A sustainable approach to real estate transactions
Last year, Deloitte conducted a vast survey of those individuals classed as ‘Millenials’ or ‘Generation Z’. More than a quarter of a million young people across the world, including Spain, were questioned about their views on everything from the economy to mental health.
What emerged as the most pressing issue for this cohort?
Climate change – and the importance of preserving our natural environment.
The next generation of property buyers and sellers not only expect seamless online transactions via cutting-edge technology; they are also demanding that companies contribute to the wellbeing of the planet.
At BidX1, a high-growth digital business, our young leaders – many of whom have helped to build the company from its earliest days – are members of a generation who actively seek employers that are making strong efforts in this regard.
At the same time, investors, asset managers, private equity firms and every organisation in between are increasingly seeking to partner with firms that align with their own ESG or Responsible Investment strategies.
In other words, this is an issue that is increasingly on everyone’s agenda.
However, the real estate sector is responsible for over 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
What can companies do?
The first step is measurement, which ensures accountability. Last year, we undertook a comprehensive assessment of BidX1’s CO2 emissions across every market – in Ireland, UK, South Africa, Cyprus and Spain.
Although an official carbon assessment like this only requires a company to consider direct emissions (CO2 from sources directly owned by the company, known as Scope 1 emissions) and electricity-related emissions (Scope 2 emissions), we chose to go further by mapping other emissions related to our business – including staff commuting, data storage, waste management and water treatment.
According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, the average annual CO2 emissions for European companies that submit a yearly report is 7,046 tonnes. Since this figure considers only companies that choose to report, it is likely that the overall average is substantially higher.
At BidX1, our CO2 emissions for 2019 amounted to just 291 tonnes.
With such low emissions across the company, we were able to ‘offset’ the carbon that we did consume by investing in a sustainability project in Rwanda.
The entire company voted to support this project, which aims to deliver clean, safe water for communities in the East African nation by repairing damaged boreholes.
Overall, this programme prevents 10,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere, while also improving the quality of life for communities by reducing the incidence of water-borne diseases and removing the need for labour-intensive water collection. (Traditional water sources, such as open wells and rivers, are often remote and seasonal).
A Carbon Neutral Property Company
This means that BidX1 has already been certified as Carbon Neutral.
There is obviously a strong link between digital transformation – improving traditional industries through technology – and environmental impact. As a digital property company, our business model is inherently more sustainable than traditional real estate.
Even so, reducing our carbon footprint and including environmental principles into our decision-making has taken sustained effort and commitment.
Action is required from all organisations, not just manufacturing companies traditionally associated with carbon-intensive activities, or indeed traditional real estate.
93% of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources, while energy efficiency programmes ensure responsible consumption.
The BidX1 platform, which has powered more than 10,000 real estate transactions, is hosted by Microsoft, a carbon-neutral cloud-based provider. This means that our emissions from data storage (a key consideration for tech companies and digital platforms) are zero.
We also aim to work with suppliers who are equally carbon conscious, including choosing environmentally efficient office buildings for our teams in each market.
Carbon Disclosure Project & UN Global Compact
As proud as we are to have achieved a zero-carbon footprint, we want to do more, and push ourselves further.
This year, we intend to submit a report to the Carbon Disclosure Project, the gold standard for corporate environmental reporting. This is a significant commitment and one which will place BidX1 alongside the world’s largest corporations in terms of measuring and managing environmental impact.
We have recently become a participant of the UN Global Compact, a voluntary initiative based on CEO commitments to implement sustainability principles and to take steps to support UN goals.
Meanwhile, our green agenda is driven by our Sustainability Team, whose aim is to align our business practices with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This includes not just our climate action but also issues like diversity & inclusion, health & wellbeing in the workplace, and our wider CSR activities.
The UN’s 2020 Sustainable Development Report ranked Spain 22nd out of 193 countries in terms of sustainable development. This is a strong position, but there is work to be done. Climate action, and sustainability more generally, is no longer just a side project for organisations.
It is quite simply a ‘mission critical’ necessity.
Javier de Pablo is Head of Property at BidX1 Spain. This piece originally appeared in Observatorio Inmobiliario.