Inside Grosvenor’s ‘why wait’ net zero strategy
Grosvenor Britain & Ireland plans to reach net zero carbon by 2025 – five years ahead of its original target – though it will rely on immediate offsetting to do so, the company has announced.
The developer said it is taking a “why wait” stance on offsets instead of waiting until 2030 to mitigate its emissions. GBI argued that doing so would have a positive long-term effect as long as it also met its reduction targets.
James Raynor, CEO of GBI, said: “We recognise the complexities of offsetting, but when governed robustly and alongside commitments to reductions in emissions, it is an important tool to achieving net zero. So why wait?
“We need to get on with action and take responsibility for the emissions we’re generating right now.”
In its first net zero strategy update, GBI reported that it had cut emissions by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019.
Although a “significant proportion” of this was due to Covid-19 lockdowns, the company said it was on track to deliver a 52% reduction by 2030.
GBI’s progress last year included rolling out green leases with clauses designed to encourage occupiers to operate their spaces more sustainably. Some 100 occupiers have signed up to them.
Net Zero Pathway
GBI’s Net Zero Carbon Pathway strategy committed the developer to cutting its absolute carbon emissions by 52% between 2019 and 2030.
The targets, validated by the Science Based Targets initiative earlier this year, has a three-pronged strategy:
- Reducing building emissions
- Increasing renewables
- Offsetting residual emissions
In order to reduce emissions in its buildings, GBI has allocated £90m for a retrofit programme and introduced green leases. On average, the developer’s retrofitted buildings go from an EPC D to a B, Grosvenor said.
This year, it will undertake 175 retrofit projects – including a terrace of 15 listed offices on Buckingham Palace Road in London – to save more than 1,000 tonnes of carbon annually.
All new developments will be net zero carbon as of 2021. These developments must have low embodied carbon (less than 500kgCO2e/sq m from 2025), achieve certain energy use intensity targets and be all-electric.
From 2023, the company will award contracts of more than £1m only to suppliers with science based emissions targets. By 2030, 40% of all suppliers are expected to have set net zero targets.
This area of the strategy relies on both onsite energy generation and renewable energy procurement.
GBI is reviewing the performance of existing onsite systems and expanding automated energy data capture to inform future installations.
On procurement, the developer is undertaking a gas replacement programme to remove fossil fuels and is offering occupiers green tariffs as part of their green leases. Power purchase agreements and support for other renewable energy projects across the UK are also being considered.
Offsetting residual emissions
Having fast-tracked its net zero goals, GBI is now planning to be carbon neutral by 2025 and is investing in offsets to do so. Those offsets will follow the University of Oxford’s principles of good quality offsets, which are also aligned with the Science Based Targets initiative.
The offsetting strategy also has three pillars:
- “Do it now”
- “A collaborative approach”: GBI’s supply chain accounts for 94% of its emissions and will be included in the broader strategy
- “Invest in a low carbon future”: By investing in offsetting technology, such as carbon capture and storage, GBI said it wants to help the wider net zero transition in the UK
Although offsetting early runs the risk of companies becoming complacent with absolute emissions reductions, several major businesses are starting offsets early because of the urgency of the climate crisis.
Recently, NatWest told PlaceTech that it is also offsetting emissions now because it does not believe it has time to do it “sequentially”.
If that approach becomes even more widespread, achieving net zero carbon could become the norm or starting point – rather than an ambition – and not necessarily reflect a company’s progress in cutting emissions.
Tor Burrows, executive director, sustainability and innovation at GBI, said: “We recognise how important reducing absolute emissions is in tackling the climate crisis, but we also know that credible offsetting will play a crucial role in helping us reach net zero.
“Developing the strategy has helped us thoughtfully determine the different types of offsets we will invest in. As well as acknowledging the benefits of short-term offsets like reforestation, we are looking towards long-term solutions through carbon removal and storage.
“We’re entering the offsetting market with our eyes wide open and will share our learnings with others and help the industry become greener at a quicker pace.”