitters of carbon, the industry needs to progress with haste to decarbonise our new and existing homes if we are to reach the UK’s net zero target by 2050.

Housebuilders need to ensure that our buildings are energy and water efficient, built in a more sustainable way, making the most of our resources and reducing our waste, to create healthier environments to live and work within. We are starting to see significant steps being made to decarbonise these assets. Despite the Government’s recent U-turn on green policies for existing housing stock, now is not time to kick the can down the road with your sustainability efforts and it’s important that the lessons learnt, and achievements are communicated in the right way.

Sharing best practice

In the media, we are becoming more aware of the impacts around greenwashing and as a result we are now starting to see greenhushing, a lack of sharing and exchanging sustainability efforts of the fear that an organisation may come under increasing scrutiny.

It is important to ensure a balance between greenwashing and greenhushing, especially as people are becoming more environmentally friendly. A study by Sensu Insight UK states that 86% of UK adults want to see more transparency from businesses on their environmental impacts, initiatives, and targets. As an industry, there is some great progress being made, and we need to ensure the transition to a more sustainable economy is being shared. And to do this you need to ensure your messaging is right.

Getting your communications right

  • Ask yourself whether what you want to say is making a meaningful impact and creating positive change and be prepared to provide data and metrics to back it up.
  • Make sustainability important and ensure you have identified the core ESG issues within your organisation and embed the key principles to all within your organisation.
  • Be transparent in your reporting: With transparency comes trust, and being honest is integral.
  • Reaching net zero is not just one person’s job: make sure as well as telling audiences externally that you are also sharing and educating your workforce.
  • Use clear and concise language: the world of ESG terminology can be difficult to navigate so where possible, avoid jargon.
  • Measure and track your success and ensure this is communicated: Set yourself some ESG targets and goals, and report on your performance to demonstrate your commitment.

We are all on this journey together and without lived experiences, successes, and failures we will be unable to learn and grow. The industry needs to work as a collective effort to combat climate change and protect the planet for future generations.

By Natalie Daniels, Sustainability Account Director, Building Relations PR