A sustainable Internet: What is the cost of our current use?

When people hear about sustainability, typical thoughts circle around travel, consumerism, buildings,  the physical world. Conceptually,  the web and the devices that allow us access to it, appear clean in their usage, far removed from belching power plants and noxious fumes.

But the reality is that every search performed on Google, every Netflix show watched, every Spotify song listened to, triggers servers somewhere to process and output data and then more servers to transmit it, consequently consuming electricity and burning fossil fuels.

Global electricity consumption by the internet is considerable, accounting for 1% of all emissions from burning fossil fuels (aviation accounts for 2.4%) the irony isn’t lost that the man who gave this stat is the brother of the “inventor” of the Web.

The industry is taking steps to reduce CO2 emissions. New movements encourage designers to consider sustainability in the web site design phase. Internet behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Amazon have made promises to go net-zero. Some have found novel ways to consume less by submerging data centres or building data centres in cold environments (a lot of electricity is consumed by just cooling the servers)

But there are actions we can take as users that will also help reduce those emissions:

  1. Drop the quality. Video streaming accounts for the biggest volumes of data sent over the internet. Watching something in HD makes everything super-realistic but consider the impact. Go for the SD version and you can still enjoy the content, but drastically reduce the data streamed.
  2. Do you need to search? When you know the web address to go to, open your browser and type it in. Or save it as a bookmark. Entering a keyword into the browser’s address bar (such as “BBC”)  will provoke a search. Each search consumes some electricity. Cumulatively, those searches have a massive impact.
  3. Download rather than stream. Is something on heavy rotation on Spotify? Then download it. This will also save your data.
  4. Unfortunately, emails harm the environment, accounting for a huge carbon footprint. Consider not sending that email. Could you just phone? If you need to send it, just take a moment to think does everyone cc’d need to read this?
  5. Change to a more sustainable search. There is a greener alternative to Google. plant trees from the money they make through you using their search and claim 100% renewable energy usage. And they appear to be true to their word.  
  6. Switch off. The ultimate sustainable method!

Of course, the Internet has brought huge benefits to a more sustainable world. Online meetings have reduced the need to travel. The consumption of the written word has moved more online, reducing the number of books and newspapers printed.  But it’s just a conscious move for everyone to recognise that their Internet use still consumes fossil fuels. And as Berners-Lee says,

“When we take a small action to cut carbon, it’s a message to yourself that you care about the climate emergency.”

SDGs: Answering the Big Questions for the Real Estate Industry – What, Where, Why and How?

With a new decade upon us, there is now a call more than ever to address the proliferating global challenges facing our planet.

Governments can no longer fight this battle alone and need individuals and businesses to take action and deliver an agenda that provides a sustainable path for both the planet and society. 

Clearly, this is no easy task – so how can real estate connect with and relate to global challenges? What is the motivation behind the bigger picture? And how can real estate owners, operators and occupiers oversee their potential impact in the long term?  

Let’s begin to unpick the ‘Big Questions’…. 


In 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was put forward with world leaders setting out 17 goals with 169 targets aimed “to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change”. The breadth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aims to provide sustainable development for all persons and aspects of businesses and look for them to fully immerse into a new way of thinking that will positively impact the people and planet. 

Figure 1: SDG goals (UN Framework: 2015)


Given that the real estate industry accounts for half of global wealth, 40 percent of the world’s consumption of primary energy and a third of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions there is no mistaking that the industry can contribute to achieving certain Global Goals… As the real estate industry is chiefly responsible for the development and management of assets and is also vulnerable to the impact of climate change, it goes without saying that the industry should be one of the main leaders fighting the cause of environmental stewardship.  

So, why is it that the sector has barely scratched the surface of the SDGs since their deployment in 2015? 

An agenda centred on 17 SDGs does run the risk of simply being too broad, complex or immaterial for businesses to address. In fact, a study conducted by PwC found that only one percent of companies stated they would assess their impact across all 17 goals. But are targets on No Poverty or Zero Hunger achievable or even relevant to the wider real estate industry?

