Help… my house is melting!
Yeh, that’s got your attention! Okay, so this isn’t actually my house but it is a house that’s melting! It’s an intriguing arts installation in my neighbourhood which is part of the month-long Merge Festival. And contrary to what you might think, it’s not a warning about climate change but instead a celebration of the history of one of London’s largest candle making factories hundreds of years ago. I think it’s both fun and thought provoking, and demonstrates how we need to find new and different mediums - in this case art – to communicate what’s important to us.
So what’s important to us at The Crown Estate? On this question, I fall back on a simple notion - we only have one planet but our UK lifestyle needs the resources of at least two. I had my “light bulb” moment on this working with WWF and Bioregional during our bid for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Simple economics dictates that we need to find a way of living within our means as a planet. All of us working in the built environment can make a tangible difference – even if we leverage just a small amount of what we do – and I’m convinced that done in the right way, we can benefit the planet and make ourselves better, more successful businesses.
I’ve been inspired working with the UK Green Building Council – first on London 2012 and now with The Crown Estate – helping to share best practise and learning from other like minded businesses about what we can achieve when we think innovatively. And that’s why last month I was filmed by the UK-GBC team (as part of its new Member Commitment videos) to demonstrate and communicate what we are doing at The Crown Estate that we can share, help inspire and encourage others to do.
One of the areas where we’ve been thinking differently is our wholehearted commitment as a business to integrated reporting. This means putting long term sustainability right at the heart of our business model. It brings together financial and non-financial reporting i.e. measuring the impact and value of what we do – beyond just the financial. It’s challenging us to think hard about how we drive long term value, and where we can create a competitive advantage. In parallel, we’ve been developing the tools to measure value and have come up with an innovative way of doing this called Total Contribution. We made a short film earlier this year (another key communication!) to try and explain our business model in simple terms – click here if you’d like to see more.
Of course, in addition to new ways of communicating and thinking, in order to be innovative we have to come up with fresh ways to approaching projects on the ground, such as energy efficiency and clean technologies. We’re doing lots across our £10bn property portfolio to both save energy (and money!) and to help generate it. We’re very active in facilitating renewable energy across our rural, urban and marine portfolios – from photovoltaics and biomass to tidal and carbon capture and storage. As owners of the seabed around the UK we have helped facilitate over 4GW of offshore wind energy. Renewable energy is now a central part of the UK energy mix and October was a landmark month. On Saturday 18 October wind generated a record 22 per cent of the UK's electricity. And, on Tuesday 21 October, the UK's wind farms generated more power than its nuclear power stations. Or using Roger Harrabin’s words (the BBC’s environment analyst), “spinning blades produced more energy than splitting atoms”. In a 24 hour period, wind made up 14.2 per cent of all generation (the figure for nuclear was 13.2 per cent) – the result of a combination of high winds coinciding with eight out of the UK's 15 nuclear reactors being offline. So more energy efficient buildings, more home produced renewable energy and a healthy rental income to The Crown Estate. That’s a great win-win-win all round.
Obviously we don’t do any of this on our own. The trick is to collaborate and we know we need to work with others to achieve success and scale. I’m a great believer in team work, and in the words of the now famous African proverb…. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. We rely on our partners, customers, tenants and supply chain to ensure that we are a sustainable business – for the long term. But we also want to shout about our story and share with others how they can achieve sustainability success.
Alison Nimmo CBE is Chief Executive of The Crown Estate and sits on UK-GBC’s Board of Trustees.
To see The Crown Estate’s Member Commitment video, click here.