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Plant Power Month

We celebrated Plant Power Month in April, inspired by National Gardening Week (27th April to 5th May). We spent the month taking cuttings of plants, growing vegetables, making seed bombs, and taking pictures of our plants.

Plant Power Month was a great success. We loved seeing EVORians posting their green babies on the Wellbeing channel on Teams and sharing how their plant projects at home were doing.

As well as providing oxygen, plants can also lower stress and anxiety, reduce fatigue, and improve your mood. Plus it’s loads of fun watching them grow! No matter the space you have, there is always an opportunity to get green-fingered. From vegetable cuttings to windowsill plants, you can get your daily dose of vitamin green, which has a huge impact on your mental health, wellbeing and on your step counter.

See below for what we did in the office!

Eco-Grow Set

We kicked off the month by sending out eco-grow kits to ten volunteers. These included ‘a taste of Italy’, ‘vibrant vegetables’ and ‘herb a’licious’. The seeds take some time to get going, so we won’t know for a while yet who has grown the best vegetable or herbs from the kits. We loved that the kits were eco-friendly too.

Vegetables in the office

We decided to show everyone how easy it is to ‘recycle’ the vegetables and fruit stones that we would normally not think twice about composting. It was great seeing how these scraps could get a second lease of life and it felt amazing doing it.

Our office garden included spring onions, garlic, basil, mint, celery, chilli seeds, and avocado seeds. After 5 weeks, our garlic has shot up to 55cm and our chilli seeds a much smaller inch of growth.

We are super impressed by the growth of all the vegetables and herbs, and delighted with how far they’ve come in such a small amount of time.

After posting about our avocado seeds, we found out that one of our team has been growing avocado plants for over ten years, which look amazing and so big! Definitely worth the wait and the patience that goes into growing them.

Seed Bomb Workshop

A huge thank you to the ladies of Wilder for leading a Seed Bomb Workshop in our London office. We had 12 staff come along to learn how to make seed bombs and spend the hour creating and wrapping them.

Seed bombs, or ‘earth dumplings’ were used in guerrilla gardening in the 1970’s, but go back hundreds of years in Japanese agriculture. They are a great way of spreading seeds in a large area that are protected from birds by the clay outer shell. Once it rains, the clay dissolves and the seeds, which by this point has already germinated, are safe from birds and well on their way to growing up.

As well as helping with wellbeing, the seed bomb workshop felt like a great team bonding experience. Everyone was getting their hands dirty and talking shop. With the busy season ahead for a lot of us, it was great that everyone could come together and switch off.

Plant Cuttings

To end the month, we planted everything that we had grown or taken cuttings from. We felt like proud mamas when our little seeds and cuttings that we had tended to the whole month were big enough to be potted and sent home with new mamas and papas. We couldn’t believe how many pots we could fill with cuttings!

We’ve really enjoyed getting our hands dirty for Plant Power Month and would highly recommend others to get out in nature and see what they can grow at home. We’ve proved you don’t need a lot of space and that with enough patience you can surprise yourself with what you can grow.

EVORA achieves Planet Mark certification

We are very proud to announce that EVORA has achieved Planet Mark certification for the 8th year running.

The Planet Mark is an internationally recognised certification based on sustainability standards and its mission is to help us all contribute to a thriving planet as a collective force. The certification represents an organisation’s commitment to sustainability programmes to actively reduce environmental and social harm. 

In a key step forward, this year we have measured our social value contribution and carbon reduction.

Social value is the net social and environmental benefit generated to society by an organisation, expressed in ‘£’. In 2021, EVORA generated £24,615 in social value.

In order to measure our social value, EVORA had to submit data and evidence on a number of indicators.

These were:

  • Our People
  • Community and Volunteering
  • Donations
  • Procurement
  • Environmental Impacts

Last year, EVORA reduced its total carbon by 38.6% from the previous year, a 44.3% carbon reduction per employee.

The emissions considered have been obtained from different sources: Electricity, T&D Losses, Natural Gas, Water, Business Travel, Homeworking (excluded from footprint).

We look forward to completing the assessment again next year as we continue to drive our commitment to generate further social value opportunities and to reduce our carbon emissions yearly so that together we can all halt climate change.

“I am proud that EVORA has received the Planet Mark certification for the 8th year running. This demonstrates our commitment to delivering positive outcomes for our people, our communities, and our environment. We will use this year’s results to drive further improvements next year, maximising social value for all.

Abigail Isherwood, Sustainability Consultant

Reconnecting

Suffice to say, it’s been a bizarre two years. It’s almost surreal now to be coming out of the pandemic and slowly making our way back to the office. After so much time working from home, it’s natural that a lot of staff were hesitant to come back in.

That’s where our Health and Wellness team stepped in. This awesome team have come up with a plan, to entice people back in to the office, but also to remind people to look after their mental health and wellbeing in these unusual times.

To do this? They’ve created a calendar for the year, with each month another theme. February’s theme was ‘reconnecting’, to get people talking and socializing with one another.

