23 July, 2021

To tackle CO2 emissions, we must collaborate

As we come to the end of Net Zero Week 2021 we should reflect on all the positive actions being taken across the sector but also consider how we can better work together to achieve a low carbon future.

My journey in this area began several years ago at home – I started looking at ways I could reduce household waste through recycling and switching to a green energy tariff. I even tried growing my own vegetables, though with very limited success.

Then I started my first environmental management role and had to develop and deliver an environmental strategy from the ground up. It was only then that I truly began to understand the challenges faced by businesses to ‘do the right thing’ while simultaneously managing the cost implications of making these changes.

Here at HACT we are starting to consider how we can support the sector to achieve these ambitious targets, in ways that are not only sustainable for housing organisations but also engage with and empower residents around these complex challenges.

Most recently, we’ve been working to incorporate environmental values into the existing suite of wellbeing values in the UK Social Value Bank. We’ve also recently announced our plans to create an environmental data standard, while ensuring alignment to existing agendas such as the Sustainability Reporting Standards and ESG requirements, which will support the sector in their decision making and delivery of key environmental and sustainable objectives.

But we all know that there is more to be done. Recent news about the floods in Chinaand West Germany or the record-breaking heat waves in Canada where temperatures have reached nearly 50C, are a frightening reminder of the looming devastation caused by climate change. Closer to home, the UK has been struggling under its own unseasonably hot weather, with roads melting in the heat  and children being admitted to hospital with severe sunburns.

It seems clear that extreme, even deadly, weather events will only continue to increase in frequency and severity unless we make serious efforts to drastically reduce our net carbon emissions to zero.

As I see it, the challenge is around people, especially when we consider the long-term consequences of high rates of unemployment caused by the disruption to the economy due to the pandemic. This has been massively detrimental to low-income households, who are more likely to rely on social housing and, because of coming from lower economic backgrounds, are generally less resilient to dealing with the effects of climate change.

Engaging with residents to understand their environmental challenges is going to be key to enabling the sector to effectively manage its journey to net-zero carbon, including improving environmental awareness and achieving true sustainability. It’s not going to be easy – organisations have to balance their social and environmental targets not only from government and the regulator, but they must also manage the expectations of the wider sector and their residents.

Looking ahead, HACT wants to support the sector to collaborate around these challenges. Over the next few months, we will continue to build on our existing social value and data standards work in the environmental space as well as explore how we can continue to help the sector achieve its net zero and sustainability aims.

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