Our own research conducted among 25 real estate companies achieving at least one five-star GRESB rated fund identified commitment to 13 of the 17 SDGs to some extent. Carbon and energy covering SDG13 (Climate Action – 70% adoption) and SDG7 (Affordable and Clean Energy – 52% adoption) proved the most common for actions relating to the operation of real estate assets. SDG5 (Gender Equality – 52% adoption) proved the most popular actions that are internal to each organization. Fewer than half of the sample group aligned with any other SDGs despite the notable impact real estate can have on SDG3 (Good Health and Wellbeing) and SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). 

Figure 2: Proportion of the sample committing to selected SDGs (real estate)


With global frameworks, it’s all about scalability – with 169 sub-targets to consider, it is difficult to pin-point what impact your business could specifically make. However, many activities and initiatives within your business may well align to SDGs already – whether this be indirectly or directly. The key here is to break down the goals into more manageable and understandable objectives that relate specifically to how you as a business operate. 

First, ask yourself…

What is material and what are the relevant impact categories you want to address? 

Reflect on your activities and the risks to people and the environment, as well as on beneficial products, services and investments. While doing so, consider both operations and the broader value chain. One way to make this simple is the use of a materiality assessment. In short, a materiality assessment is an exercise in stakeholder engagement designed to gather insight on the relative importance, and impact, of specific environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.  The key to getting real value from a materiality assessment is starting with a clear understanding of what information you are looking for, choosing the right stakeholders and applying the appropriate methodology to present the information effectively and make informed decisions. 

Breaking down analysis into environmental, economic and societal factors allows you to understand the impact your activities have, and the programmes needed to mitigate adverse risks or exploit beneficial opportunities. Consider not only your objectives but your audience and who is involved. What topics are of most importance to your stakeholders? Who needs to take responsibility?

By this point, you will have developed a sense of what impacts you as a real estate business could have and their overall importance. Now, you must define objectives that could contribute to your SDG priority targets, including identifying the indicators used to measure progress against then. 

Now for the ‘How’ 

Outcomes of a materiality assessment should be channelled into a structured framework, such as an environmental management system (EMS), to ensure programs are managed through a coordinated strategy. Building the SDGs into the strategy is a way to stop isolated work or seeing the global goals as somewhat as an additional task. 

The strategy should define what metrics and indicators can be used to set appropriate targets, defining the outcome from each impact areas. It is important to consider how progress will be tracked and communicated. High-quality data is essential for making informed decisions and prioritizing action. Take, for instance, SDG13 Climate Action – here you may wish to monitor and report on energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions. The use of dashboards to easily convey current performance (at asset and portfolio level), track against historical periods, and importantly, communicate progress to stakeholders is a vital step in achieving climate goals.

Figure 3: Energy and Carbon Dashboards (SIERA)

Final Thoughts  

An EMS provides a framework to increase focus within your business’ strategic planning process and understand the context and scope of impacts. Essentially, it answers the bigger question of ‘Where’ you can make an impact as a business.  The key here is to be straightforward! No matter how big or small the change, it is important that you know your objectives and communicate them in a way that is both easy to understand and relevant to who you are targeting.

The SDGs can be perceived as global goals that are difficult to relate to the industry, let alone a business itself. However, they can act as a powerful tool in shifting the conversation to the bigger picture. Given the degree of involvement the real estate industry plays in these global challenges today, there is no denying that you as a business can play a significant role in contributing to these goals. However big or small, the time to act is now.

This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

UN Environment (2017), “Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector”, Global Status Report, URL: 

Anne Huibrechtse – Truijens (2018), “Sustainability Goals: A Business Perspective”, Deliotte,  URL:

Philippa Gill to join EVORA Global as Director

EVORA Global are delighted to announce that Philippa Gill will be joining on February 1st as Director and will be merging Verdextra into EVORA’s existing business operations.  

Verdextra are a specialised Sustainability, Health and Wellbeing and Operations Consultancy and have emerged as thought leaders in the Health and Wellbeing arena. We are very excited to be integrating Verdextra’s capabilities into our services portfolio as a key part of our commitment to broadening and upscaling our service line offerings.

We are absolutely delighted that Philippa has agreed to join us. Philippa’s deep heritage in global real estate and current thinking in emerging key topics such as Health and Wellbeing will not only add to EVORA’s depth of capability, but will really add strength to our senior leadership team and help drive our international reach. This is a truly exciting time for EVORA and we look forward to 2020 being another key milestone in our development.