The aim of the game was to be paired up with another colleague, who you might never have spoken to, and have lunch together. Ideally, this would be in person, but as we have staff in six different countries and people still working remotely, it was fine to do via video too.

In total, 22 people signed up, and were paired up twice over a three week period. It was great to grab lunch together and chat, and as an added incentive, the Wellness team started a photo competition too – best photo and caption would win a lunch voucher.

My first lunch was with Imogen, who has just started at Evora. It was really cool getting to know one another over the Thorntons chocolates in the office.

A week, later, I met up with Ros – we’ve been talking over video for weeks now, so meeting in person was like meeting an old friend. We went out for lunch with Nat, and all of us really enjoyed getting out the office and talking about non-work things. Explaining to the server why we needed multiple shots of us posing in weird and fabulous ways was also a giggle!

Everyone had so much fun getting to know one another over the three weeks. It’s so important to feel belonging with others and create connections in the workplace – can definitely say that this months theme really helped with that.

Huge congratulations to Manuela and Ingrid who have won a food voucher to go towards their next lunchtime treat.

Stay tuned for next month’s theme and see how our group of volunteers find it!

A Quick Introduction to Social Value

Social value has been a theme for governments and businesses for the last decade. As something that started life as a means of trying to assure positive local outcomes for projects where public money was being spent, for example for a construction company commissioned to build a school, it has evolved into a broader concept designed to ensure that all organisations are thinking about people, places, and communities in their work.

The story started in public sector procurement. Public sector bodies including Central Government departments, local authorities, and councils spend billions a year on local public goods and services in the UK. In 2012, the Social Value Act was introduced with a key aim to transform the way in which this public money was spent in England and Wales. What the Act requires is that commissioners, who procure public sector revenue contracts or capital projects, ‘consider’ how they could secure wider social, economic, and environmental benefits, named social value from these contracts. [1]

Similar legislation has also been published by the Welsh and Scottish Governments, including The Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act in 2014 and The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act in 2015.

In January 2021, the Government launched the Social Value Model which requires departments to ‘explicitly evaluate’ social value in all central government contracts. [2] The Social Value Model followed from the detailed laid out in 2020’s PPN 06/20 which laid the groundwork for the Model and provided an overview of the Model’s focus. The Model sets out the Government’s goals for social value in the form of five strategic policy outcomes: COVID-19 recovery, economic inequality, climate change, equal opportunity, and wellbeing. The Government has been a key driving force for the social value movement changing the way social value is perceived within many sectors, including commercial real estate, trying to understand what social value means to them, and how the concept can be incorporated into their business activities.

A month later, UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) identified a need from the built environment to establish a definition of social value that focused on the impact that buildings, infrastructure and places have on people. The high-level definition states that “social value is created when buildings, places, and infrastructure support environmental, economic and social wellbeing, and in doing so improve the quality of life of people”. Exactly which environmental, economic and social outcomes create social value will depend on the best interests of the people most impacted by the project or built asset”. [3]

It is not surprising that, over the last few years, we have seen a rise in relevant and practical guidance documents not only from the UKGBC, but other organisations, such as Better Building Partnership (BBP), in an attempt to support businesses within the built environment with social value.

In 2018, UKGBC published an introductory guide to ‘Social value in new development’ designed to help development teams understand social value in relation to the built environment, and what they can do to improve societal outcomes from new developments [4]. The guide maps social value outcomes against several core themes, including jobs and economic growth, health, wellbeing, and the environment, and strength of community (See Table 1).

Jobs & Economic Growth Health, Wellbeing, & the Environment Strength of Community
Decent jobs for local people and hard to reach groupsGood accessibility and sustainable transportationStrong local ownership of the development
Local people with the right skills for long-term employmentResilient buildings and infrastructureExisting social fabric is protected from disruption
School leavers with aspirations of the industryHigh quality public and green spacesThe new community is well integrated into the surrounding area
The local supply chain is supported and grownGood mental healthThriving social networks
Residents have comfortable homes which are affordable to operateGood physical healthVibrant diversity of building uses and tenures
Thriving local businessesLimit resource use and wasteStrong local identity and distinctive character
Table 1: Summary of social value outcomes across new development

Questions about the incorporation of social value within property management activities has also become a popular topic of conversation amongst commercial real estate companies leading to the ‘Responsible Property Management Toolkit’ being produced by Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) in 2021.[5] The toolkit provides practical guidance for asset managers, property managers and facilities managers on embedding sustainability (incl. social value) within property management services. Guidance notes provide clarity on social value, including information on the following:

  • What is social value?
  • Social value opportunities
  • Incorporating social value within the supply chain

Many real estate companies have begun to lean on both pieces of guidance to stimulate ideas internally about how they incorporate social value within their day-to-day property management activities as well as new development projects. As ESG has leapt up the strategic agenda in the last five years, the organisations able to address each element comprehensively have positioned themselves as leaders within the ESG space. The value of building a comprehensive environmental, social and governance strategy has never been more obvious as boards and stakeholders alike demand more from those they do business with.

