Accelerating change to a low carbon shopping centre

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Nick Hogg
EMEA Upstream Sustainability Services

Having worked on the Upstream Sustainability Benchmarking  service over the past four of its 10 years, I have seen impressive improvements in energy efficiency amongst the participating shopping centres owners. Retailers within shopping centres cannot be overlooked, as impacts from their operations are significant and landlord and tenants increasingly have to work together.

How do we engage all parties to accelerate change in the retail sector? This is the question we are asking in the research for the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC).

All stakeholders in the chain have a role: owners, centre and operations managers, occupiers and government. However, real and perceived barriers to change (legislative, technical and those to do with organisational boundaries) often outweigh incentives (financial and reputational).

There are some key issues here:
–  Organisational boundaries can be a barrier – incentives can be split due to differing arrangements of who buys energy, who consumes it and where within the building. This also requires understanding and communication between these different stakeholders.

–  Improvements that could be made to existing legislation to encourage energy efficiency.  One such example is that supported by the Green Property Alliance which is to roll out Display Energy Certificates (DECs) to commercial buildings – with the caveat that the methodology and calibration has to be revised for commercial buildings. Nevertheless, this is seen as a driver to help communicate energy performance more transparently both at building-level engagement and the corporate level.

–  The possible introduction of mandatory reporting of carbon emissions, which is widely expected, is seen as the ‘game changer’ in terms of accelerating relative performance improvements.

–  The Industry should continue to engage with government to ensure that legislative implementation is as effective as possible. Moreover, if the UK is to really progress toward the target of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050 then there is a wider discussion about the decarbonisation of energy supplies which goes beyond what can be achieved purely at property level.

–  Hywel Davies (CIBSE) rightly argues that there are three ‘elephants in the room’: tackling existing stock – most of the buildings that will be around when we reach key target dates already exist today; the importance of measuring operational performance; and greater emphasis on ensuring that regulations are actually complied with and enforced.

Whilst this all makes for a strong case as to how we could and why we should be reducing emissions, there is still the question about what might be limiting change. Is this an educational or motivational issue? We need to better understand how and who, within stakeholders’ organisations, makes the ‘green’ decisions and how effectively is it communicated by those that can effect change. I welcome comments on these issues.

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