The target of reaching net zero by 2050 requires each and every one of us to rise to the occasion, make commitments and challenge ourselves.

Melanie Leech

Melanie Leech

We know that the built environment is a major source of carbon emissions, responsible for around 40% of global emissions. Many companies have made great strides in reviewing their operations and impact on the environment – often dedicating entire teams to driving forward their sustainability strategies.

However, not all have the resources or bandwidth to enact change now. Indeed, tackling climate change and reducing our environmental impact is a massive task for most businesses in our industry. That is why the British Property Federation (BPF) will be using our platform and position with the real estate industry to launch a net zero campaign later this year, echoing Property Week’s call for radical collaboration in the third year of its Climate Crisis Challenge.

Without radical collaboration, we won’t find the radical solutions we need

This will be a member-facing campaign that calls on all of our 400 members to work together to reach net zero. To join the campaign, members will need to sign up, share and support.

There are many established pledges focused on getting companies and organisations to commit to a reduction in emissions. The UN-backed Race to Zero campaign has more than 5,227 businesses committing to ambitious science-based targets to cut emissions, including a number of BPF members.

Alongside this are several Race to Zero partner initiatives and campaigns tailored to specific sectors, including schemes aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises.

The net zero landscape is complex and navigating it can be challenging, especially for smaller businesses. The BPF’s net zero campaign aims to demystify existing pledges and provide guidance for smaller businesses looking to start their journey. We do not intend to create yet another initiative. Instead, we will signpost and encourage our members to sign up to the best of these existing initiatives.

Solar panels

Source: Shutterstock / Martin Bergsma

When the campaign goes live in June, we hope that over the next 12 months to June 2023 every BPF member will sign up to an existing initiative and put in place net zero targets and plans, as well as mechanisms to report on progress. This isn’t easy for everyone and we know that smaller businesses in our industry will need guidance.

Our president Guy Grainger has spoken of the importance of radical collaboration, working together to deliver initiatives and deliver on climate change commitments. The sharing of resources and research is something the BPF is uniquely placed to provide between its members – connecting sustainability leads at big and small businesses to knowledge-share on an open-source basis. Without this radical collaboration, we won’t find the radical solutions we need.

Net zero network

As part of this collaboration, we plan to launch our net zero network, which will include workshops, training sessions and webinars – creating several accessible touchpoints for small and medium-sized businesses to learn from the larger players in the real estate industry who have established plans to reach net zero by 2050, if not sooner.

The critical thing is that we all need to do our part. This looks different for each business. Getting to net zero is complex – and it can be costly. As a small organisation we recognise the challenge others will be facing and have spent time looking at the action the BPF can take. As part of this, we have signed up to Planet Mark, a Race to Zero partner, which will see us produce a plan to reduce our own carbon footprint.

This is a first step to help all our members to review and reduce carbon emissions through a network of shared resource and the creation of a supportive environment. The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that around 40% of the world’s population is “highly vulnerable” to the impacts of climate change. While it is a stark and sobering message, the report also asserts that we have time, if we act now and within this decade.

Our urban centres, where so many of our members have a presence, are instrumental in avoiding the worst impact of climate change. Innovation in transport, construction, energy use and building management are all playing a vital role in reducing our environmental impact.

Melanie Leech is chief executive at the BPF