Implementing ESG into Development Projects - Tackling the Climate Crisis

02 Aug 2022

Carbon management


Environmental Planning

Environmental Social Governance (ESG)

Tuesday 19th July 2022, the day the highest ever temperature provisionally recorded above 40oC became an anxiety-inducing stark wake-up call.  The development industry was back in the spotlight, now scrutinised for failing infrastructure, overheating buildings, and inefficient homes in the face of the Climate Crisis. Climate Risk Indicators project annual average temperatures to continue to increase by as much as 4.3oC in some parts of the UK in the next 50-80 years, if GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise (Representative Concentration Pathway RCP 8.5).

Senior Environmental Planning Consultant Evie Scott shares how she helps clients integrate Environmental Social Governance (ESG) initiatives into development proposals in the face of the Climate Crisis.

Climate Change in the News

As temperatures rose, reports of buckling railway lines, melting tarmac, wildfires, and closed schools – the UK was seeing environmental, social and economic impacts of the Climate Crisis. The unsuitability of the UK’s infrastructure and buildings was becoming clear and many people across the country were putting the heat back onto the UK Government. 

Our industry had made the news, BBC aired Architect Julia Barfield (Director at MarksBarfield) discussing the need of fabric first approach and energy efficient equipment such as air source heat pumps, whilst former Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Adair Turner, pushed for governmental policy changes to support net zero in heavy industry – something I had discussed last week following the Climate Innovation Forum

On the same day, the High Court found the UK’s current government climate strategy unlawful, this hopefully will help aid us and our clients in setting clear goals for the UK which is needed. However our clients are pressing ahead and not waiting for lengthy court response to revisions and changes to planning legislation before looking at their medium and long term investment strategies.  There is also a further glimmer of hope with the upcoming Task Force on Climate related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and existing EU’s Sustainable Financial Disclosure Regulations (SFDR) does provide a regulatory requirement and much needed guidance for our clients to respond to. 

It is evident that moving forward, we must ensure that buildings and infrastructure are sustainably developed and climate resilient. We often refer to the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, and Prosperity or Profit) for sustainable frameworks, a theory that expands business success metrics to include contributions to environmental health, social well-being, and a just economy. The United Nations (U.N.) created Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that “ensure all human beings can enjoy prosperous and fulfilling lives and that economic, social, and technological progress occurs in harmony with nature.”

Whilst Profits and Planet may now be at the forefront following last week’s weather, we must not forget “People” for this to work too. 

Increasing awareness of ESG is supporting Clients focus on the TBL for their development projects. 

The Benefits of ESG in Environmental Planning

The importance of ESG for businesses is clear: increased investor confidence, business value, competitive edge, save money, resilience against regulation and environmental change. 

Our own in-house experts Group ESG Lead Hazel Gillings and Sustainability Unit Director Rob Molyneux have recently discussed what ESG is and why it should matter to your Business over on the Irwin Mitchell Podcast – so it is worth a listen if you are still to be convinced. 

What does this look like for development projects?

For example, a well-designed communal area can offer biodiversity improvements, a sustainable urban drainage feature to reduce flood risk, and restorative spaces for improved wellbeing. All of which could indirectly help with staff and/or tenant retention.

Integrating low carbon technology can result in increased efficiency, money savings, regulatory resilience, and reduced air quality impacts. 

Below I share my experience of a sustainable development project that looked at the Triple Bottom Line and the benefits it would provide: 

ESG in Development Project: A Case Study, London 

Our client was looking at purchasing a new Site that was proposed to be redeveloped. They already had an ESG strategy in place with key pillars aimed to enhance their business through providing real social benefits and addressing climate change. This project was unique, in that the developer also had clear goals and aims in relation to their own ESG strategy too. 

As such, it was important to ensure that the ESG strategies of both parties were aligned, and that initiatives to meet these aims were implemented into the design. Our client also wanted to understand potential planning policy constraints associated, ensuring that there was no conflict between their aims and policy.

Our Action and Results

The first task was to undertake a comparison review of our clients ESG and the developers ambitions to identify potential gaps and opportunities for improvement within the developers Statement of Intent. A red-flag report was produced with recommendations for improvements within this statement to ensure both parties' ESG aims were aligned. The review highlighted for both parties that it was important the development was Net-Zero, energy efficient, with real health, wellbeing and social benefits. 

The second task was to undertake a review of the current ESG themes against local and national planning policy and identify where the proposed development plans were compliant. With a strong understanding of planning legislation and technical knowledge across various disciplines, I was in my element – identifying potential capital expenditure and viability implications, design recommendations and identifying further work required for planning, operation and management. 

This early engagement at the design stage will allow our clients to implement strategies in formal settings through planning processes and to be continued throughout operation.

The Lucion Group. Your Sustainable Partner.

Lucion Group is a purpose driven company where we protect people from hazardous environments and protect the environment from the impacts of people.

As a private equity backed business, we are sustainable, interesting, and continue to grow and push forward to secure our future as a business not only for our investors, but for our community of people. 

We started our business as a hazardous materials inspection, testing and consultancy on a mission to protect people from hazardous environments. As we grew the business, we naturally expanded, organically and through acquisition. This led to opportunities to also protect the environment from the impacts of people. We are now a group of companies on a mission to protect people and planet. 

We are determined to see a positive change in the landscape of our business. 2022 will see us invest in our 'beyond carbon neutral' objectives.  By December 2022, we will not only have offset our current carbon production, but we'll also continue to limit our carbon production where possible, and aim to offset not only what's leftover, but an additional 50% of the output.  

In order to achieve this mission, we have developed our capabilities to extend our current service offering of accredited and certified hazardous material inspection, testing, and consultancy, delivering holistic and trusted risk management. This coming year will see the 'Going Live' of our laboratory extension. For our clients, current and new, our laboratory service offerings will grow exponentially, allowing us to offer additional testing services to our clients, without the burden of additional suppliers and their travel and resource requirements. In doing so, our clients gain added value, from a supplier they trust, that limits our carbon footprint through our enhanced service offering.

About the Author

Delta-Simons’ Senior Environmental Planning Consultant Evie Scott focuses on the commercial project management and coordination of development projects from pre-acquisition through design development, planning, permitting and into operation. Over the past five years, Evie has collaborated closely with the Environmental Planning division at Delta-Simons, enabling early identification of discipline cross-overs and providing well-rounded holistic and commercial advice to clients. Evie has also supported the Environmental Planning team to gain their IEMA Environmental Impact Assessment Quality Mark, an independently reviewed scheme that allows organisations that lead the coordination of statutory EIA’s in the UK to make a commitment to excellence in their EIA activities.

In recent years, following increasing awareness of ESG and creation of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, Evie has worked closely with Delta-Simons’ Environmental Transaction Services (ETS) and Environmental Health Safety, Sustainability (EHSS) teams, supporting clients to integrate ESG strategies and sustainability initiatives into our Clients development and redevelopment projects from cradle to grave.  

For further information about our Environmental Planning services, contact Evie:

Linkedin: Evie Scott