Typically, ESG strategies tend to focus more heavily on the ‘E’ but at EVORA our clients’ strategies contain a strong ‘S’ component which is wholly aligned to their business objectives, whilst being aligned to industry best practice, such as UKGBC and BBP amongst others. Our approach allows our clients to be confident with how they communicate social value to investors and other stakeholders allowing them to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to ESG.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to start your social value journey with us today.


Sources

[1] Communities and Local Government. 2011. A plain English guide to the Localism Act. Department for Communities and Local Government. UK.

[2] Cabinet Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. 2020. Procurement Policy Note PPN 06/20 – taking account of social value in the award of central government contracts. Cabinet Office and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. UK.

[3] UKGBC. 2021. Framework for defining Social Value. UKGBC. London.

[4] UKGBC. 2018 Social Value in new development: An introductory guide for local authorities and development teams. UKGBC. London.

[5] Better Building Partnership. 2021. Responsible Property Management Toolkit. pp. 43-46.

COP26: A Summary

What is a COP?

A Conference of the Parties (COP) is an annual meeting of the signatories to a UN convention – an agreement to co-operate to tackle a global challenge. In the case of climate change, there are almost 200 states who have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since its creation at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

At each COP meeting the details of how to co-operate, who will act and to what end is refined. In between each annual meeting there are a series of preparatory meetings of government officials and elected representatives. The progress in those intermediate talks can provide an indication of the political significance of each COP and its perceived success.

The first agreement to act was the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, and this was superseded by the now famous Paris Agreement in 2015.

This global political platform follows the success of the Vienna Convention and subsequent  Montreal Protocol, signed from 1987, to reduce the production and use of ozone depleting substances which created a whole in the Ozone layer. Amended in Kigali in 2016 to tackle F-gases, which also have a significant contribution to global heating.

Other related UN conventions, which have had less success to date, include the Convention on Biological Diversity. Whose COP15 took place online in October and will continue in Kunming in 2022.

Everything you need to know about COP26

We must prepare for at least 2°C of global heating. That’s the implicit outcome of COP26. The decisions which have been agreed upon by global leaders don’t meet the aspirations of the Paris Agreement to limit the average global temperature increase to well below 2°C; ideally to 1.5°C. This inevitably means that more lives will be lost and more economic damage will be done as a result of man-made climate change.

There is an obvious gap between meaningful action and all of the Net Zero announcements and the political fanfare about climate action. A report published during COP26 by Climate Action Tracker shows that we have a 66% probability of exceeding 2°C of global heating. It highlights the ‘credibility gap’ between all of this talk, and the intended action. That’s based on their review of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – essentially each nation’s plan to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.

It assumes that these NDCs are fully implemented. We know that the best laid plans of Governments are never fully implemented, for instance the UK’s Building Regulations to limit energy consumption and GHG emissions are not enforced. Every new building emits more in operation than the design intent.

The Climate Action Tracker report is reinforced by analysis from CarbonBrief of three similar studies, which have reached a similar conclusion about the present best-case scenario being >2°C.[1]

When we talk of adapting to 2°C of global heating, it might not seem like much of a change. In the UK, it can lead to talk of a Mediterranean climate and an increasing number of vineyards. The truth is that this average temperature increase will be unevenly distributed and it will affect us all. We will experience more frequent and more extreme weather events. Those peoples closer to the equator and in the Global South will be disproportionately affected. The locations which are more climate resilient will become much clearer over the coming years, which will be reflected in their desirability and value.

We need to think about how this could affect our buildings and infrastructure. How well protected are they from flood risks, heat stress, wildfires and storms, and who bears the costs when damage is done?

The next two COPs, in 2022 and 2023, will be in locations which are closer to the equator and with a significant exposure to a changing coastline and increasing desertification – these are COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt and then COP28 in the United Arab Emirates.  It is likely that the immediate effects of climate change will be closer at hand and more visible than in Glasgow.

The State of Climate in Africa Report states that ‘by 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa”. In Madagascar, according to the World Food Programme, more than 1 million people are suffering right now from the first famine caused by climate change.

However, the 5-year cycle of submitting NDCs means that we could be five COPs away, in 2027, from the national action we need. That’s in the context of the need to halve emissions by 2030 and then halve them again by 2040. We’re running out of time and that is why we need to adapt.

Next year we will see the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publish their sixth assessment report (AR6). It is expected to forewarn us that the time left to take climate action is reducing and could be as little as four years. The AR6 Working Group I presented to COP26 and stated that ‘climate and weather extremes and their adverse impacts on people and nature will continue to increase with every additional increment of rising temperatures’. We know that there has already been lobbying by governments to weaken the text of AR6 which describes the latest climate change science.[2]

It is not surprising that this slow action and blocking of progress is causing ‘climate anxiety’ amongst young people, mentioned by Barack Obama in his COP26 speech. Greta Thunberg summed up her frustrations on Twitter, “Unless we achieve immediate, drastic, unprecedented, annual emission cuts at the source then at means we’re failing when it comes to the climate crisis.”

