Achieving Net Zero: Turning Commitments into Action

28/07/2020

Since the UK committed to legally binding targets to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, businesses across a variety of sectors have begun to publicly state their own net zero goals. However, to achieve a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions, commitments must now be turned in to tangible actions, and this is where the real challenge lies.

At Derwent London we have been working towards net zero carbon since setting and validating our science-based targets back in 2017. Setting targets was only part of this journey; we looked at every aspect of the business to identify the changes we needed to make to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Then in October 2019, we signed The Better Buildings Partnership’s Climate Change Commitment, alongside many of our peers, and in February we announced our commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 at our annual results.

Since then we have been working to turn this commitment into action, which has culminated in the launch of our Net Zero Carbon Pathway. This outlines what our 2030 commitment will cover in detail and how we plan to get there.

When developing the Pathway, we felt it was important to involve all the departments across the business at an early stage to shape our net zero approach. Along with our internal teams, we also consulted with the BBP and our independent, non-financial auditors to gain their perspective and feedback, which proved incredibly valuable.

From the outset we knew our priority would be to further reduce the carbon intensity of our portfolio and development pipeline. The Pathway outlines a number of ways by which we plan to do this, from mandating Design for Performance on all new major developments to identifying existing properties where we can retrofit all-electric heating and cooling systems.

How we power our buildings and development projects has also been a key consideration for us.  For a while now we have procured 100% of electricity from renewable sources for our managed portfolio.  Moving forward we will look to increase this for the gas supplies we procure and encourage our occupiers to do the same where they manage their own energy arrangements. Our Scottish estate also provides us with a unique opportunity to explore the self-generation of renewable energy which we are actively exploring currently.

Along with addressing operational carbon we will need to set out a plan for reducing the embodied carbon of our development pipeline. We have a good understanding of the embodied carbon impact of the major schemes we have delivered over recent years, and we are now looking to include the cumulative impact of smaller refurbishment projects as well. Our Development team has been working closely with our design teams to identify technologies and construction approaches that will help us further drive down embodied carbon.

The final step in our Pathway is carbon offsetting. At present this is a necessary part of our journey to net zero, recognising that there will be residual emissions we cannot eliminate. Recently we have appointed a provider who we feel can support an approach to offsetting which aligns with the principles of our Pathway.

A lot of work has gone into the development and production of our Pathway, and it has been a true collaborative effort from all areas of the business.  It has not been without its challenges, especially against the backdrop of COVID-19 and remote working, and we know that its publication is just one of the first steps to achieving net zero. The hard work really does start now!

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See Derwent London's Net Zero Carbon Pathway here.