Positive thinking in property

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The term “net positive” is becoming an increasingly popular buzzword in the real estate sector, with companies setting goals to put back more into society, the environment and the global economy than they take out. Up until now such commitments have only been made by consumer brands such as Coca-Cola, BT and Kingfisher, but a growing number of property companies are beginning to see the value in it.


Giving more than you take

Sustainability strategies have historically been about managing risk and reducing negative impacts, but the more progressive organisations are realising that simply being “less bad” – reducing negative impacts or minimising harm – is not good enough. More firms have far more ambitious intentions than being just ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘zero waste’: they want to give back to nature and society and ensure the world is, on the whole, better off as a result of their actions. To illustrate, a small example of this might be a green roof that not only reduces energy use but also boosts ailing butterflies and insects.

Moving in a (net) positive direction

Globally, a variety of net positive commitments have been made by real estate leaders. These commitments vary wildly in terms of the breadth, depth and type of issues they cover – from carbon and water to socioeconomic impacts such as jobs, skills, and training.
For example Lendlease, a multinational construction, property and infrastructure company, has committed to making several major developments climate positive, including the regeneration of Elephant & Castle in London. Key to the scheme is an Energy Hub, with a combined heat and power plant that uses biomethane to deliver net zero carbon heat and hot water across the site and beyond.

Meanwhile Hammerson, a major British property development and investment company, has recently launched its businesswide commitment to achieve net positive by 2030 across a variety of issues, including carbon and resource use. To make this gargantuan task manageable, it is starting with landlord controlled activities and is working with key stakeholders including its tenants to cut their impacts – 10 tenants alone account for nearly half of all tenant electricity emissions.

Further from home, Majid Al Futtaim, a major shopping mall, retail and leisure developer across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, has become the first company in the region to adopt a net positive strategy on carbon emissions and water. In a region where the legislative context for sustainability is mostly in its infancy, the importance of this commitment cannot be overstated. If its vision is fulfilled, by 2040 the company will be putting more into the environment than it takes out, with a positive impact on climate and the region’s water scarcity.

A positive outlook

Above all else, net positive presents an enormous opportunity to address some of the huge social and environmental challenges we face and to craft a more sustainable future. Executive buy-in, as well as robust governance, data collection and reporting systems are all crucial for any company considering this approach. But for those who get it right, there are enormous brand, innovation and growth opportunities to be had.

This article has been written by JLL staff and is based on an article first published in the Estates Gazette

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