When a credibility gap exists between political announcements and concrete actions on climate change, particularly when it is seen as unjust and deadly, we can expect more peaceful protests and civil unrest. Obama has recommended Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel The Ministry of the Future. This describes a bleak future where a new global Ministry is created to protect the rights of future life on Earth after a catastrophic heatwave in India. It is a well-informed novel about climate change, but it does take these protests to the extremes of terrorist activity which is not an outcome any of us wish to see.

There were many global leaders at COP26, including President Biden, Bill Gates and Greta Thunberg, however there was also notable exceptions like President Xi Jinping. A mixed message from China when there is a concerted effort from the country’s leadership to act on climate change. There are signs of collaboration between the USA and China, including a joint statement and close negotiations in the final hours of COP26 between John Kerry, a hero of the Paris and Kigali negotiations, and Xie Zhenhua, China’s Climate Envoy. Xie has described climate change as an “existential crisis”.

Reasons for hope

There are reasons for hope from COP26. It is clear that there was a lot of energy at COP26, in the Blue and Green zones as well as on the fringes. More public and private sector commitments have been made than ever before. For example, India committed to a target of Net Zero emissions by 2070. Over $130tn AUM are now Net Zero aligned via the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ). Over half of the FTSE100 companies, with a market cap of over £1.2tn, have committed to be Net Zero Carbon by 2050.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the UK will become the ‘world’s first net zero aligned financial centre’ with plans to publish a Net Zero Transition Pathway next year. This was supported by FCA announcements on a new ESG Strategy and a Disclosures & Labels Advisory Group for sustainable investments to support the development of the Sustainable Disclosure Regulation (SDR).

As regions and countries publish regulations to increase transparency of climate risks across all asset classes, the long-expected announcement by the IFRS Foundation that the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) had been formed, was welcomed. This is an important step in standardising company reporting as it joins together the Value Reporting Foundation and Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CSDB), and builds on the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Recommendations.

For the UK, a Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap to 2050 was published by UKGBC.

Whilst there is obviously a concerted effort to mobilise private climate finance, there is still a shortfall in the $100bn (0.001% of global GDP) by 2020 commitment of finance for developing countries to enact necessary climate mitigation measures. At the same time, there continues to be $500bn of government subsidies for fossil fuels and the same amount to farming practices that damage our planet and our health.

Some small concessions were made at COP26 to increase this funding, such as the Breakthrough Agenda, MOBILIST, the Clean Green Initiative and the Climate Investment Funds’ Capital Markets Mechanism, specifically for clean technology including renewables and electric vehicles. The Urban Climate Action Programme will support cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to transition to Net Zero by 2050. An Adaptation Fund and the Climate Action for a Resilient Asia (CARA) programme will support measures to improve climate resilience in Asia-Pacific cities.

For the UNFCCC process, the technology mechanism is led by the Technology Executive Committee (TEC) and the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). It can provide a focus for incubation and acceleration of relevant cleantech.

Over the last year, we have seen a number of initiatives to phase out coal power, including significant private divestment and China, Japan, Korea and the G20 commitments to end overseas funding of coal. At COP26, 190 countries and organisations agreed to end all investment in coal power generation. For major economies, this will be in the 2030s and in the 2040s for the rest of the world.[3]

Momentum is also building for the phase of the internal combustion engine, with a COP26 declaration to work towards 100% zero emission vehicles sales globally by 2040. This includes commitments from Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, but not Toyota, VW and Nissan-Renault.

The USA, EU and UK also endorsed five principles for infrastructure development:[4]

  1. Infrastructure should be climate resilient and developed through a climate lens.
  2. Strong and inclusive partnerships between host countries, developed country support, and the private sector are critical to developing sustainable infrastructure
  3. Infrastructure should be financed, constructed, developed, operated, and maintained in accordance with high standards.
  4. A new paradigm of climate finance—spanning both public and private sources—is required to mobilize the trillions needed to meet net-zero by 2050 and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
  5. Climate-smart infrastructure development should play an important role in boosting economic recovery and sustainable job creation.

These principles may be seen in practice in the Build Back Better World, Global Gateway and Clean Green initiatives.

Nature-based Solutions to climate change were also a big theme at COP26. This follows a clearer scientific understanding of the need to tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss at the same time, as well as growing interest in the Taskforce for Nature-related Financial Disclosure (TNFD).

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use saw over 100 leaders, accounting for 86% of the world’s forests, commit to halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030. This was reinforced by an increase in the number of NDCs which include measures to reduce nature loss.[5] However, more is required for agriculture, which occupies half of the habitable land on Earth, and is still missing from many NDCs, with significant uncertainty about the related national emissions.[6]

Glasgow Climate Pact

Despite Alok Sharma’s best efforts, this compromised Pact will be seen as a political failure by many parties who do not have a vested interest in the fossil fuel-driven status quo. It is the first time a COP decision has recognised that there is an end for fossil fuels. Stopping the use of coal is considered a necessity to achieve 1.5°C – 8,500 coal plants would have to be closed by 2030 according to the IEA – and this part of the Pact was weakened.

