Fiera Real Estate is a leading investment management company with offices in North America and Europe.
Over the past year, FRE UK has significantly enhanced its ESG (Environmental, Social Governance) strategy and implemented several initiatives which support our commitment to decarbonise our corporate operations, as well as across the funds we manage. This progress is indicative of the fact that we want to be a market leader with regards to ESG integration, but even more so of our commitment to driving change and playing our part in decarbonising the real estate sector.
In the UK, the operation of buildings accounts for 30% of total emissions. Globally, the built environment contributes toward 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. These numbers, together with the IPCC's recent report on climate change, have driven our commitment to implement real change within our business.
At the start of 2021, we partnered with Planet Mark to embark on our journey toward net-zero carbon. We believe in a holistic approach to ESG in that our corporate operations as a business should mirror the critical work we are doing on behalf of our investors. As such, we pulled together an internal team (overseen by our dedicated ESG resource) to collect data for the Planet Mark submission.
In addition to bringing members from various teams together, the process also taught us so much about the way in which our business is run and the space that we occupy. After receiving our Planet Mark report, we met with our landlord to understand how we could work together and reduce our environmental impact even further.
We followed this approach as we believe that a credible journey to net-zero carbon is centered first around reducing energy demand, followed by meeting that reduced demand using renewable energy and lastly by offsetting any remaining emissions. Through our journey with Planet Mark, as well as our dialogue with our landlord, we were able to identify that all our electricity is purchased through a green tariff (and is made more efficient through the use of LEDs and motion sensors), 100% of our waste is diverted from landfill, indoor environmental air quality sensors have been installed and all our sanitary fittings and appliances are highly efficient. We are now also in discussions with our landlord about their net zero carbon ambitions.
Following this approach has allowed us to comfortably choose a nature-based solution to remove our carbon footprint for 2020. We have removed 17.38 tCO2e (110% of our 2020 business carbon footprint) through the Kasigau Corridor project in Rukinga, Kenya. This project protects an expanse of over 200,000 hectares of dryland Acacia-Commiphora forest, home to over 2,000 elephants, and also provides social programmes whose impact reaches over 116,000 people. The project is VCS verified and supports and aligns to our commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals; namely 3, 8, 12 and 13.
When we embarked on this journey, we had no idea what our carbon footprint was and therefore we weren't able to set any net-zero carbon targets. The first step in our journey was to find someone to help us measure our impact and enable us to establish a baseline from which to take action.
Planet Mark was recommended to us by Wrenbridge, one of our development partners. Working towards certification helped us to structure our approach and guide us through the process of ‘measure, engage, communicate’.
It took us a while to collect this data as it was our first submission but bringing different people across the business to do this really helped.
Not only did it transform the initiative into a team-wide project, which made everyone more aware of our goals and their importance, but it helped spread the workload.
Learning from this we have subsequently set up better processes with our landlord's building manager to collect this data throughout the year, so as not to try to do it all in one go.
The real magic happened after we received our report, as we were able to think about our strategy more clearly. However, this also presented our greatest challenge - which was how to build a net-zero carbon strategy when our carbon footprint baseline was recorded during a pandemic, where the business had not operated as usual.
However, this has not stopped us from moving forward and we have decided to build a longer baseline over the next two years to get a better feel for our 'new normal' carbon footprint.
Our advice is that despite there not being a certification for net-zero carbon or perhaps a lack of clarity about what this looks like on a consistent basis there are enough frameworks and support out there to take steps forward.
Whilst our business has not yet achieved net-zero we are proud that we are taking the first steps to become carbon neutral and have defined our metrics and the action we need to take to be successful.