EVORA’s Managing Director, Chris Bennett

Philippa brings truly world class pedigree to EVORA having previously occupied a range of senior sustainability leadership roles within Global Real Estate organisations. Philippa has a proven track record of driving real change through an extensive portfolio of Sustainability Transformation Programmes, spanning construction through to software and intelligent building management technologies.  

Philippa also brings extensive experience from within the Private Equity community and will play a key role in driving our international growth plans and supporting bringing new Value Propositions to Market.

Verdextra and EVORA’s business expertise and philosophy align so well, and I am delighted to be merging our business with theirs. The opportunity to combine my own experience with the sector leadership EVORA embodies is truly exciting and I am looking forward to harnessing our joint capabilities.

Philippa Gill, Partner at Verdextra

Seeing the Value in Real Estate Supply Chain Sustainability

Do the companies you partner with – your supply chain – understand your approach to ESG issues, and can work with you to meet your goals?

Supply chains can often be global, highly complex and of significant scale. Historically, technical quality, cost-effectiveness, speed of delivery and reliability has been the focus. Sustainability has now been added to the procurement and sourcing criteria because of operational, financial, regulatory and reputational risk drivers.

Real estate organisations are encouraged to embrace resiliency and responsibility in their supply chain management to adapt to externalities such as geopolitical conflicts, changing weather patterns and new legislation in areas such as modern slavery; and to improve their impacts on the workforce, local communities and the environment in the places where they develop, manage and invest. By improving ESG performance throughout their supply chains, organisations can enhance processes, save costs, uncover product innovation, achieve market differentiation and have a significant impact on society.

As organisations apply a sustainability lens to the design, development, management and marketing of their buildings and services, the inputs, construction methods, labour conditions, workforce health and safety practices, and environmental and community impacts of these processes will be under growing scrutiny.

The continuous improvement process expands supplier relationships significantly beyond auditing and monitoring, investing in training and incentivising top performers. Organisations share commitments with suppliers in order to achieve their sustainability goals. Procurement process preference is given to suppliers who can help them achieve these goals.

Leading organisations recognise that the sustainability attributes of their assets can offer market differentiation, resulting in increased lettability and stronger and long-term relationships with tenants.

They achieve competitive advantage in the supply chain through establishing meaningful, collaborative dialogue between themselves and their suppliers, alongside technology innovation, greater efficiency and supplier diversity. Suppliers are viewed as an extension of their business with a shared sustainability ethos integrated seamlessly throughout.

Maturity model - supply chain
Figure 1 – Maturity model supply chain

EVORA provides consultancy support for the development and implementation of an effective strategy to endorse sustainability within supply chains, including:

  • Assessment of materiality to focus on the most pressing issues
  • Development of sustainability criteria and alignment with the procurement process
  • Providing training and knowledge sharing capabilities across the organisation and with suppliers
  • Stretching existing sustainability goals beyond direct operations, to include tiers of the supply chain
  • Advice on deploying technology to increase accountability and transparency through comprehensive supplier performance metrics
  • Guiding participation in industry collaborations and initiatives to leverage buying power and influence towards supply chain sustainability
  • Disclosure of supply chain information within integrated reporting, beyond stand-alone sustainability reporting mechanisms.

Contact us to speak to a member of the team.

Five sustainability trends for the 2020s: what’s in store for real estate?

Upon entering the 2020s, which some dub ‘a decade for delivery’ to improve sustainability across the board, it is perhaps wise to consider the breakout trends that will carry forward. After all, a new year always inspires new endeavours.  It provides a clean slate to readjust and redeliver, as well as a fresh opportunity to realign and build upon past achievements.

The 2020s may have a lot in store for everyone across the real estate space; so what should we be looking out for?

Net zero heroes

This commitment has been on the lips of government officials and real estate investors alike, marking a significant promise to achieve net zero carbon across the UK by 2050.

In September 2019, 23 of the UK’s leading commercial property owners have signed a commitment launched by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) to tackle the growing risks of climate change, pledging to decarbonise. Covering over 11,000 properties, this type of agreement is likely to inspire more companies throughout the next decade to also commit time and resource in the fight against climate change.

