JLL Nigeria hosted its first Masterclass in March 2016, a series of open discussions where subject matter experts and industry professionals come together to discuss real estate trends and topical issues. The topic of this Masterclass was ‘Delivering Value through Collaborative Working & Sustainability’.
I was pleased to be one of the speakers at the Masterclass given that sustainability is one of my passions. While on my trip to Lagos, I felt very inspired by the conversations happening around sustainability, which gave me the feeling that the time has come for sustainability in Africa.
While reflecting on my previous experience in sustainability in Africa and Australia, I found that sustainability held different meanings and therefore implications for various groups and countries.
In Australia, I found that sustainability focused mainly on buildings and energy. Australia has numerous, well established green building rating systems (i.e. NABERS and Green Star) and initiatives which are widely employed across various cities. Australia has the some of the largest coal reserves in the world and so there is a key focus on making the fuel mix more sustainable through employing various renewable energy technologies.
In Kenya, sustainability is focused predominantly on the environment, as tourism is one of the biggest revenue earners for the country. In order to ensure the natural habitat of the wildlife was not destroyed, we implemented sustainable measures in managing our national parks and wildlife reserves.
In Nigeria, I spoke to a few of my colleagues and deduced that sustainability is mainly driven by the lack of a consistent power supply. Many Nigerians have begun installing inverters and solar power systems in their homes and businesses to supplement power outages which have saved on the need for diesel for back-up generators. In this case, sustainability has been a result rather than a driver of these measures, but nonetheless a positive impact on the environment.
Regardless of the focus, sustainability is definitely delivering value in the African real estate market in the following ways:
- Cost savings
Savings are being made through lower energy consumption and less wastage of building materials. These savings are reflected directly on the P&L line of the company which is a key driver of these sustainable measures. Some of the measures driving this savings include less paper used in printing rooms due to follow me printing software, less coffee cups going to landfill by having a coffee machine and pre-cutting construction materials to size prior to delivering them on site.
- Assist with legal compliance
In Kenya, a recent change in law states that any new building that heats over 100 litres of water daily must install a solar hot water heater and not heat it via the conventional electric heater. This will soon be the norm rather than the exception in many African countries, given the abundant sunlight and the fact that it will reduce demand on electrical grid infrastructure.
- Improve risk management
In Nigeria, those combining solar power or an inverter with an existing diesel generator have found that it reduces the down time of the system as well as decreases the cost of running the diesel generator. Further, it has made many homes and offices less susceptible to fuel shortages which results in reduced operational risk.
- Demonstrate Corporate responsibility
Image and public perception can make or break a firm. If people see you doing the right thing, they respect you more and are more loyal to your brand.
- Motivate employees
When you walk into a sustainable building there is usually more day lighting, better ventilation, more efficient heating and cooling, open spaces with lots of daylighting and sometimes green spaces. These elements of a building make the work environment more pleasant, which impacts the productivity of employees. A recent study showed that employees working in the LEED-certified branches of the same financial institution were found to be “more productive and engaged in their work.”
With all the benefits outlined and with a greater pressure from stakeholders, businesses in Africa will employ some very interesting approaches to ensure they operate sustainably. Finally, we see that sustainability is interpreted in various ways globally, however one thing that is clear all around the world, is that sustainability is quickly becoming the way to do business, rather than the exception.