Is sustainability still popular?

Over the past two decades, there has been an increasing focus on sustainable development and the performance of the built environment. The property sector accounts for 40% of carbon emissions, and there has been a 74% increase in electricity consumption by non-residential property in 20 years. As a result, pressures on corporations to be accountable and transparent about their environmental credentials have skyrocketed. Commitments to the sustainability agenda have increased accordingly, in both frequency and in ambition, throughout the market.

2015 was hailed as the year of sustainability; it saw the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, followed by the pivotal COP21 climate conference in Paris, which gave birth to the international Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In his keynote speech in Paris, Mark Carney, Head of the Bank of England, said that climate change was the issue for the future of the financial sector. Echoing this sentiment, investors signed up to quit carbon: the Portfolio Decarbonisation Coalition and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign, representing a combined $4 trillion in assets, committed to divesting from high carbon investments.

Skip to 2017 and the wellness agenda is following a similar upward trajectory. We are now seeing increasing commitments being made to address wellness impacts and harness technology across the property market. In another echo of the evolution of the sustainability movement, we have seen the launch of wellness and technology assessment frameworks– the WELL Building Standard and Wired Score to name two. With CBRE research indicating that 72% of European occupiers prefer WELL Certified buildings, and further data indicating that 66% of businesses aim to optimise their strategies through smart technology, it is clear that wellness and the exploitation of technology have now taken centre stage.

Global urbanisation has resulted in increased rates of urban sprawl, increasing populations and building densities in urban areas. Trends surrounding efficiency technologies, big data, and design for wellness demonstrate a heightened, more holistic understanding of a sustainable built environment throughout industry, and we are seeing property leaders turning to new solutions as a result.
So, are we seeing waning “green” sustainability commitments?

The current political climate may yield some mixed messages. President Trump’s short term rejection of the Paris Agreement and the adoption of watered-down policy in the UK have raised concern that sustainability might become a lower priority in an austerity economy. Meanwhile in practice environmental sustainability commitments continue to be strong.

Members of the Better Buildings Partnership, a collaboration of the UK’s 28 leading property owners, have improved the energy efficiency of their portfolio by an impressive 25% since 2011, despite a 71% increase in floor area; achieving an impressive £16 million in energy savings as a result.

Top-quality occupiers continue to demand energy-efficient spaces, and landlords and developers are tuning in to the compelling business case for providing sustainable real estate.




built environment, Climate change, environmental sustainability commitments, green, Sustainability, sustainable development,
Hannah Scott

Hannah Scott

Sustainability Consultant – Sustainable Engineering

+44(0)20 3257 6020