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JLL plans for Montreal sustainability hub, to be net-zero by 2040

Real estate giant JLL announced it will aim for net-zero emissions by 2040 and mark its Canadian...

IMAGE: JLL's sustainability centre (Courtesy JLL)

JLL unveiled a research hub in Montreal to promote sustainability in real estate (Courtesy JLL)

Real estate giant JLL announced it will aim for net-zero emissions by 2040 and mark its Canadian sustainability goals with an innovation hub in Montreal to incubate ideas for a greener building industry.

The hub, called the Centre of Excellence for Sustainability in Commercial Real Estate, is scheduled to be finished by January 2023. The Centre will work alongside local university research teams to accelerate adoption of new clean technologies, explore ideas in sustainable real estate and promote sustainable projects in the commercial real estate sector encompassing retail, industrial, office and multi-family segments.

The research facility will be led by co-directors Hugues Delmaire and John Cigana. Delmaire has a background in the clean energy field working for utilities and startups, while Cigana previously worked for the National Research Council of Canada as Director of R&D and Acting Director General for the Energy, Mining & Environment research center.

While the co-directors told SustainableBiz it is too early to divulge specific plans, Delmaire said JLL is in a position to provide test sites for pilot projects and gather industry forces to invest in sustainability. Delmaire mentioned the Centre’s areas of interest, like on-site generation, sustainable building materials and new processes and ideas to integrate ESG into building or retrofits. “It is not a one company initiative, but one to foster collaboration, commitment and try to really move the industry forward toward sustainability,” Delmaire said.

JLL said it chose Montreal as the location of the Centre because of the city’s clean electricity grid (almost all of Quebec’s energy does not produce carbon dioxide), a clean technology ecosystem and the large number of academic researchers. It will also serve as a place for JLL to establish stronger ties to Quebec and Montreal, and as an “intersection of Europe and North America with full access to Europe with CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and other international agreements,” according to Cigana.

The Centre is a collaboration between JLL and Canadian real estate company Ivanhoé Cambridge. Delmaire said Ivanhoé Cambridge took an interest because of its own commitment to decarbonizing, which may include financial contributions like investing in clean technology and startups.

Global JLL goals

The Centre is part of JLL’s broader sustainability plans outlined in a report for 2021. JLL said its net-zero target by 2040 will mean “full abatement of 95 per cent of our carbon footprint by 2040,” and an interim target of 51 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. JLL claims to already have achieved a 17 per cent reduction in its Scope 1 and 2 emissions in 2021 compared to its 2018 baseline. The Science Based Targets initiative approved the targets in 2020.

Out of its seven climate-related sustainability goals, JLL says all but one is currently on track to completion. Out of the carbon reduction goals, JLL has the ambition of reaching net-zero carbon emissions across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2040 and net-zero carbon emissions across all JLL occupied buildings by 2030.

The reductions were achieved by switching their buildings to renewable energy sources or purchasing renewable energy certificates and their equivalents, and converting their vehicle fleet to electric vehicles. There was also a drop in business travel and hotel use, and spending less on goods and services due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, JLL’s Scope 3 emissions, which accounts for over 96 per cent of its emissions, rose by 15 per cent from 2018. The company said it is due to the methodology it employs to estimate emissions from the properties it manages, which uses revenue as the basis of extrapolation.

Refining data collection

The company said it plans to obtain a greater percentage of actual consumption data across its client accounts to account for real reductions in emissions. “When you change methodology like that, you get up or down surprises. We’re in the process of setting up a robust system to more precisely evaluate greenhouse gas emissions,” Delmaire explained.

Cigana said work is taking place to reduce JLL’s Scope 3 emissions like adopting renewable energy, but “the way the methodology is reporting these, we’re not capturing those benefits to client Scope 3.” He added, “As the methodology gets better, we should be seeing those benefits appear in the Scope 3 and bottom line for clients and partners.”

JLL does not have Canada-specific greenhouse gas emissions data, Cigana said, but noted it is setting up a data management system to digitize utility invoices with its Canadian tenants and clients for better data collection.

JLL’s other sustainability goals

The sustainability goals also include waste reduction, with all JLL offices by 2023 requiring waste streaming and recycling programs and no use of single-use plastics. Offices in high water-stress areas must have water management plans in place as well.

For certifications, JLL seeks for 100 per cent of its offices under 10,000 square feet to have a sustainability certification by 2030 and 100 per cent of leadership band managers to undertake sustainability training and set goals for their business lines by end of 2022.

The sole goal left unachieved was supporting the transition to a circular economy with zero waste fit-outs in all regions by 2021. Richard Batten, the Chief Sustainability Office of JLL, wrote in the sustainability document that the company will take steps to achieve this goal through measures like adhering to the Tétris Sustainability Code.

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