4 min read
Biodiversity: enhancing the built environment
EVORA support many of our real estate clients to develop sustainability strategies and management systems. The overriding objective of approaches developed is to establish plans that help our clients understand their impacts, manage risks and, perhaps most importantly, drive performance improvement. Often, and unsurprisingly we focus on energy, carbon, water and waste.
However, there are wider opportunities. Biodiversity can often be pushed down the agenda. Real estate owners can develop programmes designed to positively contribute to biodiversity. As you will see in the rest of my blog, I consider this to be very important.
So what is Biodiversity?
Biodiversity, in simple terms, means the variety of life, in all its forms and at all levels. This ranges from genes to species to ecosystems – everything that collectively forms the biological diversity on Earth.
In short, biodiversity is a good thing. It is essential in maintaining a healthy environment and therefore, has an impact on our quality of life.
The decline of biodiversity has serious consequences and its protection and enhancement is essential if we are to achieve a sustainable future. We depend on biodiversity for food, health, natural resources and a range of ecosystem services such as air and water purification, soil fertility and plant pollination. Maintaining biodiversity is also crucial to the development and discovery of new medicines.
The variety of life, in all its forms and at all levels. This ranges from genes to species to ecosystems – everything that collectively forms the biological diversity on Earth.
Increasing urbanisation is contributing to the decline of biodiversity due to the loss and division of natural habitats. Providing opportunities for biodiversity in our built environment is one way that it can be protected and enhanced.
Development schemes can utilise a number of approaches including Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) – a quantitative, stepwise methodology that aims to enhance biodiversity after development. However, we are increasingly being asked for advice on how Biodiversity can be implemented into strategies, by clients who manage standing investment funds.
Several BNG principles are valuable for application to existing real estate assets, notably: to achieve the best outcomes for biodiversity, to optimise sustainability and to be transparent.
Biodiversity in action
Implementation of approaches to support these aims will result in greener, more biodiverse assets that not only offer homes for wildlife but can also provide wider benefits for people, such as improved air quality and health and wellbeing. It also gives asset managers positive news stories to tell and helps to create great places for people to live and work.
So, in simple terms, what can be done?
Real Estate Organisations can raise the profile of biodiversity within the workplace by:
- Assessing the material risks and opportunities associated with biodiversity across portfolios;
- Ensuring staff have understood these risks and opportunities;
- Raise awareness amongst suppliers;
- Implementing practical approaches – suitable for assets in question. If you are struggling to contextualise, think;
– Green walls
– Indoor and outdoor planting regimes
– Although many more opportunities exist
- Report publicly on organisational performance with regards to biodiversity.
Organisations, wishing to progress further can:
- Develop site-specific Biodiversity Strategies or Action Plans for managed assets, with the aim of achieving enhancements for selected species and/or habitats identified in the Local, Regional or National Biodiversity Action Plan;
- Incorporate specific biodiversity objectives within asset management plans;
- Collect biodiversity data e.g. number of plant types considered pollinators;
- Where handing over the asset to new owners, work to “pass on” commitment to biodiversity at the asset, potentially through a handover manual;
- Report to local authorities and, where necessary, other bodies, based on the data collected.
Finally, we positively encourage the reporting of progress, through new or existing routes – highlighting positive steps such as:
- Measures taken to collect biodiversity information;
- Key Performance Indicators, such as % of assets with Biodiversity Management Plan, % of direct employees with biodiversity awareness training;
- Records of sightings of endangered/rare/protected species;
- Reporting on habitats under threat;
- An account of how and where operations have led to the achievement of targets in Biodiversity Action Plans;
- Case studies to highlight what has been learnt from biodiversity mitigation and enhancement.
In short, Sustainability is not just about energy, water, waste – Biodiversity often presents an opportunity to progress significant improvements.