It is therefore expected that the dynamics behind climate strategy will shift in tow, with awareness of a pressing deadline introducing the need for a new radical mentality for rapid decarbonisation across a vast sector. The path to complete overhaul will not be simple, nor one that can be touched lightly, it will require serious engagement and in effect be one of the most major driving forces for change across the industry. Certainly, one to watch intently and something EVORA is already leading clients through the challenges and opportunities of.

New alignments and disclosure

Recent interest in broader ranging initiatives within the real estate space have been gaining traction in the past several years. These alternative policies are likely to continue to influence the direction of how companies tackle sustainability issues, standing apart from the more prominent examples such as GRESB, LEED and a host of others.

The 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is one such example, acting originally as a framework for nations to engage in improving global sustainability across areas such as environment and energy, equality, health and wellbeing, alongside peace and justice. Five years since their inception, it is the real estate sector which is taking command of the targets put in place, using them to guide investment and strategy for an all-around approach to sustainability. Aligning with the SDGs is rising in popularity, and it is likely that a more open approach could inspire newer players to also play their part, committing time and resource to key targets.

Another key shift beginning to happen in 2020 focuses on the effective disclosure of climate resilience and risk to businesses through alignment with the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosure (TCFD). TCFD is a global voluntary disclosure framework launched in 2017 to allow organisations to identify climate risks and opportunities, and ultimately to disclose the financial impact of these in their annual reports. Awareness and mitigation of these risks is necessary to avoid any sudden losses in asset value and the associated impact on the wider investor market. Businesses engaging with this voluntary scheme provide greater transparency for stakeholders, but also gain an advantage when addressing wider strategies by actively moulding the methodologies behind TCFD, as well as gaining a footing ahead of competition for improving capital value. TCFD – based reporting is to become mandatory for PRI signatories from 2020.

Renewables reinvigoration 

Off the back of net zero and related policies put in place by nations across the globe, renewables investment is a key piece of the puzzle to deliver ambitious targets by 2050.

It is no secret that renewables investment has been growing substantially over the previous decade, with total stock of the most widespread small-scale variant in the UK in terms of number and generating capacity (up to 5MW) – solar photovoltaic (PV) – growing from a total supply of just 88 MW in November 2010 to a staggering 13,305 MW in November 2019 according to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

This trend is set to continue, and not just for solar, as it is speculated that across the piece the total capacity of non-hydro renewable sources is set to expand by 91% on current values, reaching 80.3 GW by 2030 [1] as shown below in Figure 1.

Figure 1 – Installed capacity of non-hydro renewables through time, alongside forecast capacity out to 2030. Source: GlobalData, Power Database
Figure 1 – Installed capacity of non-hydro renewables through time, alongside forecast capacity out to 2030. Source: GlobalData, Power Database

Policy has been a major driver of this initiative in the UK; however, it should not be forgotten that globally the price of renewables has fallen drastically, reaching the lowest point to date making it ripe for investment.

Cost reductions for solar and wind power technologies are set to continue to 2020 and beyond. Current auction and power purchase agreement (PPA) data suggests that by 2020, onshore wind and solar PV will consistently offer less expensive electricity than the least-cost fossil fuel alternative worldwide, according to IRENA [2]. And for the UK as shown in Figure 2, the current expected trajectory for wind technologies is to dip below the cost of gas, closely followed by solar which is expected to reach the same level in the late 2020s if not sooner.

Figure 2 – UK costs (£ per kWh) for various technologies. Source: Carbon Brief, 2019
Figure 2 – UK costs (£ per kWh) for various technologies. Source: Carbon Brief, 2019

With costs expected to fall, the integration of renewables will become easier and the investment more worthwhile as payoff times also decrease. This is despite the removal of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme in March 2019, however commercial contracted energy still proves to pull in promising numbers for those willing to invest in generation. Furthermore, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), a partial replacement for the FiT, came into force on the 1st January 2020 setting an obligation for licensed electricity suppliers to offer a tariff and make payment to small-scale low-carbon generators for electricity exported to the National Grid.

This could provide a valuable route to market for businesses wishing to put money aside for renewables, serving to cut electricity costs due to self-generation, but also providing the opportunity to export and earn money by supplying back to the grid.

