Using resources efficiently

Buildings are responsible for 50% of all extracted material. We're committed to using resources efficiently reducing the materials we use in our development activity and sourcing them from ethical and sustainable sources, promoting reuse and circular economy principles, encouraging recycling and using water wisely. We operate our buildings in accordance with our company-wide Environmental and Energy Management Systems, which are certified to ISO 14001 and ISO 50001 respectively. 

Managing our waste

Across our operations and developments, we continue to divert all our operational waste from landfill. We are also committed to achieving at least a 75% annual recycling rate.

In 2023/24 we continued to divert 100% of waste from landfill, and recycled 66% of operational waste (2022/23: 68%). We are also embedding circular -economy principles across our developments, to minimise waste, and have achieved an 99.5% recycling rate for new developments.

We're taking steps to manage our waste through the following:

Closed-loop glass recycling

Glass is infinitely recyclable to its highest environmental value (that is, as glass) if it is segregated properly, so at Portland House we’re working with our demolition contractors, Erith, to segregate it carefully. The glass then goes on to a specialist contractor, eventually to be re-melted as float glass. This improves on the traditional approach of mixing it with other waste to be used as aggregate.

A second life for used raised-access floor tiles

Raised-access floor tiles are standard products in the real estate industry, of standard size and specification. They’re also typically wasted, discarded during strip outs and demolition, only to be replaced by new tiles serving exactly the same function. This is costly and environmentally wasteful, especially as the tiles will sit underneath a floor covering. Tiles can be salvaged, cleaned, re-tested and re-installed. We work with one of the UK’s largest recycling companies for raised floors, developing a product where refurbished second-hand tiles can be painted with low-VOC paint, to ensure visual consistency on show floors. We created a prototype during the works at Dashwood this year, which proved acceptable to many leasing and technical partners. We estimate the recycled tiles are at least 50% less carbon intensive than new ones which can significantly contribute to further reduce the embodied carbon of new developments.

Reducing single use plastic

In 2018 we launched our ‘Refill Me' campaign to help tackle the issue of single-use plastics. The campaign allows guests at our centres to request a free refill of water, in their own bottles, from brand partners without an obligation to make a purchase. Not only does this encourage people to refill reusable bottles, but also provides an opportunity for our brand partners to engage with our guests on sustainability and demonstrate that they are a responsible company. 

Brand partners who sign up display a refill me sticker in their shopfront with animated digital signage and digital logos available for centres to advertise the campaign to guests. We continue to support our customers in reducing single use plastic by partnering with Ape2o and installing two of their filtered water dispensers within the public area of our One New Change and New Street Square sites. The machines allow the public to refill their own water bottles with chilled and sparkling water.

Reducing food waste

Three of our retail sites – including Westgate Oxford, – use eco food digesters, which use the process of aerobic digestion to break down up to one tonne of food waste a day into wastewater. This process not only ensures no food waste is taken to landfill, but it also contributes to a reduction in CO2 emissions by reducing the number of waste vehicles travelling to our centres.

Tackling textile waste

Fashion and textile waste is an emerging and increasingly high-profile problem. We aim to show that action can be taken to protect the environment without placing retailers under financial strain. We’re responding to calls from the government to place a levy on fashion items by mobilising an alternative plan focused on collaboration rather than taxation. 

Our first response to the textiles issue was a trial scheme, ‘spring clean, think green’, launched in March 2019 at Westgate. During that time, we invited guests to drop-off used clothes and shoes for recycling, gave them information on the possibilities created by recycling and incentivised them through competitions. Following this trial, we’re planning to roll out textile recycling to other destinations.

Salvation Army partnership

In 2023 we launched a partnership with The Salvation Army, bringing new clothing donation banks to three of our retail destinations to encourage sustainable consumption and disposal of used items. We aim to collect over 100 tonnes of donations in the first year and to roll the initiative our more widely across our retail sites.

Using water wisely

With the change in climate, water stress is becoming an important risk to consider. We have already implemented a number of initiatives to improve water efficiency across our developments achieving more than 50% reduction in water consumption compared to a typical build on The Forge, SE1 and n2, SW1. We recognise however that more needs to be done and we will be undertaking water-management assessments at assets under our operational control to identify opportunities to use water more efficiently.

