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This week Grosvenor Britain + Ireland confirmed that it is on schedule to deliver a 52% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and announced that it would mitigate remaining emissions by 2025 through offsetting. James Raynor, Chief Executive of GBI, explains the thinking behind this policy and outlines the steps being taken.

First the good news. (It feels in short supply right now).

Carbon emissions per person in London fell by 45% between 1990 and 2018. There was then a further 59% reduction in daytime CO2 emissions last year during lockdown compared with the long-term average for that time of year. So we know we can do this.  

Now the bad news. London has a looming climate crisis. We sit in the region with the lowest rainfall in the UK and are vulnerable to both drought and flooding as the climate impacts worsen. This will affect every single resident and worker.

Quite rightly, as a city we’ve set a target even more ambitious than the UK as a whole to be net zero carbon by 2050. But do we have the tools and the will to deliver?

I can only speak for Grosvenor. But our answer is a resounding yes.

As a business, we take a long-term view. After 300 years, it’s in our DNA.

This led us to an 8 year ‘no regrets’ retrofit programme investing £25m between 2013-2020 to improve the energy efficiency and climate resilience of the buildings that we manage. It included low cost and affordable homes, retail and offices. But we knew we had to go further.

So in 2019, we made a commitment to be net zero carbon by 2030, 20 years ahead of the Government’s ambition. In 2020, we published a pathway to net zero carbon, setting out the targets we need to hit for each emission source and the tools to help us achieve it. And this week we have published the initial results in our first annual report on Grosvenor’s net zero pathway, called Going for Zero.

It reveals the momentum behind a £90 million energy savings programme that has already competed over 175 projects in Westminster saving 1,000 tonnes of carbon. The work includes replacing gas-fired boilers with fossil fuel free alternatives and retrofitting entire terraces of listed buildings, like a run of 15 offices near Victoria.

Almost 60% of Grosvenor’s emissions in 2019 came from our supply chain. That means we don’t directly control most of what’s required to hit our own performance target. So we need to collaborate and incentivize other people’s response to the climate crisis. And from 2023 we expect only to award contracts over £1 million to suppliers with a science-based target.

Meanwhile, across our development projects in Mayfair and Belgravia, for example, we’re driving down emissions all in sorts of imaginative ways through materials innovation, re-use and new design interventions.

Now, just weeks before COP26, the sense of urgency is palpable. In the news, in the scientific consensus, and in increasing levels of activism by Londoners themselves.

My response at Grosvenor is try and take our ambition one step further and this week we are publishing an offsetting strategy which further accelerates our contribution to tackling the climate crisis.

While emissions reduction remains the top priority, we will now offset our entire residual business impact, across all scopes, by 2025 - five years early. This will involve carbon offsetting using nature-based solutions as well as technological innovation to capture carbon from the atmosphere and lock it away.

Taking early action and getting serious about offsets now, rather than in 2030, strikes me as not just the right thing to do. It also makes good commercial sense. This is a nascent and rapidly evolving market. So getting in quickly will enable us to build good partnerships with the right people and invest intelligently in carbon removal technologies.

I also genuinely want this action to help the whole real estate sector in London take similar steps. This offset strategy is there to challenge and inspire. We’ll share our progress openly and do everything we can to help anyone in property not just reduce, but remove, the environmental impact of our sector.

James Raynor, Chief Executive, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland