Setting Targets for Sustainable Buildings

Target setting is the gold standard for ensuring long-term sustainability — That said, it is an apparent gap in the real estate sector and in business

Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), a data provider for environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance metrics, recently released the results of its 2016 Real Estate, Developer and Debt assessments. One of the major findings to come from the report is a shift of focus towards carbon emissions. It was found that 75 per cent of Canadian GRESB participants have integrated carbon emissions into their ESG policy; however, only 45 per cent have set a carbon emissions target.

Target setting is the gold standard for ensuring long-term sustainability. That said, it is an apparent gap in the real estate sector and in business. The Science Based Targets initiative, a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, WRI, and WWF, was developed to address the importance of setting GHG emission targets that support the goal of keeping global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.

In York Region, a recent Business Energy and Emissions Profile (BEEP), commissioned by Aurora-based Windfall Ecology Centre and conducted by BC based Climate Smart Businesses Inc., projects there are 2.3 million tonnes CO2e generated annually in the region.

The BEEP, an Ontario first, offers insights into major sectors in York Region, including office-based businesses, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, accommodation and food services, administrative and support, waste management and remediation services.It utilizes a growing pool of 600 baseline inventories representing over 700,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions and York Region's Statistics Canada business data to model its projections. All the energy and emissions values in the BEEP are modelled and based on industry averages.

The BEEP is publicly available via an online, open-source dashboard and report. The report also contains data on motivations for reducing carbon emissions, which strategies to reduce emissions yielded the greatest success and key case studies highlighting how industry leaders are cost-effectively reducing their emissions.

The data concluded that some of the largest emitters include the manufacturing industry, construction services, accommodation and food services, and office-based businesses. Construction services were found to account for 25 per cent of GHG emissions, with manufacturing accounting for 15 per cent and accommodation and food services responsible coming in third with 14 per cent overall. Office-based businesses were found to account for 11 per cent overall, falling just behind accommodation.

By having a snapshot of GHG emissions by industry type and sector, engagement efforts can be adjusted to address critical areas.

This tool was commissioned in order to get better insight into one thing currently lacking in our sector: municipal-level data. Explains Brent Kopperson, executive director of Windfall Ecology Centre. There is a lack of municipal-level emissions data across the sector and this is invaluable in ensuring municipalities and businesses understand their emissions profiles and the real impact of their operations.

The BEEP is already being used a springboard for discussing the greening of business operations across York Region. Windfall Ecology Centre expects that data-driven communication will play a large role in informing planning around emissions and energy reduction projects and business engagement programs. More importantly, it is intended to start the conversation around target setting for GHG emissions and urge more businesses to get on board with the practice.

Enter: The Climatewise Business Network

To address the need for target-setting and bolder climate action, Windfall Ecology Centre recently introduced the ClimateWise Business Network, a membership-based program for businesses and organizations that are committed to taking action on climate change by setting targets to reduce GHG emissions.

ClimateWise members have access to an Ontario-wide network of like-minded businesses and are supported throughout their sustainability journey with technical resources, experienced help, and premium tools such as carbon management software. In addition to helping its members set and achieve GHG reduction targets, the program features an events season consisting of educational forums and technical workshops that focus on improving sustainability in business operations.

Becoming a founding member of ClimateWise was an obvious choice for LSRCA, said Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority's chief administrative officer, Mike Walters. One of our primary corporate goals is to develop strategies that build resiliency to climate change within our watershed communities, so it makes good sense that we do everything we can to reduce our own environmental footprint.

The launch of ClimateWise is timely as there has been a significant change in the narrative of Canada's climate story.

To date, it has gained significant support in York Region from the City of Vaughan, PowerStream, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) and the Regional Municipality of York, who are all founding members of the program. ClimateWise is one of eight Sustainability CoLab Network members across Ontario, representing the larger movement towards a low-carbon economy. Collectively, the CoLab Network members have engaged 8.9% of the local workforce and have 154 participating organizations. As of 2015, the participating organizations have reduced 23,545 tonnes CO2e and are committed to reducing an additional 50,164 tonnes CO2e.

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