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Network’s Sustainability Strategy – Coming Soon!

30 December 2020

By Peter Benz, Executive Director of Finance

In the past year, Network Homes has pushed forward with implementing measures and strategies to help us start our journey to becoming a more sustainable and environmentally friendly organisation. The Environmental Sustainability Group have been busy working behind the scenes to finalise a Sustainability Strategy to be published in the New Year.

Effective environmental management is critical to our overall business success. We’re setting challenging targets for continuing improvement of our environmental performance. Network is committed to delivering current and future residents with sustainable homes supported by responsible business practices.

Sustainability Strategy

The strategy describes how we will seek to address the issues of sustainability and integrate them into our day-to-day activities and longer term planning, so that we may contribute to meeting the long term needs of staff, residents and the communities within which we operate. The world is facing a climate emergency and the actions we take now are needed more than ever.

The target is for sustainability to be included in Network’s Five-Year Strategy 2021-24, starting from January 2021, with the following five key aims:

  1. Identify how our business activities affect the environment
  2. Establish methods of improving our approach to sustainability
  3. Improve the environmental performance of our existing homes
  4. Outline new technologies and ways of working to reduce our carbon footprint
  5. Engage staff with regards to green issues

The strategy explores the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of Network’s approach to sustainability. Our main strength is our average Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) rating at 72 in Band C which is marginally higher than the national average for social housing of 68. We are above average but there is significant room for improvement on the journey to net zero carbon by 2050.

Feedback from staff in the Best Companies Survey has also highlighted Network’s lack of environmental impact and sustainable approach as an organisation. Overall ratings received were below some of the other G15 housing associations. You now expect an increased focus on sustainability which we are dedicated to delivering through a long-term approach.

What are the benefits?

Network is committed to reducing our environmental footprint. One example of this is setting challenging targets to make our social housing stock more energy efficient – something that benefits our residents as well as the environment.

Becoming more sustainable has lots of benefits! Marginal retrofit of existing buildings has the potential to produce savings of £270,000 per year.

Residents will benefit too with cheaper energy bills and reduce fuel poverty, for example. Delivering sustainability improvements across our housing stock however is very challenging and cost savings are not guaranteed with upfront investment requirements being unaffordable from within our own resources.

How are we going to achieve this?

Our approach targets five areas we can work on including:

  • Workplace – Our working environment has become more sustainable by moving The Hive but there’s potential for further improvement. For example, we want to increase recycling, continue to send 0% of waste to landfill, continue working more from home and become less reliant on cars for transport to the workplace.
  • New homes – This will be a big project as Network aims to maximise the delivery of affordable homes. These new homes need more thought into what construction materials are used, reduce the need to travel to and from sites and explore renewable energy systems, such as heat retention in the winter to preventing overheating in the summer. This will be guided by Design Review Checklists and a specialist Development Innovation Panel to monitor environmental performance.
  • Existing homes - We aim to improve all tenanted homes to a minimum of Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Band D by 2023, then a minimum of Band C by 2030 and net zero carbon by 2050. This eventual target will require investment in excess of £500m until 2050. We are working on identifying alternative funding routes to embark on this process.
  • Procurement – The process will become more sustainability conscious by collecting and requiring more evidence of environmental performance. Price will remain of primary importance, but we will consider sustainability with this new evidence.
  • Energy Management Strategy - We are in the process of adopting a three-year involving an effective management of an energy budget and ensures Network Homes generates enough income to cover its energy expenditure.

Where are we now?

Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow (SHIFT) have published an energy report measuring Network’s overall approach to sustainability. This benchmarked us against other housing associations putting us at Bronze standard ranking 35th out of 40 most recent SHIFT assessments.

Read our blog breaking down the reports main findings written by Fabio Miccoli, Research & Policy Analyst.

2020 SHIFT Sustainability Assessment - How did Network score?

The overall findings highlight the need to improve our environmental performance and review any recommendations provided from the SHIFT Report. We are confident this strategy shows Network is heading in the right direction for a more sustainable future.

Network's Environmental Sustainability Group 

The Environmental Sustainability Group consists of members across the organisation committed to sustainable working practices and outputs for Network Homes, residents, and staff! Our aim is to bring the Sustainable Strategy to life, and we need your help as we start our journey towards a more sustainable future for Network Homes.

Sustainability is a topic we all need to get involved in and play our part! It will increasingly become a fundamental consideration in all decision-making processes across the business. As Chair of the Environmental Sustainability Group I look forward to having further discussions with residents interested in getting involved in our initiatives in 2021 and welcome your views/feedback on our progress as an organisation.