The late intervention by India to change the wording of the agreement to ‘phasing down of unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies’ rather than ‘phasing out’ would not have been possible without the support of China and, in turn, the USA. It is a clear demonstration of how these politics work at the end of a very long extra day, and it provides a short extension in the support for fossil fuel power.

There has been progress since Paris. We have seen agreement of the ‘Paris Rulebook’, which is an important step in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and this will ensure we see a ratcheting up of action.

In terms of the hope for achieving a temperature increase of well below 2°C, with a continued aspiration for 1.5°C, the Pact (article 29) does introduce a new annual ratchet mechanism – to revisit the NDCs in 2022 rather than in five years. There is a hope that they can be improved and it raises the stakes for COP27 in Egypt next year. The AR6 Working Group II will present to COP27 on adaptation.

The parties also recognise the concept of developed countries making payments to developing countries for ‘loss and damages’ for historic emissions which are causing damage now. This will be an ongoing dialogue and a reminder of the meetings which take place between each COP. There is a UN Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and it is focused on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this Glasgow Climate Pact. SBI meetings 56-60 will take place between 2022-2024. Technical assistance will be provided via the Santiago Network.

If you want to see how fast we can progress politically keep an eye on the SBI and the other intervening UNFCCC meeting over the coming year. For future COPs we can expect the increasingly diverse involvement of women leaders, young people, indigenous people and local communities.

The collective efforts to tackle climate change, and the related challenge of biological diversity, will only ratchet-up over the next five years as we see increasing losses and damages from insufficient action. Decisions about what, how and when to invest and finance assets will have to consider this complex, dynamic landscape with a need to balance both climate adaptation as well as mitigation.


[1] https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-do-cop26-promises-keep-global-warming-below-2c

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-58982445

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/end-of-coal-in-sight-as-uk-secures-ambitious-commitments-at-cop26-summit

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/us-president-biden-european-commission-president-von-der-leyen-and-pm-boris-johnson-announce-commitment-to-addressing-climate-crisis-through-infras

[5] https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?4248391/NDCsreport

[6] https://ccafs.cgiar.org/resources/tools/agriculture-in-the-ndcs-data-maps-2021

Nature: the next challenge for sustainable finance?

If there is one thing we’ve learnt from spending more time inside our homes over the last year, courtesy of these ‘unprecedented circumstances’, it is the importance of spending time outside.

The natural environment is a key part of our built environment. Access to green space has never been so desirable. And in our cities, where space is a premium and populations are growing, there are innovative ways to maximise our access to nature.

Encouraged by sustainable building certifications and a growing trend for biophilic design (the concept of increasing occupant connectivity to the natural environment), many buildings now incorporate additional greenery, with everything from your standard pot plant, to indoor trees and living walls and roofs.

The health and wellbeing benefits of increasing access to nature are well documented.

Improved air quality, increased productivity, and decreased stress are just a few of the most widely accepted. So it’s not surprising that research has also shown that increasing nature increases property values. We all know the rooms with the view attract a premium, and according to a report commissioned by the Natural Resources Defence Council, improved landscaping can add around 22% to the rental rates for retail buildings. And that’s before we account for the climate resilience impacts of incorporating green infrastructure – sustainable urban drainage systems help manage surface water flooding, living roofs can mitigate overheating and trees prevent soil erosion.

But we are realising the importance of nature at a critical time. Biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate. Between the combined pressures of climate change and humancentric land use, space for nature is dwindling and with it the enormous diversity of species on our planet. Indeed, scientists estimate that vertebrates have declined by an average of 70% in the last half-century.

Policy changes are moving in on the issue. The new London Plan brings with it the Urban Greening Factor, a measurement that will ensure London gets greener as it grows. On a larger scale, in the UK, the (much delayed and eagerly anticipated) Environment Bill will enshrine Net Biodiversity Gain into law, meaning that all new development must demonstrate an increase in nature compared to what was on site before.

In the investment space, we are seeing major changes too. Earlier this year France introduced a new disclosure regulation, Article 29, requiring French financial institutions to disclose biodiversity as well as climate-related risks. France’s Article 29 is a sign of what is to come in sustainable finance. Also established this year is the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure. TNFD is a market-led initiative focused on standardising nature-related financial disclosures and mitigating biodiversity impacts. With TCFD we have seen a shift in climate-related financial disclosures, and TNFD is set to do the same for nature.

All this points to one thing: the next frontier in sustainable finance is nature.

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch with one of our ESG experts by contacting contactus@evoraglobal.com

Human-Centric Metrics in Sustainability: What can EVORA do for our people and communities?

By Lucy Curtis and Emily Day

Over a year has passed since the pandemic hit the UK and our workplaces changed dramatically. Increased homeworking has led to a heightened consciousness of the social impact that EVORA, as a company, can have on its people.

