You don’t have to cut carbon emissions just because your conscience tells you to. It’s good for business as well, says Stuart Wallace of the New Economics Foundation
Buildings are responsible for about 44% of carbon emissions in the UK, and studies show that commercial buildings contribute about one-third of that figure.
I believe there are at least 10 powerful reasons for business to act now to reduce emissions from their buildings.
1 Cutting energy costs boosts profit
Considerable reductions in energy bills can be achieved at no cost through encouraging behavioural change, for example, turning off computers and lights or increasing the density of building occupation, thereby freeing up resources elsewhere.
More problematic are those changes where savings in carbon emissions either result in higher energy costs in the short term, as a result of a switch to renewable energy, or require a lot of capital investment, for example work on insulation. However, businesses that invest in change now will reap the dividends in the long run.
2 Energy prices are going to soar ...
The fact that the supply of oil and gas is becoming increasingly constrained means energy prices will rise very sharply. It makes good business sense to prepare for this by cutting energy consumption now.
3 ... and you’re going to be taxed heavily
Businesses will face a variety of taxes on carbon use, either indirectly through fuel costs or through direct taxation on their carbon emissions. Organisations such as the New Economics Foundation are already arguing for differential taxation on profits and dividends depending on a company’s performance on a number of sustainability issues. Higher property taxes on buildings with higher rates of emissions are also likely.
4 Insurance costs will rocket, too
Organisations with building stock that is at risk from flooding (owing to climate change) will face much steeper premiums.
5 You could face legal action
People want to work for businesses in which they believe. Poor performance on carbon emissions will lead to retention problems
Companies may be forced by legislation to make significant and costly improvements to their building stock if carbon emissions are unacceptably high. Although less likely in the immediate future, legal action against the worst offenders is also possible.
6 The value of your stock may plummet ...
Poor-quality buildings in terms of carbon emissions will see a drop in asset value compared with better-quality buildings.
7 ... as could your reputation
Increasingly, businesses will be ranked according to their performance on carbon emissions. Poor performers are likely to suffer as customers go elsewhere.
8 Employee motivation and well-being
People want to work for businesses in which they believe. Poor performance on carbon emissions will lead to recruitment and retention problems and lower morale.
9 The virtue of being ahead of the pack
There can be many advantages in being a leader in a field. Some “green” construction firms are already reaping benefits.
10 Because it’s right
Taking action now is quite simply the right thing to do for the future of our planet.
Stuart Wallace is chief executive of think tank the New Economics Foundation
The Think 07 sustainability conference begins next Tuesday, 1 May. For more information, log on to www.think07.co.uk