Water Management Assessments

During 2023 we undertook water-management assessments across assets under our operational control, to help shape our water strategy for both our office and retail portfolios. As a result a programme of work was launched to improve water efficiency. This included:

  • Installing automatic meter reading (AMR) across our portfolio
  • Testing technology to better understand where water is consumed within our buildings 
  • Identifying potential leaks and developing a water standard for the taps, toilets and showers we use across our facilities

Sustainable materials

What we buy and where we buy it matters at every level of our supply chain - from the design team and main contractor to the operatives on site and our suppliers producing materials across the UK and abroad. To get it right, we take a thorough approach to sourcing sustainable materials.

As part of our transition to net zero, we’re focusing on lean design, using innovative construction methods and low-carbon materials. We include carbon consultants in the design team from the very start, to guide decisions on the most carbon-efficient solution and we account for the embodied carbon implications of design options.

Here are some of the ways we're doing this:

Responsible sourcing

We’re committed to sourcing core construction products and materials responsibly. This includes environmental and ethical sourcing, health impacts, embodied carbon impacts and resource efficiency considerations. 

Find out more about this approach here.

 100% of our core construction materials are from responsible sources. In 2021 signed up to SteelZero, committing to purchasing 50% of our steel as low carbon by 2030, and 100% by 2050. We also signed up to ConcreteZero in 2022, which will influence collective purchasing power across our industry as it sends a strong signal about demand, to shift global markets and policies towards responsible production and sourcing.

Our materials brief and prohibited materials list

We recognise that supply chains in construction are often fragmented and transient. Across our development pipeline, we have early in-depth conversations with specialist contractors, to be able to influence design and specification, and we request information from suppliers to improve transparency in our decision making.

Our guidelines for our developments are set out in our Materials brief which is circulated at the start of any project. Core construction materials including steel, concrete, hard landscaping and facades should always come with responsible sourcing certification. Where certification isn’t available, we ask for evidence of basic health, safety and environmental management. And for every development we always target FSC Project Certification, to guarantee timber is from responsible sources.

The Global Slavery Index shows that certain countries have a substantial risk of slavery in manufacturing. Our Prohibited Materials list, included within our Materials brief provides guidance to design teams on materials that we would avoid, prefer and those that would be ideal. From avoiding laminated glass to recommending air purifying paints, the list states clearly our expectation of high quality and thoughtful design. So, when our designers specify materials or our contractors buy materials from outside the EU, will engage our suppliers to ensure our expectations are met. Sometimes this will be in the form of an assessment, where we check suppliers against fair pay and labour standards using tools like SEDEX, EcoVadis and SA8000.

We’re laying out our expectations from our partners clearly, so we can address human rights challenges within the industry and discuss how we’ll work together to increase transparency and minimise risk. Our Materials brief includes our Prohibited Materials List, which helps strengthen our fight against modern slavery in the sourcing of construction materials. The brief sets out prohibited materials in our construction activities based on health impacts, responsible sourcing, embodied impact and resource efficiency.

Using innovative materials at Mayfield

Production of cement for use in concrete creates approximately 8% of total global carbon emissions. At our Mayfield regeneration scheme, we’ve therefore tested Concretene, a pioneering low-carbon material that has the potential to transform the global construction sector by providing an alternative to traditional cement. Concretene uses a product called graphene to significantly improve the mechanical performance of concrete, allowing for reductions in the amount of material used and the need for steel reinforcement. We were the first developer to employ Concretene on a commercial scheme and have used it to create a 54x14m mezzanine floor.

SteelZero steel must meet ResponsibleSteel standards or be produced by a steelmaking site where the owner has defined and made public both a long-term emissions-reduction pathway and a medium-term, quantitative-science-based GHG emissions target such as a science-based target approved by the SBTi (Science Based Targets initiative).

What’s on the surface matters too, and for our material finishes we’re recommending we select, wherever possible, natural low-carbon materials that can be sourced locally.