It is the topic of the moment with wildfires raging in many countries across the globe, but nearly nine in ten estate agency firms (87%) don’t have a net zero strategy for reducing their carbon emissions, and more than a quarter of estate and letting agents (27%) see sustainability as a ‘box-ticking exercise’, says home setup service, Just Move In.
The finding comes from the Getting Our House In Order report [EYE found it to be a very well laid out and highly readable document], which questioned more than 150 UK agencies about their eco-credentials. This may sound like a small number but it comprised a reasonable cross-section of the industry, from small businesses handling under 100 moves per year (23%) to large agents handling over 1,500 (12%). The majority of firms surveyed were in between these moving figures.
More than half (54%) believe the eco issue is becoming more important for the industry, with only a third of agents (35%) believing their firm is currently sustainable enough.
Many agents realise the benefits of sustainability in boosting their reputation and bottom line. Almost three fifths of agents (58%) thought that being eco-friendly could improve profitability, and two thirds (66%) say that poor green credentials would harm the business.
Following on from last year’s Sold On Sustainability guide, which offered agents practical help and advice, the new report looks into agents’ performance in six key areas: energy use, waste, recycling, the office environment, transport, and initiatives.
The best adopted sustainability practices by agents include using digital apps to share files, encouraging the use of e-brochures to reduce paper waste, using video calls to minimise travel, switching to energy efficient light bulbs, and using reusable cups and bottles.
The least used measures include using eco-friendly cleaning products, switching to a green energy supplier, choosing energy-efficient appliances, getting a smart electricity meter and using recycled paper.
When it comes to transport, one in six agencies (16%) have electric company cars, and a fifth of firms have hybrid vehicles (20%). A third of agents (36%) said members of their team cycled to work, and three in ten (29%) said they used public transport when necessary.
A quarter of agents (26%) always consider eco-credentials when choosing a supplier, with the same amount (26%) never doing so. About half of agents (47%) sometimes take them into account.
With the Climate Change Committee warning that the UK won’t meet its legally binding climate change targets unless it eliminates greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, the report stresses how agents can play an important role in reducing households’ environmental impact.
The report is part of Just Move In’s ongoing Agents For Sustainability campaign, which is leading the fight against climate change in the domestic property sector. Just Move In heads up the campaign, which has received support from Hamptons, Agents Together, The Negotiator, and B Lab.
The report offers agents practical tips and underlines the business benefits of an eco-friendly approach. Sustainable strategies like cutting waste and identifying efficiencies can boost productivity and profits. Sustainability also offers excellent PR opportunities and helps agencies to attract new customers and recruit and retain staff.
Ross Nichols, co-founder of Just Move In, said: “Estate agents and letting agents are on the front line in the battle against climate change and have a great opportunity to influence customers to embrace sustainability.
“It’s also important for the industry to get its own house in order, and it’s shocking that only one in nine agencies have a net-zero strategy in place.
“There are some easy wins for agencies, with less than half of firms switching to a green energy supplier and using a smart electricity meter. These changes make a big difference and are the first steps towards helping the industry embrace net zero.”