The UK Green Business Council (UKGBC) is building a common vision for achieving Net Zero by 2050. Their new Whole Life Carbon Roadmap will be published in time for UK’s hosting of COP26 in November 2021. Earlier this summer, UKGBC invited feedback from sectors involved in the built environment (construction, operation and demolition), to agree a collaborative plan of action that will make a difference.
While transport accounts for 25% of carbon emission, 11% is from embodied carbon in the built environment. As part of that built environment, it is important that the warehousing industry steps up to take our share of responsibility for achieving Net Zero by 2050.
Accordingly, UKWA’s Real Estate Advisory Board, which includes leading commercial and industrial property developers and agents, convened last month to consider a co-ordinated response on behalf of the industry. The consultation covered over 60 questions, but for UKWA the key points most relevant to the sector were the accuracy or otherwise of various projections for non-domestic property outlined in the UKGBC Roadmap, and the proposed stakeholder action plans, especially the actions for occupiers.
In our response, UKWA has disagreed with the projected sectoral growth trajectory of just 1-2%, citing data from our recent report (compiled by Savills), which showed growth of 4-5% over the past six years. We also highlighted that temperature-controlled facilities, which represent around one in ten warehouses, use energy-intensive, electrically powered cooling technologies. This is not well reflected in the roadmap and we have indicated that UKWA welcomes further discussion on this point.
We took the opportunity to stress in our submission that Green Finance would be a welcome policy initiative in helping SMEs in the sector fund retrofit measures in their existing buildings and pointed out the impact business rates and market forces (such as energy prices) could have on Energy Intensities in warehouses.
On the Roadmap’s recommendations for action however, there is clear potential for warehouse operators’ sustainability objectives and commercial realities to conflict.
Many warehousing companies also operate commercial fleets of vans or trucks, and so they may elect to invest their limited resources for a low-carbon economy in transportation, where it often counts most. Occupiers might aim to fit out their warehouses with efficient storage and/or handling systems, but being ‘ahead of your time’ sometimes comes with a productivity penalty. This directly affects the economic sustainability of warehousing businesses and may deter early adoption of new ideas, however ‘green’.
Finally, location can critically affect the carbon footprint of warehousing, which is why UKWA is calling for changes in the UK’s Planning System as part of the roadmap.
However, aspirations are bold across the UK Warehousing sector and many of UKWA’s members have already made public commitments to a net zero carbon economy. The Association is determined to respond to this public consultation because we recognise that sustainability is an important priority – not only for our members, but for us all.