Furthermore, the benefits for businesses from Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (CPPAs), specialised agreements for the supply of energy to specific sites or assets from a generator, have also grown in recent years. This differs from the standard green tariff opportunities presented by utilities, as energy is directly sourced from a known generation site which in turn spurs the delivery of greater grid investment into private energy sources as significant hurdles for generators are bypassed. Engaging in this market has proved to be a reliable means of utilising renewable energy over short term (6 month) to as long as 15-year contracts relatively inexpensively, alongside proving a positive look for companies to boot.

Who knows, perhaps this could grow into something larger? The prospect of peer-to-peer trading of energy or smart grids to efficiently serve grouped assets could also take off from greater private investment; effectively lighting the fuse for a more sustainable real estate sector, and aiding the push of ambitious policies to grow the market.

Grand designs

Changing up building management and design is also a crucial factor to consider, in order to provide more efficient, healthier and happier buildings for tenants to grow their businesses in.

One example of how legislation is progressing this scene is the recent Minimum Energy Efficient Standards (MEES) for non-domestic commercial buildings strategy, published on the 15th October 2019 by BEIS, which we reported on last year.

Under the consultation, the government propose a new plan to raise the minimum EPC rating from ‘E’ to ‘B’ by 2030. In order to achieve this, a great deal of investment will be necessary, as an estimated 85% of non-commercial buildings will require improvements to meet these standards.

Improving new build design is a clear route to achieving this across portfolios, by integrating more passive design choices, smart technologies and more controllable systems for fundamentals like HVAC systems and lighting. These include such changes as tighter building fabrics to help reduce heat loss in the building, double glazed windows as well as greater exploitation of sunlight with Passivhaus like architecture. Not only will this reduce energy usage and as a result improve the returns from markets such as the SEG for renewables, it will also result in a more comfortable space for tenants to work in, improving wellbeing from the get-go. Furthermore, buildings can also engage in improving other factors such as the integration of biodiversity into building design with green walls and roof gardens alongside open planted plazas that not only serve as refuges for wildlife but for pleasant places for employees to enjoy for increased social value.

However, this is easier said than done, as the vast majority of buildings which will be used in the commercial space have already been built. Therefore, a great deal of effort will need to be focused on deep retrofitting to bring buildings up to scratch, allowing them to stay competitive and sustainable for years to come.

Big data for bigger change

At the heart of spurring the aforementioned changes is our understanding of the ongoing trends, causes and solutions to issues at hand; and how is that really possible without proper evidence?

As the world mobilises towards an ever more data-centric model to drive cost analyses, environmental modelling and of course the progress of sustainability, appropriate levels of data access are necessary to implement effective and lasting change. Therefore, a growing need for data coverage and reporting will likely manifest throughout the 2020s, improving the understanding of where and when energy is being consumed across a portfolio to identify, implement and track improvements.

The key to engaging here is being proactive about monitoring how businesses run and how properties are managed. An example includes the continued smart meter rollout which showed promise earlier in the 2010s, however, it has fallen short of what is required as the original deadline of 2020 is pushed back to 2024. Therefore, big data companies and real estate investors may begin to invest more heavily in their own solutions to provide better coverage of how assets perform. Furthermore, by partnering more closely this could prove to be more productive than just face value cost reductions.

By engaging with tenants directly to shape their ‘energy behaviour’ from a top-down policy and technologically driven view, visible and accessible evidence of energy usage can itself inspire change from the bottom up, with tenants altering how they perceive energy usage and the impacts of their day to day. Attacking from both ends in this way may prove an effective weapon.

Big data also stretches to the social issues that real estate faces on an ongoing basis, after all, people drive business. More widespread and granular coverage of social value, health and well being among other strategies could help change the perception of how usually qualitative analyses is treated, providing quantitative means to expand the efficiency of implementing changes into businesses.

EVORA will, of course, examine the growth of these trends (as well as many more) throughout the year, as we expect a great deal of exciting activity is upcoming. So, watch this space!

Data Sources:



Act on Climate Change

For those of us old enough to remember the amazing and thought provoking Baz Luhrmann song of the late 1990’s ‘Everybody’s free to wear Sunscreen’ you will be amazed to know that it is twenty years since this early viral internet phenonium grabbed our attention.  