The past year has given us countless reasons for our health and wellbeing scales to tip off-balance. We have lost the regular exercise during our daily commute, have been torn away from our emotional support circles and are at a greater risk of anxiety, stress and depression than ever before. Before the pandemic, we would typically spend 90% of our time indoors and staggering 9.5 hours a day sat down. You can only imagine how these figures have increased since Lockdown #1. It’s become ever more important to stay on top of our fitness, our diets and our mindfulness during these tough times to ensure our physical health, mental health and emotional wellbeing endures the long journey back to normality.

That’s why EVORA staff chose to tackle the Feeling Fab in February Challenges. Over the course of 28 days, our staff pushed themselves to do heart-pumping exercise, get the nutritional benefit from switching to plant-based diets and practicing mindfulness.

Assigning metrics to social impact

Measuring and monitoring impact is key to implementing meaningful programmes. Demonstrating additionality – that you have meaningfully added to the lives of individuals – is arguably the most important aspect of human-centric sustainability reporting. EVORA have used some of our own activities to model reporting examples below.

Wellbeing Uplift

Through a month of activity (and nothing less than a bit of healthy competition), Feeling Fab in February encouraged our team to take part in a month of fitness, carbon-conscious eating and mindfulness. Together, and in only one month, we managed to achieve:

  • +148 additional mindfulness or meditation sessions
  • +88 additional workouts than we would have done
  • +84 additional days without meat or dairy than usual

‘’Fab February made me reflect on my current habits and encouraged me to make healthy changes to my daily routines!’’

EVORA employee

Our team felt the mental and physical benefits, as well as the benefits to social cohesion at a time when it’s easy to feel disconnected from colleagues. We are now looking for the next challenge to promote healthy habits in our home-working and beyond as we look to return to the ‘new normal’.

Social Value

We are very proud to announce that EVORA has achieved Planet Mark certification for the 7th year running. The Planet Mark is an internationally recognised certification based on sustainability standards and its mission is to help us all contribute to a thriving planet as a collective force. The certification represents an organisation’s commitment to sustainability programmes to actively reduce environmental and social harm. 

For the past two years, we have also measured our social value contribution. Social value, by definition, is the net social and environmental benefit generated to society by an organisation, expressed in ‘£’. In 2019, EVORA generated £454,644 in social value. This includes over £400,000 through actions relating to the people in our organisation and supply chain, as well as money and time donated to charitable organisations, and reducing our carbon footprint through commutes.

In 2020, EVORA generated £61,197 in social value. This has been through actions relating to the people in our organisation and supply chain, as well as money and time donated to charitable organisations, and reducing our carbon footprint through commutes.

Visit our Health & Wellbeing webpage to see the healthy building services we offer at EVORA.

Designing Buildings with Women in Mind

Gender perspectives on building design and operation; what does ‘designing a building with women in mind’ actually look like?

March 8th is a special day for everyone – not just for women – to acknowledge the incredible strides being made and highlight the continued hinderances to gender equality. This International Women’s Day, I’d like to consider the practical ways in which we can bring gender into the conversation about our sustainable built environment.

It can be an uncomfortable conversation, because we’d like to think we are conscious of gender bias and the days of inequality are in the past. But still, there is little in our fast-changing world that is not linked to gender. And on the flip side, there is little in our world that is not linked to our built environment.

Our cities, towns and buildings within them are broadly shaped by our experiences attached to gender. People of different genders may experience a late-night commute home down poorly lit streets differently due to disparities in vulnerability. Gender also plays a factor in how we choose to travel through our cities. For example, use of cycling routes in the UK is hugely gender-skewed towards men, with studies1 showing that women prefer to cycle on safer cycle paths that are protected from the road. Despite London’s Cycleways2 transforming bike routes in the capital, many cycle lanes in the UK are still deemed ‘unsafe’, are used less by women and are therefore exacerbating existing access and health inequalities. Experiences are of course different for every person identifying as a woman. But still, gender imbalance in the built environment sector has meant our cities were designed through a male lens.

While the prospect of being treated equally dangles in the foreground, what lies behind it is being mindful of the differences. Catering for these differences allows for equity and inclusivity to be created. When it comes to buildings, designing for inclusivity is not a new concept and many aspects can be found in national building codes. Inclusive design is also featured as a component of the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Health & Wellbeing Building Framework3, which suggests we should plan for access and use by as many people as possible, considering disability, age, and also gender.

In that case, considering gender perspectives, what does ‘designing a building with women in mind’ actually look like?

