Impact Report - Climate Action - Net Zero a Journey of Opportunity and Impact
Climate action and urban resilience
Global carbon emissions and net zero performance
1.5 degrees. It can change a lot.
It’s the difference between a planet that’s suitable for humans and one that’s not.
It’s also the reason Avison Young’s EMEA ESG Director Wesley Thomson decided to make a move to the real estate industry, so he could make a bigger impact, faster.
“I started to realize that the climate ‘crises’ that were predicted over a decade ago were starting to come true. And that if we didn’t collectively, rapidly move towards net zero emissions, there would be serious effects for future generations,” says Wesley.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the reality we now face is that even the biggest cuts in global emissions are unlikely to stop us from reaching 1.5°C by 2040. With each additional degree of warming, climate consequences will worsen, not only endangering our wildlife and resources but impacting the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.
With more than 40% of global emissions coming from real estate, Wesley knew this was the industry where he could create opportunities to make a positive impact on the environmental and social challenges facing our planet.
Heading up Avison Young’s EMEA sustainability team, one of the key parts of his role is supporting Avison Young clients on their Net Zero ambitions and journeys.
“Most companies we work with have set themselves targets to achieve net zero within a certain timeframe, but they need our guidance on what to do now, what to do next, and how to keep moving forward,” says Wesley.
The Avison Young team partners with clients at every stage of their journey, providing advice, guidance, technology, data and insights along the way. From finding the right opportunities, building business cases for budgets and investment and working together on the strategy and the execution, not to mention navigating any challenges that arise – the team is there at every stage of the real estate lifecycle.
“One of the biggest challenges that we’re all up against is that the work we do today, the changes we put in place – we have to be prepared to accept that in most cases we won’t see the value or impact of these actions in our careers, or even our lifetime,” says Wesley.
For an industry workforce that has always worked on annual or five-to-ten-year outcomes like office leases or investment yields, this is an enormous change in mindset.
“We have to become custodians of our companies, our planet and its resources. Thinking about the future, mitigating risk, ensuring business continuity and maintaining momentum until the next wave of workers can take over.
“This climate crisis is not a roadblock, it’s an opportunity. In fact, it’s the biggest opportunity our industry has ever faced. This is the time for us to focus our expertise, our energy and our collective brainpower to do something truly meaningful, to create positive environmental and social impact and protect future generations,” he adds.
Wesley has plenty of advice for those on the net zero journey:
Take time to genuinely understand the impact of the climate crisis – look for reputable sources and avoid fake news
Think about the wider impact of the challenges we’re facing – it’s broader environmental and social issues
Be collaborative, and open to new ideas and innovations
Don’t be scared to fail, in failing we learn
Be transparent, and share your successes and failures so we can keep up the momentum
“People are very hung up on net zero being a destination, but we need to think about it as a process, an experience and a journey that will change humanity for the better,” Wesley says.
“This is not a race. There is no chequered flag and there is no winner if we don’t work together, collaborate on solutions and openly share the highs and the lows of the journey. It truly needs to be a movement, and not a moment,” he adds.