You will also no doubt recall those thought provoking and immortal words of the writer Mary Schmich, the original author of the words that were wrongly attributed to Kurt Vonnegut.  For those of you too young to remember the song I recommend you hunt it down and listen.

It was whilst listening to a recent BBC World Service programme of the history of the song it occurred to me, as somebody who has spent the past 30 plus years in the sustainability world, what advice would I most like to pass on to the younger generation about the climate change challenge and living sustainably.  So in honour of Mary, Baz and the amazing voice Lee Perry, here goes my reinterpretation of their lessons in life….

Ladies and gentlemen, Readers of EVORA Global.

Act on Climate Change

If I could offer you only one tip for the future,

Acting on climate change would be it.

The long term impacts of climate change have been shown by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will offer my advice on how to address this challenge now.

Take seriously the power and passion of youth.

Dismiss this at your peril.

You may not understand the power and passion of youth until you have children and grandchildren of your own.

But trust me, in 20 years from now you’ll back at this time in a way you can’t grasp now and wonder why you didn’t act when there were still possibilities to change our trajectory and how many opportunities acting now could open up before you.

The future is not as hopeless or as difficult as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the science, but know that worrying is not effective or going to change the outcome.

The real challenges in modern life are our relentless consumptive behaviour in pursuit of false happiness but know that it’s not about having what you want but wanting what you have; the simple things in life such as spending time with family and friends is free.

Do something every day that challenges the perceived wisdom.

Publish your commitment to act on climate change.

Don’t be reckless with our resources and don’t be reckless with other counties resources.

Don’t accept the suggestion the world has endless capacity.


Don’t waste; do more with less.  The world has evolved over billions of years and everything in the universe is recycled.  Time is endless and our future uncertain but our place in history is not guaranteed.

Be respectful.

Remember your successes and learn from any mistakes but don’t let them restrict you; the journey in tackling climate change is challenging and we are all in it together.

Display any awards for best practice; it will keep you motivated. Don’t throw away your utility bills; it’s valuable data that can help you improve management of your assets.


Don’t feel guilty; you don’t know how yet. Embrace the possibilities and engage with technology. Some of the best businesses I’ve known didn’t know how to innovate at the start of their sustainability journey; some of them have been able to secure Government grant funding to help them.

Embrace the power of the Sun.

Preserve the rainforest, biodiversity and ecosystem services you’ll miss then when they are gone.

Maybe you’ll strive to solve the challenge on your own.

Maybe you’ll partner with others to work together.

Maybe you’ll offset your carbon.

Maybe you’ll just go veggie and reduce meat consumption.

Whatever you do don’t congratulate yourself too much or be defeatist; the future of humankind is in our hands today. So is the rest of life on Earth.

Get plenty of exercise; walk cycle run; don’t over eat or poison your body with unhealthy substances, it’s the only one you’ll own.

Pause…..take time to look around you and marvel at the wonders of life.

Read and keep abreast of climate science; it’s moving fast.

BEWARE of the fashion industry; it contributes more to global warming than aviation and shipping combined.

Celebrate and respect your culture and heritage; we can learn lots about good lives from our ancestors that can guide our future.

Work together with your peer group; they understand your challenges and together you can find mutual respect and encouragement in the future.

Spend time with family and friends; enjoy preparing and eating local seasonal food together; avoid cheap fast foods.

Work to bridge the gaps in geography; although the challenges can differ slightly between countries the essential issues are the same. Think global, act local.

Only travel sustainably.

Accept certain inalienable truths; carbon taxes will come.

Politicians will eventually legislate.

You too will get older, and when you do you’ll fantasize that taxes were reasonable, politicians were noble, and will recall it was our children that made us aware of the threats of climate change to life on earth.

Respect Mother Nature.

Maybe you need financial support, maybe you can reinvest some profits, but be under no illusion, time is running out.

Don’t rush ahead without considering proper science based targets or by the time we hit 2050, you’ll realise you’ve been chasing the wrong goals.

Be careful with those who sell existing stuff carefully repackaged with a green claim. Get proof of their credentials with an appropriate assurance or verification certificate. Engage a good independent consultant to help you.

