Guy Marsden: ESG credentials will pave the way for our future of work
Guy Marsden, director of Highbridge Properties, which is developing the Magenta Business Park with Clyde Gateway, looks at the growing importance that office occupiers are placing on ESG (environment, social and governance) credentials and why they are becoming increasingly important factors in the built environment for attracting and retaining staff.
The pandemic, a renewed focus on climate change following COP26, and the growing interest in ESG (environment, social and governance) credentials are all contributing to our changing world of work.
Office occupiers are putting an increased focus on the quality of space, and while every occupier has a different definition of quality and ESG; health and wellbeing, sustainability and amenities are becoming the most important factors in the office property market for attracting and retaining staff. It also gives us the chance to re-examine how our buildings and places can be leveraged to positively impact our economies, communities and the environment.
In terms of the ‘E’ in ESG, organisations are urgently prioritising how to address climate change when selecting spaces. The built environment is responsible for up to 40% of global carbon emissions so we need to meet this challenge head on as the role of the workplace evolves. Employers and investors are looking towards the latest in sustainable building techniques as construction and development races to net zero by 2050.
At the heart of the discussion around sustainability is the real everyday experience of working in a building – how it looks, how it feels and how it is understood as a space to spend time in. Physical workplaces are key in creating a culture of sustainability for businesses. In particular for new buildings, a net zero carbon rationale has to be considered at every stage; from limiting the carbon footprint with all construction materials, from extraction to installation, using materials with high levels of recycled content, minimising the amount of material, and sourcing them locally.
As property developers, we have to be ahead of the curve and anticipate potential new office requirements of the future which includes evolving ESG needs. We are currently working on Magenta Business Park, a 20-acre urban, Grade A office park that we are developing in partnership with Clyde Gateway. Just over a mile from Glasgow city centre, the new business park will meet the Net Zero Public Sector Buildings Standard and provide new, highly specified office space with a design that compliments current environmental needs and is centred around staff wellbeing with riverside walks and an abundance of green space.
Social initiatives, the ‘S’ in ESG, prioritises wellness in the workplace. Health and wellbeing, collaboration and engagement are at the forefront of decision making. Integrating hybrid and agile working policies can bring many benefits for staff and employers, such as a better work-life balance, as well as improving employee retention and reducing business costs. Clyde Gateway has also witnessed the significant impact from their substantial investment in communities, including reducing environmental impact, supporting SMEs and increasing skills and workforce development.
Governance, the ‘G’ in ESG, particularly adherence to industry led policies and practices, are gaining traction and at Magenta, we are working on a number of green industry and climate resilience benchmarks.
Clyde Gateway’s Green Innovation District (GRID) has one of their centres at Magenta and it will be served by district heating and cooling networks in conjunction with Scottish Water. Equally, Magenta is featured in the Scottish Government’s Green Investment Portfolio and it is uniquely placed to work with investors and developers to achieve sustainable change building on the project’s existing environmental and social impacts.
High sustainability standards are possible and desirable and our aim for Magenta is to lay the foundations for a green lifestyle, where you can live near to active travel routes, draw your energy from district heating schemes, work in sustainable, flexible workspace and spend your out-of-work hours surrounded by nature and green parkland.
Committing to ESG guidelines takes time, but they are proving to be a smart move for businesses - representing an opportunity to build a better environment, a better society and a better future.