The impact of sustainability on value

The occupier perspective

As part of the research for this report, we have undertaken a number of interviews with corporates to start to understand how these bold declarations are filtering through to the UK real estate market.

The firms we spoke to were able to identify several drivers for the desire to become more sustainable. First, there is a recognition among companies that efforts to enhance sustainability can confer considerable competitive advantage.

Second, firms are facing growing pressures from their investors to embed sustainability at the core of their business strategies. With a number of large investment groups publicly pivoting towards sustainability, corporates are under intense pressure from their investors to demonstrate the positive environmental impact they make in the communities in which they operate.

“In the last 12 months our biggest institutional investors have really started scrutinising our sustainability and corporate social responsibility programmes.”

Third, there is a clear sense among the firms we spoke to that showcasing their sustainability credentials is an important part of how they attract and retain their talent, particularly among younger generations.

“Our new generation of talent are very focused on sustainability and expect us to be a leader in this space.”

Under these pressures, most large corporates have targeted reducing carbon emissions from their property as a top priority. In practical terms, this means that many large organisations have already integrated sustainability into their selection criteria for new locations.

“We have formalised our requirements in terms of BREEAM, so we always target the highest possible BREEAM rating in the market.”

“We used to assess offices purely on the basis of financial metrics. The conversation has moved on and now the metrics on sustainability and human experience are becoming equally important.”

“We’ll also push the landlord to go for a higher rating where possible – so if they’re targeting Excellent, we’ll bring ideas to the table that will make the building Outstanding.”

Once in occupation, firms are taking a more proactive role to ensuring their spaces operate to the highest possible standards. These include programmes to reduce energy consumption, eliminate waste to landfill or phase out single- use plastics, as well as messaging to employees to ensure they’re aware of how sustainability is impacting the operations of property.

All of these initiatives however, rely on close collaboration across the supply chain of corporate real estate with landlords, agents and other service providers. Here, many occupiers have recently put in place mechanisms for more structured cooperation. One global services firm we spoke to for instance, developed their own memorandum of understanding for landlords, which outlines specific mechanisms for sharing data on energy usage, maintenance programmes and overall building performance.

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