Building a Sustainable Estates Strategy in the Financial Services Sector

Ben Stubbs
For the financial services sector, sustainability used to be a ‘nice to have’. However, as environmental regulations have become ever more prominent due to local, national and international policy agendas, it is now undoubtedly a ‘got to have’.

This is underlined by a public expectation that environmental policies are embedded within wider corporate responsibility. The policy background in the UK ranges from the broad and challenging, such as the 80% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2050 required by the Climate Change Act, to the detailed and specific, as demonstrated by local planning policies and increasing requirements for measurement and reporting of performance. The business case is becoming stronger as resources become more constrained and a recent McKinsey study argued that using energy and resources more efficiently could save the world $2.9 trillion a year by 2030, and massively curb emissions[1].

Timetable of Key Legislation

Businesses are increasingly being compared according to their environmental performance. Most recently, for example, we have seen the publication of the first Carbon Reduction Commitment League Table which, rightly or wrongly, is likely to become one of the key barometers of corporate environmental performance – and identifier of laggards!

So how is the financial services sector reacting? Well, it appears that a certain amount of healthy competition is developing.

Faithful+Gould recently carried out some research involving a selection of leading banks and found that many have adopted very specific corporate sustainability targets. These cover areas such as increases in recycling rates; reductions of CO­2 emissions; decreased water consumption; more energy from renewables; and improvements in energy efficiency.

However, it is not always clear how the required changes are being implemented or how progress is measured and reported.

Faithful+Gould’s Carbon Management and Sustainability professionals have assisted a variety of clients to develop bespoke sustainability strategies, not just to comply with law and policy, but also to help develop attractive and efficient assets. Typically, this involves one or more of the following key steps:

  1. Benchmarking & Target Setting: An essential first step is to understand where you are now, to identify relevant environmental key performance indicators, and to set targets for where you’d like to be - or need to be.
  2. Sustainable Procurement: Embedding sustainability requirements in procurement procedures and documents helps to ensure that they are not overlooked. It also prompts early action which helps to keep costs down.
  3. Options Appraisals & Prioritisation: Estates managers need to be able to understand what they can realistically influence and then to prioritise the most cost effective options which also offer the greatest sustainability benefits.
  4. Develop Clear Guidance: A number of our clients have commissioned bespoke sustainability guides to increase knowledge, help embed best practice, and also to motivate project delivery teams.
  5. Budget for Sustainability: Early budgeting for sustainability measures needs to consider whole life benefits including reasonable payback periods rather than just concentrating on upfront, capital cost.
  6. Behavioural change: Developing tailored training programmes helps businesses meet their desired outcomes. 
  7. Monitor, Audit & Report: Finally, a process needs to be put in place to ensure that performance can be properly quantified, not only to ensure systems are providing optimum efficiency and maximum savings, but also to justify further initiatives. We recently identified potential operational savings of £500K per year at the headquarters of a major bank through re-commissioning and adjustment of the building management system

So with so many sustainability considerations becoming everyday requirements, what are the ‘nice to haves’ now?

The most progressive businesses are demonstrating best practice with continuous commissioning; signing up to Green Leases; benchmarking their performance against others; keeping ahead of regulation and legislation; engaging more closely with supply chains and planning for climate change adaptation. Some are also reaping rewards for their proactive action as demonstrated by emerging data from bodies such as IPD, RICS, BRE and UKGBC which makes a clear link between ‘green building’ and positive property value.

Faithful+Gould's Sustainability and Carbon Management team have considerable experience of working with the financial sector, ranging from the provision of tailored sustainability strategies to building-specific appraisals and energy-audits.

[1] Schumpeter, 2011. Why firms go green. The Economist 12/11/2011