Spotlight on…negotiating with landlords
25th April 2022
In this Spotlight On article as part of the Climate Action Programme, Eloise Cuff, Senior Energy Consultant at Anthesis, gives some pointers on how organisations can improve sustainability in their workspace when they don’t own their own building.
Many organisations rent rather than own their workspace and therefore don’t have control over many aspects of how the building is managed. This can be challenging for those companies wanting to improve their environmental credentials. However, commercial tenants do still have power to push for positive change, and in some cases can even work together for a bigger impact.
Here’s some guidance on how you can work with your landlord or Building Manager at each stage of the tenancy agreement.
Before you sign or renew a lease: can you make it green?
No-one wants to see unused buildings, least of all landlords, so at this stage in the journey you are holding a fair bit of power. Could you use this power to negotiate a green lease with your landlord?
A green lease is where both parties agree to certain responsibilities with regards to the sustainable operation and occupation of a property. There’s currently no standard definition of a green lease but it could include:
- A long lease term which may be more amenable for sustainability considerations.
- Cost sharing for sustainability improvements to the building such as renewable energy generation, minimising emissions during the fit of the building, or installing infrastructure to support sustainable travel options e.g. EV charging points or secure bike storage.
- Requiring minimum levels of energy efficiency for the building. Ask to see the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property, it’s a legal requirement to have a minimum of EPC band E for tenants. Find out what energy efficiency measures are in place such as double glazing and insulation, and ask what control tenants have over lighting, heating, and cooling.
- Transparency on energy use. It’s important to accurately track your energy use for annual emissions reporting so ask the landlord for sub metering for each tenant, and monthly data sharing on usage.
- A commitment to sourcing renewable energy. Does the landlord provide a 100% renewable electricity supplier contract, or will they allow you to choose your own supplier? See this spotlight on green energy tariffs for businesses for guidance.
- Environmental commitments around water use, waste management, and biodiversity. Ask to see your landlord or building management company’s environmental policies. If they have no formal policies, what can you find out about how waste is managed, how they’re supporting nature, and minimising water use?
- A climate related risk assessment including how the property will manage in extreme temperatures.
Some businesses, particularly in manufacturing, may have fewer options when it comes to finding a workspace. In this situation you may find you’re stuck with renting a space that doesn’t meet all your environmental requirements. If the Building Manager is not open to the idea of a green lease, you can still use the above prompts to guide your conversation with them, as well as do your own research.
Improving sustainability during your tenancy
According to the UK Green Building Council, a third of a building’s carbon footprint results from operational energy consumption. So, if you’re already part way through your tenancy agreement, there’s still action you can take to minimise the emissions from your business operations. These might include simple steps such as; encouraging reuse and recycling, ensuring lights and equipment are turned off when not in use, and supporting staff to travel sustainably, to more involved actions such as working with other tenants in the building to encourage your landlord to improve energy efficiency measures, improve waste management, or install renewable energy generation.
It’s important to also give consideration to the impact your business operations have on the local area, for example noise or air pollution, harm to local wildlife, or a large volume of traffic. What do you have control over and how you can you reduce your impact in these areas for wider social and environmental benefits?
You can find more detailed information on minimising your organisation’s carbon emissions on the Climate Action Programme resources page.
At the end of your lease, be a responsible tenant
Even if you’re moving all your items to a new space there will inevitably be some rubbish created as you sort and organise ahead of the move. Make sure you take responsibility; reuse items where you can, pass on any unwanted usable items to a charitable organisation such as The Sofa Project or through Collecteco, and recycle as much of the rest as possible, which might mean taking items to a specialist recycling facility.
What suggestions can you pass on to the Building Manager to help them ensure their next tenant has the best chance of minimising their emissions?
- List of considerations for landlords or Business Managers from Anthesis
- UK Green Building Council
- Clean Energy Buyers Association: Commercial Real Estate Principles to help guide conversations with landlords or Building Managers
- The UK Government’s Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards are directed at landlords but still useful for tenants to read and understand
- BREEAM: a sustainability assessment method for buildings.
The Partnership’s Climate Action Programme supports organisations of all sizes and sectors to reduce their carbon emissions through free events, resources, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Find out more and get involved.