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As a CSO or COO of a company striving for sustainability, what contribution can you expect of your built environment team? That’s the question we address in this first of a series of articles about decarbonization, regeneration and circularity in the built environment.
Every day, it seems another major corporation makes a public commitment to
of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint by 2030. Sound
familiar? Achieving such a commitment in this “decade of action” requires
innovation in both management and
Many organizations are realizing that they need to go beyond sustainability, but
New leadership partnerships between a company’s Chief Sustainability Officer
(CSO), Chief Operations Officer (COO) and directors of its departmental
functions responsible for the carbon footprint of its built environment (real
estate, properties and facilities) will become critically important. As a CSO or
COO of a company striving for sustainability, what contribution can you expect
of your built environment team? That’s the question we address in this first of
a series of articles about decarbonization, regeneration and circularity in the
The “built environment” is a
prime culprit of waste and pollution in many ways. According to the World
Green Building Council, construction and operations contribute 39 percent of
global CO~2~ emissions — with building materials and construction accounting
for 11 percent and building operations accounting for another 28 percent. Beyond
emissions, 40 percent of solid waste finding its way to landfills is
attributable to construction and demolition activities.
The reality is that 80 percent of this downstream waste and pollution is a
consequence of decisions made during the design stage of products, services and
environments. Clearly, the design opportunity to eliminate waste and minimize
pollution is significant. By forging a supply chain coalition of internal and
external partners, you can expect a significant contribution toward your
carbon-reduction goals. This will require accountability and transparency in
business practices, sourcing of materials and waste streams.
Strategies to achieve decarbonization, regeneration and circularity are allies
on your sustainability journey toward a low-carbon future.
Decarbonization phases out carbon dioxide emissions by decreasing
reliance on fossil fuels. By focusing on reducing operational carbon in your
supply chain, your built environment becomes far more efficient. In most
built environment portfolios today, the current ratio of operational carbon
and embedded carbon is most likely in the range of 60/40. As you get more
aggressive in achieving operating efficiencies, and you implement
procurement standards to reduce embedded carbon of all materials and
products used, you can approach a 40/60 ratio or better.
Regeneration involves restoring living ecosystems by eliminating fossil
fuel usage and relying only on alternative energy sources.
strives to improve human health and wellness as well as all living systems
by producing positive ecosystem services. Imagine
that produce more energy than they consume, clean the water they use, and
purify the air they breathe. This not only keeps emissions out of the
atmosphere, but also keeps more carbon in the earth.
Circularity strives to eliminate all waste and negative externalities —
i.e. pollution — by making better design
through closed-loop systems that separate natural and technical resources.
It applies circular economy business models and principles to the built
environment. Circular strategies move beyond return on investment (ROI)
based on life-cycle analysis — they anticipatec end-of-life and end-of-use
scenarios in a value-cycle analysis of reducing, reusing and recovering
resources and materials by design. Shifting your mindset from supply chains
to value chains creates a built environment that improves infrastructure
performance, extends the usefulness of life and value of materials, and
improves the health of people and the planet.
The challenge for teams racing to achieve sustainability goals by 2030 goes
beyond improving existing systems to designing new systems across all areas of
your enterprise. We believe a good place to start is with your built environment
team exploring the potential of decarbonization, regeneration and circularity
strategies to make a significant contribution to your overall efforts.
Published Nov 4, 2020 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.