  1. Safe spaces – lighting at entrances and in outdoor spaces around buildings after dark contributes both to the increased perception of safety and the actual reduction of crime. Designing more open outdoor spaces, with fewer dark places and corners, also increases visibility. In a world where women are advised to cover their drink on the dancefloor, safety plays a consistent part in the average woman’s choice of behaviours. Studies4 show this is a main contributor to the reason why women globally walk disproportionately fewer steps each day than men. Light up building fronts, remove the dark hiding spots and help to create safer spaces.
  2. Accessible routes – from entering a site to arriving at a building’s top floor, the ease at which people can move around depends on how accessibility has been designed in. Routes designed for people with limited physical ability should also be mindful of carers who may be walking with a pram or with someone who is in a wheelchair. Around the world today, socially assigned gender roles means that women are typically more likely to be in caring positions for children and adults5, causing them to be disproportionally affected by buildings with inaccessible features. Issues can be avoided by thinking about access plans throughout the entire visitor experience6, integrating design features like ramps at every level change, automatic doors, designated car park spaces for those with pushchairs or with mobility issues, and clear and even pedestrian pathways.
  3. Equitable loos – for many physiological and cultural reasons, women spend more time and take more frequent visits to the bathroom than men. Reasons for this include pregnancy, menstruation, breastfeeding, or requiring nappy-changing facilities. It also takes longer when using a cubicle, and even more so for the elderly, who are disproportionately female. Allocation of toilet facilities in buildings should be proportioned with this in mind. Accessible facilities should also include upgrades to the Changing Places7 standard, incorporating adult changing tables, screens and more space for carers.
  4. Lactation rooms – the highest scoring point on the scorecard of the healthy building certification Fitwel8 is the inclusion of dedicated lactation rooms. These dedicated spaces, incorporating an electrical outlet, seating, a table, a sink and a fridge, allow breastfeeding mothers to have a private, comfortable and hygienic space to pump, which can contribute to improved mental and physical health outcomes for mothers. It is arguably the most equitable feature within a building, giving breastfeeding women the option to return to the workplace with one less thing to worry about.

The WGBC’s Health & Wellbeing Building Framework recommends how we, as built environment professionals, should ensure inclusivity is integrated throughout the building lifecycle. Design strategies should incorporate dedicated populations (e.g. women, elderly, disabled), and potential users should be involved and consulted as early as possible to help identify barriers to inclusion. Throughout operation, a culture of accessibility should be created through physical environments, as well as social and attitudinal factors that can result from well-integrated company policies to support diversity.


References

  1. https://www.sustrans.org.uk/media/2930/2930.pdf
  2. https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/routes-and-maps/cycleways
  3. https://worldgbc.org/sites/default/files/WorldGBC%20Health%20%26%20Wellbeing%20Framework_Exec%20Report_FINAL.pdf
  4. http://activityinequality.stanford.edu/
  5. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/livinglongerhowourpopulationischangingandwhyitmatters/2019-03-15#who-is-providing-unpaid-care
  6. https://www.sensorytrust.org.uk/resources/guidance/access-chain-an-inclusive-design-tool
  7. http://www.changing-places.org/
  8. https://fitwel.org/

What is a better place, for people?

The current World GBC Health & Wellbeing Framework has been in the making for many years now but there is no doubt that living in the midst of a global pandemic has focused our minds on what both places, and better, means for us as a species. 

The first essential question is what is ‘place’?

It means so many different things to each of us, both individually, culturally and as a society.  In the current situation, it has come to mean both refuge and prison, not least due to the impact of the lack of choices imposed on us and what that does to our mental health.

The definition of office space has been changing rapidly over the last 5 years, driven by new trends in employee engagement, better understanding of the science behind productivity within the workplace, and wider realisation of the impact that unseen threats (long before COVID-19) have on both our short and long term health, happiness and performance.

The recent realisation that most office workers can function well from home is naturally leading to another round of floor tile-gazing as the commercial market asks itself ‘what do people want now?’.  Sadly, I suspect the answer is some way off…but it may be a better answer for people.

How did we get here? 

I can’t possibly begin to address the myriad responses to that issue, and are surely being written right now, in an attempt to answer this.  For me, part of the issue comes in our persistent refusal to consider ourselves a mammalian species, occupying the same spaces as other species on a single planet (not the place here to embark on single planet living and the anthroposcene).  Despite all our best efforts, we still have the same respiratory systems, neurological and physicals responses and social needs that our tribal ancestors did.  No amount of stone, clothing or behaviour can change the fundamentals of the Homo sapiens as a species, even if our jaw bite has altered slightly over the centuries.

As such, it should come as no surprise to us to discover that what matters to us is the people in those places that we miss most (see the copious employee surveys for evidence) and the sense of belonging to a tribe, be that family, colleagues or a combination.  Place, however, is now tinged with a sense of fear, and we must work harder than ever to alleviate that fear and visualise the invisible threats that we are all living with.

What is a ‘better place’? 

Philosophically, of course, the first question has to be, “compared to what?” In the resplendent glass houses of the developed cities, where there is an overwhelming choice of types of milk for your coffee in the lobby café, attention has focused on occupier facilities, flexible working space types and more human features within the office environment.  However, lest we forget the inequality inherent in air quality issues, the intensity metric of poor air quality versus ‘months of potential life reduced’ is brutal and unforgiving.  Focusing on key issue in isolation tend to lead to unintended consequences, which is why we are whole-heartedly supporting the 6 key principles of the new Health& Wellbeing Framework[1], which address both the inter-related factors of healthy places but also the whole building lifecycle.

