Sustainability Now!

Now is the time for sustainability. We have learned hard-won lessons from Covid-19, and are ready to improve our environment, save the planet, and create sustainable spaces. Making sustainability part of our ‘new normal’, everywhere.

The Covid-19 crisis, with all its dreadful consequences, provides us with a real opportunity to take a different path. In its original Greek, the word ‘crisis’ does not mean ‘disaster’, but ‘turning point’. Consider how, in mere months, we have been able to completely re-organise our lives and our businesses. In the process, we are re-orienting the way we look at our living and working space, at each other, at nature, and at our planet.

There’s much we can learn from these times. It’s true, as writer and activist Rebecca Solnit wrote recently in The New York Times, that no one knows yet what will come out of this crisis. ‘But like so many other disasters, this one has revealed how interconnected we are; how much we depend on the labor and goodwill of others.’

We are indeed all connected, globally and locally. More than ever we are seeing the value of respecting others and working together. Rightly, we’re giving due credit to doctors, nurses, teachers – all those who take risks on our behalf. The virus may be invisible, but the change in outlook and our behaviour is very visible around us. Let’s capitalise on that and work together for a better planet.

In many places, we’re taking measures to ‘flatten the curve’, when it comes to the spread of Covid-19 and its human impacts. But the biggest curve is still to come: the climate crisis.

To flatten the curves of both Covid-19 and climate change is the joint challenge we face. We can turn these trials into positives. Economic welfare and our health go hand in hand with a greener and cleaner planet. We are at a crossroads. We need to act now.

Creating sustainable places and green buildings together

The growing awareness that in post-Covid-19 times we cannot simply return to the ‘old normal’ mirrors closely what’s been happening in recent years around sustainability. When we speak with our clients – people in managing positions in real estate – there is wide consensus: no one can ignore sustainability any longer, and we see an ever-growing concern for well-being and green buildings (30% of carbon emissions are real estate related). In achieving sustainable working and living spaces, active stakeholder engagement has become a no-brainer. Is this strangely the moment we’ve been waiting for to take the next step?

Both Churchill and Obama famously said to “never waste a good crisis”. This is the moment when sustainability should become the norm in the real estate world. And the moment where impact ventures (companies that aim to improve the world) become a necessity. We need to engage everybody to bring sustainability into the way we run our businesses and our buildings. If we come together, big (real estate corporates), and small (impact startups), we can overcome the challenges we face, and create an even better world.

When we founded hello energy four years ago, we considered getting users and managers of buildings on-board as an integral part of a sustainability strategy. We have already shown that the impact of engagement is huge. It has benefited our clients with lower carbon emission, higher scores on ESG reporting, and added value in general. Without all stakeholders on board, we cannot create real green buildings. Engagement is essential, it is the great ‘energiser’ of the whole sustainability process. Working together makes sustainable energy into a ‘people issue’ and leads to a stronger future. Together we can create a better normal.

These troubled times have not slowed down sustainable initiatives. Far from it. Market leaders like Prologis, Bouwinvest, NSI, and M&G Real Estate are making sustainability investments even more central to their strategy. They already have long term visions ingrained in their investment strategy and are now intensifying their sustainability efforts. GRESB, a sustainability certification scheme that has pushed the sector to go further every day, keeps seeing participation grow, whilst both governments and pension funds continue to push the cause. We are not stopping now.

Equally, looking at the proptech startup scene, the impact ventures in particular, are showing positive signs of connectedness, and immense growth in data sharing and joint propositions.

In the next few months, I’ll be discussing the challenges ahead with top real estate firms and other prospective clients. Please reach out if you are keen to participate. Together we can make a positive contribution to the ‘new normal’!

Let’s create energy-positive buildings!

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