But trust me on the seriousness of climate change.

by Matthew Brundle, Associate Director

CSR to ESG: an evolution

We’re used to hearing about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), it’s been around for years, but when did being responsible turn into something much more for the built environment?

Many years ago now, I began my career at Business in the Community, and so my journey (eventually) into sustainability. Even then, as one of the Princes Trust charities, the message was loud and clear – the biggest and best companies were all talking about CSR. 

“… the idea that a company should be interested in and willing to help society and the environment as well as be concerned about the products and profits it makes.”

Cambridge Dictionary

But at that point, when we talked about ‘the environment’, we were talking about recycling and waste, not really about the physical building. Being environmentally responsible still seemed a fairly new concept when compared to diversity and inclusion or, local communities or ethics.

 ‘Green wash’

After a segway into other countries and sectors, about eight years ago, I found myself working for a large construction company and landed smack in the age of Health and Safety. CSR was evolving into charitable events and effective communications with local communities. People before profit.

I’m not sure I ever heard about sustainability. The key word then, I suppose, was ‘green’. In doubt? Want to charge more money? What to sound innovative? Say it’s green.

“Also known as “green sheen,” greenwashing is an attempt to capitalize on the growing demand for products that are environmentally sound.” 


But no one was really willing to pay for it yet. Green projects or proposals had to be taken to the Board, and you had to justify the business case and show the return on investment. Only the leading companies had a team who worked on it, and even then, it was probably only one person.

At the same time there were companies dressing up services or initiatives that were environmentally friendly and ‘green’ without any real substance to whether they actually were or not.

The business case for sustainability

It wasn’t until a few years later, when I joined UKGBC that the momentum really picked up. The early adopters and the pioneers of the green building agenda were no longer content to just say they were doing something, they wanted to really show they were walking the talk. They were really doing what they said they were doing, and they wanted to prove it to you.

Increasingly, more companies were realising that there was in fact a business case for green, and it wasn’t just about making more money.

“A built environment that enables people and planet to thrive…” 


As soon as the penny started dropping on the long-term benefits of building green and of retrofitting existing buildings (giving them a new lease of life!), the conversation really began. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about green, it was about sustainability.

I believe that a huge part of getting the sustainability conversation more mainstream in the built environment sector, was health and wellbeing. 

Here was the real business case for those lagging behind – happier, healthier staff who stayed with the company longer, had less time off, were more productive and therefore made the business more profitable. There’s the hook.

An ESG (re)evolution

Since joining EVORA two years ago, I’ve seen the biggest shift in opinion. Not just in the industry, but the whole conversation of sustainability, responsibility to the environment and climate change. 

 ESG stands for Environmental Social and Governance, and refers to the three key factors when measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a business or company.” 

Market Business News

As consumers and customers wake up to the state of our planet and the environment, the pressure on companies to act in a responsible way has really ramped up. But what does this mean for the built environment?

People are beginning to insist that the built environment in which they live, work, shop and spend much of their time, puts their health and wellbeing – as well as the future of the planet – at the heart of everything. And it’s not just about the places; increasingly, people are making their decisions on who to do business with, based on a company’s green and ethical practices. 

A recent study found that nearly two-thirds (64%) of millennials said ESG issues are important in their investing decisions with Gen Xers not far behind at 54% and Baby Boomers at 42%. In addition, majorities across all generations say ESG is a key factor in which companies they choose to do business with.

With this in mind, ESG is going to play a critical role in how the built environment is managed going forwards. From inception, through design, build, occupation and disposal. ESG needs to be fully embedded into an organisation’s decision-making. Those that fail to integrate ESG into their practices face the risk of finding themselves obsolete in the future. ESG is here to stay and will be at the forefront of tackling climate change and ensuring a sustainable future.

EVORA Global announced as headline partner on Estates Gazette new Sustainability Programme

EVORA is pleased to be working in collaboration with the Estates Gazette and other industry leaders to share knowledge and key learnings about sustainability with the real estate industry.

Find out more here.

  • Read the article “How real estate is mobilised to face a real and present danger” by Chris Bennett here.
  • Listen to the podcast “Hope or fear? How the built environment needs to approach the climate change” featuring Ed Gabbitas here.
  • Listen to the podcast “Property and the climate crisis: how should real estate respond?” featuring Matthew Brundle here.