Since we evolved into our original habitat, complete with sabre tooth tigers and other hungry predators, our natural defences evolved with us;  smell, taste, hearing.  We did not need to “see” air quality, since we lived mostly outdoors; we did not need to go to the gym, since our food needed to be picked, or chased; we did not need to meet our friends online, since the survival of the tribe depended on our sticking together.

As we stand on the border of a new era of engagement, understanding and opportunity, we do have the chance to reset the parameters of both place and human relationships.   A better place, for people, in this context, signifies one which both protects and nurtures, and to do so in the 21st Century requires new eyes and ears in the form of constant monitoring, and new reassurance in the form of visible compliance with new regimes.  The good news is that the impact of place on human health is now primary in everyone’s thoughts, and also that the technology is now available to provide the feedback we need from those places.  Whether that is our own bedrooms, the road outside or our office, solutions are now at hand that were inconceivable even 10 years ago.  

As we reconsider what it will take to get us back to better, this WGBC Framework could not come at a more relevant time.  Each crisis brings opportunity.

EVORA’s uniquely broad expertise enables the seamless embedding of health and wellbeing with broader ESG strategy, processes, and reporting commitments for holistic optimisation. Contact our team of 11+ qualified health and wellbeing experts for support.


[1] www.worldgbc.org/health-framework

Helpful Tips on Staying Well while Working from Home

Humans are social beings and being isolated for an extended period of time can affect mental health and wellbeing.  Working from home is often comfortable and helpful when it is on an ad hoc basis.  In the current, unprecedented times however, working from home could become unexpectedly stressful.  This short page is aimed at providing some physical and mental health tips to keep us all well, healthy and happy during this period.


Mental and Physical Health are equally important: it is often easy to forget the link between mental and physical health, especially in the technology-driven 21st Century. 

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Try to keep a separate place for your work which you can walk away from.  It is important to keep a mental and physical separation between work and home, wherever possible.  If this is not practical, try working in different spaces to give yourself variety.
  • Set a daily routine, including getting up and dressed as you would normally.  For those with children at home now too, establish a routine for the whole family that allows time together and time doing your own things. Respect each other’s boundaries, both physical and mental, and keep communication lines open. 
  • Take regular breaks away from work. Have lunch or breaks away from your screen and switch all the reminders and alarms off so that your brain can relax.
  • Specify a ‘working day’ and ‘leave the office’, closing your work down.
  • Be aware of your mental health.  How is your mood?  Are you sleeping well?  It can often help to look at yourself as you might a friend, and see how you are doing. 
  • Replace your usual in-person activities with video calls and regular updates.  Humans are social animal for the most part and thrive on engagement with others; we will all need this as we adjust.
  • Control your exposure to the media and information, perhaps limiting to one specific time of the day.  Being surrounded by constant updates and repeated alarming news can be stressful and raise your own levels of worry and concern.
  • Be generous to yourself, and others.  This is not normal and will not last.  Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your close friends and family.

Physical Considerations

  • Make sure you have a comfortable place to work where you can see properly
  • Ensure you have good exposure to natural daylight
  • Your chair should be the right height to allow you to work comfortably and the desk should allow you to sit with your legs underneath it
  • Try not to work on the sofa or similar “soft” areas for extended periods and look after your back and posture
  • Drink plenty of water!  It can be helpful to use the same bottle each day with a set amount of water.  Current advice is that adults should on average drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day.
  • Movement during the day is also important.  Try to stretch every 15 or so minutes, and move around regularly. 
  • Take regular breaks, ideally by leaving the house (within the government guidelines).  A change of scene and some fresh air are critical to maintaining health & wellbeing.
  • Keep exercising!  There are ways to exercise outside which will still maintain isolation, and there are plenty of videos available with ways to exercise inside at home.  Keeping your mind and body healthy in tandem will ensure that you are the most resilient you can be during this period.  
  • Laugh!!  There is a great body of evidence which shows the positive benefits of laughter.  Keep calling each other and have a good time together, add in some conscious comedy viewing.
  • Stay in touch with your work teams too; strong bonds are formed between teams and these will be helpful and supportive as we all stay at home. Try to use video communications as much as possible, not just audio.

Getting fresh air safely

  • Open the windows, it is important to let fresh air into your home.  Regularly changing the air in your home will reduce carbon dioxide and chemicals, as well as provide a link to the outside world, all of which keep us alert and more able to concentrate.
  • Go for a walk or spend time outside, within the current government rules (see link below).

For more advice and tips, here are some external web links:

Please note – these Tips should be used in the spirit in which they were shared: best practice sourced form multiple agencies and informed people.  They do not replace official advice or government updates and should not be considered as such.

Thank you to our very own Thomas Hutton for the cartoon!

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