Sustainability and automation – how you can reduce your carbon footprint

We have all heard the terrible forecasts and listened to Sir David Attenborough’s speeches on the environment and the “We still have time to act” message could not be more central in all our thoughts, including the Government.

There can be no doubt that the biggest thing to affect the UK property industry over the next 10 years will be environmental sustainability and the adverse effects of global warming. This is based on the simple fact that a massive 40% of the UK’s emissions come from households.

Yet, in speaking to our agents at the coal face we have found that very few (less than 5%), actually have a policy, to achieve net-zero by 2050, especially worrying when this date is set in Law and even more surprising when over 50% of our clients recognised sustainability as a “very serious” issue for the industry.

Maybe the explanation is in that last statistic, in that this is being viewed as a challenge and a cost rather than the huge opportunity that this presents to be part of the 1%. Britons are more worried about climate crisis than economy, crime, and immigration. Almost half of all 18 – 25-year-olds rated environmental problems as their number 1 priority now ahead of Brexit and in the general population, it is now considered of equal importance to health and the economy.

Here is the acid test. Given a choice between 2 similar agents, where 1 was an environmental leader, who would you instruct?

Our list of how we see our clients delivering a more sustainable service is ever-growing and this has been helped, if not driven by the pandemic.

We have massively reduced travel, created by online signing technology, digital file-sharing, and digital rather than printed brochures, also hugely reducing costs. Adding to this many viewings are being conducted virtually and when they do have to happen face-to-face, technology is available to work out, not only the fastest and most cost-effective method of travel but also the greenest. (Deliberately didn’t add electric vehicles here, as the jury is still deciding on the true cradle to grave benefit).

We have agents taking personal responsibility with the use of reusable cups and glass bottles in their offices, we’re also seeing more and more, the application of new lighting systems that use far less energy, but this ad hoc nature, is leaving huge amounts of opportunity untouched and these need to be documented and assigned to either, agency operations or more importantly the homes and commercial premises that we sell and manage.

Where to start?

We have created a 5-point plan that should have you set on the road to net zero, and can be used across both your own business and the properties and clients you have responsibility for, but coal face, reporting is showing that the effort required is substantial and needs to be supported by automation to stop the overheads in both time and money becoming unsustainable themselves.

ONE – Set out exactly what you see as “Carbon Neutral”. This is not as obvious as it seems, and definitions are a little vague, but engaging with a strong carbon monitoring partner will give you and your team a clear line of sight, as to what the goal is.

TWO – The legal requirement is 2050, but what will be your target? How fast, how furious, do you wish to be and remember in this, “don’t see Carbon neutral as a chore”, the faster you move, the faster you will benefit from being a net-zero business and of course let’s remember why we are doing this, the benefit of limiting emissions faster.

THREE – Clearly outline your vision for the whole team and once everyone is on board publish it. Let your clients, potential clients, and community know that you are deeply committed and leading.

FOUR – This is where it gets serious. Be completely aware of what your emission is and those of the properties you deal with are and for each area, create a process that nullifies that unsustainability. Don’t just think that this is a lettings and management issue. It may be that the potential is at its greatest in this area, but property sales will increasingly be driven by sustainability, especially in new build. Have no doubt that in 2 years eco-homes will become the new, “office space, outside space, non-urbanisation” of the future.

FIVE – Create a central pillar of climate action in your business model, which is structured around the automation of your environmental plan. Then ensure your staff, clients, and your partners, understand how it impacts them day-to-day. Set the tone from the top and acknowledge that you will need a robust plan, including investment to drive change, without merely heaping work upon every department. Focus at all times on the positive.

When we talk about the opportunity (and by this, we mean brand, returns, and growth), we must identify the process for each area of the business. At this point, we can then supercharge the returns by applying automation.

We know that Landlords are already looking for solutions to comply with net-zero and those with ambitions have an eye to optimising capital appreciation through the sustainability features of properties, but how broad will your net be cast.

We also know that at the coal face “environmental events” and particularity flooding is destroying homes and their value.

Some things although obvious are a one-off change; Use green products for cleaning, work only with green suppliers, of which the most important will be your energy supplier and promote them to all stakeholders, look at energy rating of appliances and obviously only use energy-efficient light bulbs, install smart meters and if you have to print make it recycled paper, these things and so many more will set the culture, but then comes the opportunity.

Plan your perfect property.

Firstly, be fully aware of all the green energy options available, be it wind, heat source, solar, heat panel, and more.

Then the insulation status and opportunity.

Then imagine that connected to the internet of things, monitored 24/7 to identify unusual usage, down to socket level, process-driven and bespoke heating controls.

We already have 24/7 monitoring in place in over 500 properties and can even turn the heating on based on calendar appointments and viewings, oh and most importantly, off again.

Now imagine advice based on similar properties, from a system that is ever learning, to adjust and adapt to be carbon neutral. Thinking about emissions on a systems level, and building partnerships to drive change across that system, but not just in managed properties but providing those services to buyers and sellers when they move and it is clear, that eco credentials and environmental support, really is the key to relationships for life.

The unicorn dust is that fully automated system, but then it isn’t as it already exists and is managing homes right now for a better world and for the future for our children.

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