DLA Piper has recently set science-based targets to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Rachel Williams

Rachel Williams

As part of this commitment, recent office moves and refurbishments have been carried out with sustainability as a key objective. Our recent Birmingham office move, for example, is BREEAM ‘Excellent’ and the most sustainable of all our offices globally, alongside Brussels.

This has taken us on a journey that is also shaping the UK market as a whole.

We will all be familiar with the often-quoted statistic that the real estate sector contributes 40% of global carbon emissions, but we may be less aware that only 20% of real estate companies have started addressing how to decarbonise their business. This does not reflect the general will of the market to join the green revolution. Clearer guidance from the government, expected post COP26, will be welcomed, but many fear that targets will be difficult to achieve.

Once the increased regulatory framework is in place, data will be required to move the sustainability agenda forward, which is not forthcoming at present. It will require more co-operation between landlords and tenants, including the need for a comprehensive picture of tenants’ carbon usage, which will ultimately benefit both parties in identifying and achieving their own science-based targets.

Regardless of regulation, the prominence that sustainability is gaining within boardrooms will mean companies will strive to go beyond certification to include: reduced water consumption and waste; self-generated renewable energy; incorporation of circular economy principles; responsible procurement; and purchasing carbon set-off.

We are also seeing biodiversity, public open space, green walls, health and wellbeing being key considerations for funds, landlords and occupiers. In terms of successful development, we have seen that these are achieved when there is an appreciation that sustainable places need to be created, not just buildings built.

Rachel Williams is real estate senior associate at DLA Piper