"We can have significant impact in terms of what's produced in the future"



BBG Real Estate, a real estate advisory practice based in the City of London, started their net zero course, Climate for SMEs: 4 Steps to Action, at the start of 2022 and over the year, they’ve been working hard to measure their carbon footprint, make their net zero action plan and embed net zero into their everyday operations.

So we were excited to sit down with Daisy Walder, agency surveyor, Tom Boggis, partner and Ben Hodder, chartered surveyor, to hear about their net zero journey.

Motivations for net zero

There was a combination of motivators for BBG starting our course. Of course, there’s no denying the climate crisis, said Tom, but there were lots of other reasons too. BBG have found their clients are more and more interested in net zero, especially their landlord clients, because occupiers are asking about it. There was also a clear agenda within the business for them to start doing something to reduce their impact, particularly among younger employees who want to work somewhere that’s trying to make a difference. Daisy was also keen to do a course because she’s seen a lot of greenwashing – she wanted to join us rather than do it alone and risk getting it wrong and falling into greenwashing.

Embedding sustainability into their work

But it’s the industry that BBG is working in that’s been the main motivator for the team to get started on this. According to the United Nations, the construction industry accounts for 38% of CO2 emissions, so they felt they needed to start making efforts to reduce, and they know in the building industry they can make a big difference. They wanted to be able to advise clients on green buildings and design, to make sure their day-to-day work is having a positive impact.

So the biggest impact for BBG when it comes to net zero is to have an influence in sustainability in the buildings they work on. They’re a client-led business, and they’ve seen some customers refuse to take space if it doesn’t meet certain ESG specifications. For example, they recently worked with a client on a project where the furniture was made in the UK and procured from sustainable and recycled materials. These interventions often come at a premium, but increasingly BBG are finding that many clients and prospective are willing to pay for it.

By doing our course, BBG are finding they are better able to advise clients – and working on projects sustainably helps them to be a better business. As Tom said: “we can have significant impact in terms of what is produced in the future”.

Making net zero work as a small business

When BBG started the course, they figured that as a small business, they’d be able to implement changes pretty quickly, moving faster than a bigger business. And they were right! Tom says they’ve gone from “no knowledge” to travelling a really interesting journey, and Daisy found collecting data to measure their carbon footprint easier because of their size. She heard from other, bigger businesses on the course that it’s hard to chase everyone for their information.

Challenges along the way

The team haven’t faced any resistance within the business – everyone is on board, which is helped by having a partner, Tom, championing the work. But having measured their carbon footprint, BBG is struggling to see where they can reduce. Most of the team already cycle into work, and they’ve sorted out their waste and recycling. When they had their baseline carbon footprint figure, they thought it was massive but having compared this to other businesses on our course, it appears to be very small.

One key issue is that they are based in a serviced office and therefore their power to influence their carbon emissions is limited. Their landlord has made some changes such as recycling and installing motion sensor lights, but BBG aren’t a major tenant, so they don’t feel they have a lot of power to bring change here.

So, their challenge is to make sure they can reduce their footprint when they remeasure it next year – Daisy wants to be able to show progress so people don’t feel disheartened, and she wants the company to practice what they preach to clients. She plans to focus on educating people more on areas such as digital emissions when emailing and working from home emissions.

How Heart of the City is helping

The team at BBG find being in a community of other SMEs in the City really useful. It’s helped Daisy solidify what she already knew and taught her lots of new things too – and it’s helping other people learn without Daisy feeling like she’s nagging people. People can see there’s a whole team of people at Heart of the City to help, and other businesses doing it too, so it gives her cause validity.

Hearing what other businesses are asking at our webinars has helped BBG too. “It’s quite nice to be able to ask the ‘stupid’ questions and not get put back in your box”, says Tom (although at Heart of the City there are no stupid questions!) It’s motivating for BBG that other companies are in similar positions, and they can benchmark themselves. Some other SMEs on our course are having challenges that BBG aren’t, and there are other areas they feel behind the curve, so they’re enjoying the learning process.

BBG are on the final stage of our course – net zero action plan – and they don’t feel they’d have got this far if they were doing it on their own. “Often in a small firm it is nobody’s main job to work on this, and therefore it is easy to get diverted by the demands of the day job” comments Tom. “However, we have found that by having a sensibly structured learning process and periodic webinars in the diary and support from our net zero programme manager, has really helped us keep on track.”

This has fed through the firm looking forward to working on their net zero action plan, setting some goals and reducing their carbon footprint next year! Having spoken to sustainability consultants, Daisy was wondering how BBG were going to do anything without a massive budget, so she was really happy to have found Heart of the City – it means net zero isn’t just something for the big firms.

Find out more about our climate action course | Find out more about BBG Real Estate 

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