Sustainability: how do we start tackling climate change in housing?

The evidence on climate change is clear, and the forward forecasts are frightening: If we do not act now the damage is likely to be irreversible.

After transport, the housing sector emits the most carbon in the UK. Sustainability, climate change, and carbon neutrality are starting to get a position on board agendas across the sector, but progress is still slow. If as a country, society and sector we are going to have a positive impact on climate change, we need the big sectors to not only take note but to act.

This should also not be seen as a ‘tick box’ exercise – in addition to the clear benefits for the environment, a pro-active and positive response to climate change embedded within the values of an organisation is increasingly being expected by customer, employees, investors and other stakeholders. 

We all have a role to play and there are specific activities which organisations (at board and executive level in particular) in the housing sector can and should be taking now, including:

  • Gaining a detailed understanding of the risks (direct and financial) posed by climate change and how those risks can be mitigated
  • Developing full awareness of the developing green agenda particularly in relation to increasing compliance, regulatory and reporting requirements
  • Mapping and understanding their current impact on the environment and developing strategies to guide their response
  • Increasing awareness of climate change amongst employee and customers

There are also opportunities for the sector to work collectively to leverage impact, such as:

  • Engaging in cross sector collaboration to share learning and set targets on tackling climate change
  • Using its collective strength to positively influence government policy on tackling climate change

To support the sector in tackling this challenge, we’re excited to be launching a new Sustainability service stream. The aim being to work with organisations in the housing sector to support them to understand and rise to the key challenges in working towards becoming a sustainable and climate resilient businesses.

Through the new stream we will work with Boards, Executives, and delivery teams across the organisation to provide pro-active, practical and expert advice on the full range of climate conscious initiatives, relevant to the housing sector.

This includes:

  • Working with Boards and Executives teams to:
    • Understand climate change risks and business impacts
    • Assess and understand an organisation’s current impact on the environment
    • Develop and implement carbon neutral strategies
    • Ensure compliance and good governance in relation to climate change obligations
  • Work with development and asset management teams to:
    • Support the development of new green housing schemes
    • Provide insight into current best practice thinking on sustainable homes / house building
    • Assess the impact of and plan the implementation of retrofitting activities
  • Work with Transformation and HR teams to:
    • Design and implement climate related transformation programmes
    • Support culture and behaviour change activities to drive environmental best practice

As part of the launch of the stream we will also be working hard to raise the awareness and profile of climate related issues in the sector. This will start with a sector wide survey which will provide detailed insight into the key challenges, current plans and barriers facing the sector in tackling climate change.

The issue is also core to our values as an organisation. Earlier this year we announced our own commitment towards becoming a carbon neutral organisation. That work has included the setup of an internal employee led ‘Green Group’ which is taking the lead on understanding, developing and embedding our positive approaches to tackling climate change as an organisation. We’ll be releasing more information on our approach as the initiative develops in the coming weeks and months.

This is an exciting and important area of work for us to be involved in. This article provides information on our thinking and work in this area, including information on what organisations need to be taking into account when developing climate related strategies, as well as some of the specific initiatives which can be taken forward now.

We will be launching a survey to the sector in the coming weeks to understand the sector’s current position, the challenges, and opportunities to collaborate.

The potential for impact in the sector is huge, and we are looking forward to supporting organisations through the challenges.   

Written by Michael Appleby, Director, Altair