There has never been a better time to be talking about climate change and the broader sustainability agenda and Estates Gazette are ideally placed to inform the industry as a whole. Working with the Better Buildings Partnership, Hammerson and Drees & Sommer, we aim to share our wide knowledge of the industry and sustainability with the EG audience. 

Real estate is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, representing around 40% of global carbon emissions, which means it is also an industry that has the biggest opportunity to make a difference.

“We are fortunate to work with many clients who already have sustainability high up on their agenda, but we recognise the wider real estate industry still needs guidance and support. With the sustainability agenda ever evolving and climate change and net zero at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we believe it’s the ideal time to share our knowledge and expertise with a wider audience. By partnering with the Estates Gazette provides the perfect platform to share our learnings and  support the industry to rise to the challenge and tackle this issue head on.”

Chris Bennett, MD, EVORA Global

The new programme coincides with the launch of the Climate Change Commitment by the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP), which has been signed by 23 of the UK’s leading commercial property owners.

The Commitment highlights the need for buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050 and commits signatories to publicly publish their own pathways to achieving this by the end of 2020. Read the full BBP press release here.

If you would like more information about how EVORA Global can support your business in achieving its climate goals, please do contact us.

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.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Biodiversity will result in greener 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.” quote=”Biodiversity will result in greener 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.”]

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
    – Beehives
    – 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.

For more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Career Opportunities at EVORA

At EVORA, we are able to apply our depth of knowledge and experience to help organisations understand and manage environmental risks, as well as realise the opportunities to protect and enhance the long term value of their assets. Our breadth of knowledge and client base have grown year on year and every member of the team is passionate about sustainability as a professional service.

We intend to grow our team by identifying individuals who have similar values, technical expertise and enthusiasm for their work.

We are currently recruiting for the following exciting consultancy positions:

If none of these current roles fit your expertise, but you are a sustainability professional who’d really love to work for a company like EVORA, please get in touch anyway. The team is expanding rapidly and we are always open to speaking with individuals who fit with our culture and values.

We are also recruiting for the following operations and software roles:

Our EVORA EDGE team are also looking for people working in the following areas:

Building Physicists, Building Services Designers and Engineers, EPC assessors, Air Conditioning Energy Assessors, CAD engineers, M&E Tech iCal Services Managers.

No agencies please!

How to apply

Passion and enthusiasm are essential qualities as is a practical common sense approach and a determination to deliver the highest quality of work.

If you think you’ve got the skills and experience to join our rapidly expanding business, we’d love to hear from you!

To apply, please email with your CV or see our LinkedIn page.

Staff benefits and rewards

We have a great range of benefits, including:

  • A competitive salary, reviewed annually in line with industry averages
  • Attractive discretionary bonus structure
  • Health insurance with Vitality
  • Pension scheme (with staff contribution matched)
  • 25 days annual leave increasing to 30 days by year 7 (plus public holidays)
  • Additional 5 days holiday every three years to support one month sabbatical
  • Flexible working hours (core hours 10-4, with 37.5 hour working week)
  • Flexible lunch break
  • Remote/home working in agreement with line manager
  • Two days per year to volunteer for charity
  • Excellent ongoing professional development support
  • Generous maternity package
  • Multiple locations – London, Bolton, Birmingham (dependent on role)
  • Plus: childcare vouchers; Bike2Work scheme; payroll giving and more

Skills and expertise

We are particularly keen to hear from people with the following expertise and knowledge:

  • Client account and programme management
  • Depth of technical knowledge of sustainability issues and application to real estate
  • EMS development and operation to ISO certification levels
  • Managing large environmental data management programmes coordinating multiple parties
  • Monitoring and analysis of energy consumption data
  • Regulatory and voluntary reporting, e.g. CRC, GRESB, CDP
  • Environmental and Energy Audit Experience for commercial buildings
  • ESOS Lead Assessor
  • Detailed understanding of UK environmental legislation (ESOS, CRC, EPCs, MEES)
  • BREEAM in Use Assessor and/or WELL Accredited Practitioner status

To apply, please email with your CV or see our LinkedIn page.