Louise Ellison, Head of Sustainability for Hammerson considers 'How many ways can we calculate our carbon emissions?'

27 Jun 2017

As we move towards our 2020 targets, we seem to be succeeding in starting to decouple growth in our business output from growth in Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions. This is of course excellent, but having focused a lot of attention on carbon measurement and reporting over the last 18 months a number of observations have sprung to mind. For the sake of you, our reader, I'll limit this to the three I feel are most key.

First, I'd just like to note that 2017 is the first year reporting against our 2015 baseline year, and our 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report is now available on our dedicated Positive Places website where we review our latest performance

Now onto thoughts about the way we calculate carbon. 

Multiple Metrics 

Firstly, we currently use three carbon intensity metrics to track our performance: 

  1. CO2e emissions/£m adjusted profit before tax – for our mandatory GHG emissions reporting.
  2. CO2e/M2 Common Parts Area (CPA)
  3. CO2e/Car park spaces

All three measures are moving in the right direction, which is great. But the fact that we have three reflects the somewhat confusing landscape that still surrounds corporate carbon emissions reporting. It is of course our choice but, there are many streams of income that support the business performance of Hammerson. They can’t all be reflected in a simple M2 net lettable figure, common parts or even gross internal area or output figure. For example, our retail parks have no common parts and we only provide electricity to the car parks. Measuring against a lettable common parts area would be meaningless. There are other metrics we could use, net rental income for example, and no doubt we will refine our thinking on it but it remains hard to really understand what good looks like, particularly for anyone trying to compare across companies or sectors.

Location and Market-based Emissions Reporting 

Secondly, the introduction of location and market based emissions reporting, whilst welcome, has the potential to add confusion without some very clear protocols and notes about how they are used. The main driver of our emissions is electricity consumption so our emissions have dropped dramatically as a result of clean electricity contracts, which is great. But this can’t be allowed to distract attention from driving down energy demand. We reduced energy demand by 3% across the like-for-like portfolios in 2016 and are targeting further reductions in 2017. Buying clean is good but it must be supported by reductions in demand too.

The Importance of Scope 3 Emissions 

And finally, having had a full carbon footprint calculated for the whole business, details of which will shortly be available on our website, the importance of addressing Scope 3 emissions becomes all too clear. Our Net Positive targets include Scope 3 emissions generated by tenants within the let spaces of our assets and the embodied emissions of our development programme. These contribute over 80% of our total carbon foot print at the moment, so not addressing them simply feels like nibbling at the edges the problem.

Net Positive is the biggest sustainability challenge we have set yet for the business but it seems to have inspired a great reaction in the teams, leading to projects like the net zero carbon retail park at Rugby, which has achieved the World's first Outstanding BREEAM rating. This is a great project but we will need a lot more besides if we are to achieve our targets, and more to the point, if the world is to keep warming below 2 degrees. Consistent, robust calculations and reporting of emissions might not be the most exciting part of working in sustainability but it is potentially one of the most important.