Climate Action Programme Case Study: Socius
28th March 2023
Socius is a developer with £1.5bn development pipeline across the UK. They partner with global investors to balance profit and purpose whilst delivering sustainable mixed-use places. Their current projects include the regeneration of Soapworks in Old Market, and St Christopher’s Square, a retired living community in Westbury Park. In this case study, Luke Martin, Senior Project Manager at Socius summarises their approach to make sure sustainability isn’t a ‘tick box’ exercise.
Socius are part of a movement that fundamentally believes that we all need to maximise the use of the scarce resources that we have. This ambition drives us to seek out opportunities where we can creatively reimagine and rethink places to deliver long lasting change.
Socius are in the process of achieving B Corporation status to secure external certification for our socially and environmentally responsible practices such as energy, waste, diversity and corporate transparency.
Balancing purpose and profit
Ultra-sustainable developments can come with an initial premium, at the same time there is also a lot of market sentiment to purchase, rent, or lease assets and homes that perform well from an environmental and social perspective.
For St Christopher’s Square, we set out to deliver the first net zero carbon retired living community in Bristol. The development includes air source heat pumps that will heat all homes on site, It will be an all electric development and there will also be significant on-site renewable electricity generation. St Christopher’s Square will be a very green site, we set a target of achieving 10% gain in biodiversity , we are currently achieving 30%. If we hadn’t been clear about wanting to achieve this from the start, it would have been more challenging to introduce it later. At Soapworks, we’re delivering a combination of homes, offices, retail and leisure. We’re using various frameworks to help us define the upfront and embodied carbon for the construction of the development and look at how we can reduce this.
Planet Mark has been a great tool to help us manage our carbon footprint as an organisation, it’s emphasised the importance of steps we’re already taking but also highlighted how we can make improvements. With Planet Mark and BCorp, it’s not a case of ticking the boxes and getting certified, you have to be making year on year improvements which helps with embedding sustainability into the core of your business.
Bringing ongoing benefits to the local community
We’re looking at how our developments can create social value both in the short and the long term. During the planning phase, we’re doing a lot of initiatives that bring social value for the local community such as hosting scout groups and a vaccine clinic as well as providing much needed housing for refugees in partnership with Ashley Community Housing.
In the longer term, all our sites have elements designed for community benefit such as an urban village hall, allotments, and green spaces. We also work with local organisations to provide employment, training, and business opportunities. Many developers might just consider a 50-year life span of a project, but we really think about how to make the space adaptable to the future needs of the local community, as well as ensuring our buildings are resilient to a changing climate.
- Look at the criteria for Planet Mark and BCorp accreditation. Even if you don’t go through the process of getting certified, the criteria can help you understand how your organisation would be measured and focus on what sustainability actions you could take as a business.
- Be curious about an area of your business where you could make a meaningful impact, for example, incentivising your employees to travel by sustainable means, ensuring your workplace is energy efficient, or supporting the welfare of your employees.
- Just make a start! It’s not too late to make a positive impact. On a personal level, I wish I had learnt more about the carbon impacts of the built environment in the earlier days of my career.
There is a lot to learn about how you can deliver buildings in a more environmentally friendly way, so we are aiming to make continual improvement on our embodied carbon targets, as well as general performance of our buildings through assessments like BREEAM and NABERs.