Climate and Environmental Protection
Climate and Environmental Protection in Our Properties
Climate and environmental protection in our properties includes issues such as energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the portfolio, environmental protection in the portfolio and environmental protection in connection with renovation and new construction measures (see Materiality Matrix).
The real estate industry makes a significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions via the construction and operation of buildings. For a real estate company of our size, this gives rise to a special ecological responsibility. As a result, the 2015 Paris Agreement – and the German federal government’s associated climate protection plan for 2050 – is a particularly relevant target system for Vonovia. The path to achieving a virtually climate-neutral building stock by 2050 set out in this plan is an ambitious one and cannot afford to disregard aspects such as the cost-effectiveness and affordability of construction and housing.
Although we can only influence energy and resource consumption levels in our properties to a certain degree in our capacity as the landlord – ultimately, tenants are free to decide how much electricity, water and heating they want to use – energy-efficient modernization, modern heating boilers or solutions such as digital metering technology, for example, can contribute to a marked reduction in energy consumption and, as a result, emissions. In this respect, much higher standards apply to new buildings than to the existing portfolio – which takes into account low-emission construction and energy-efficient operational management as early as the planning and construction stages. Owing to the very size of the real estate portfolio, it is clear that this is the biggest lever Vonovia has in order to make an active contribution to climate protection.
Despite the social policy debate in Germany regarding a reduction in the modernization allocation from eleven to eight percent and the capping of the allocation at three euros per m2 (or two euros for rents of less than seven euros per m2), Vonovia still aims to perform energy-efficient renovation measures on three percent of its own buildings in Germany every year. The energy-efficient modernization measures focus on heat insulation for facades, basement ceilings and attics, the replacement of windows and the installation of new heating boilers. At the same time, modernization measures are being expanded in Sweden, in particular. Public-sector subsidy programs are being used for many of the energy-efficient modernization projects.
Vonovia is also involved in numerous research and development projects to improve energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings. The aim is to develop more cost-effective measures to take account of the dwindling acceptance of building upgrading work in Germany and thus relieve the affected tenants of the financial burden.
Over and above energy-efficient building upgrades, we are also focusing more on ensuring that our new buildings are optimized from an energy efficiency perspective and use construction methods aimed at preserving resources. The Group can benefit from further expertise in this regard thanks to BUWOG Group GmbH, a long-standing partner of the ambitious “klimaaktiv pakt2020” launched by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism. BUWOG has had an ISO 50001-certified energy management system in place in Austria since 2013/14, which features both established processes and a written energy policy. This tool for the professional management of energy-related issues was expanded to cover the area of development in Germany in 2018.
We are also making ongoing efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our portfolio in ways not related to structural measures: when we install new electrical appliances, for example, we make sure that we use efficient solutions – the majority of kitchens installed, for example, meet energy category A standards at the very least.
Another major lever that can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the expansion of renewable sources of energy. Vonovia is also taking active steps in this area and is continually expanding the generation and sale of renewable energy. Vonovia currently has a photovoltaic portfolio of 208 facilities with an installed total output of 5.7 MWp. Tenant electricity concepts are designed to significantly increase the number of plants over the next few years. The tenant electricity approach in particular, does not, however, offer a sufficient degree of predictability as yet, as the statutory provisions currently in force do not provide any reliable framework for corresponding business area development.
Vonovia is offering its customers the opportunity to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources via its own energy distribution company. This offer is aimed primarily at new customers when they sign a lease agreement. By supplying certified green electricity, Vonovia is further expanding the options available to it for promoting climate protection and is helping its customers to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate and Environmental Protection in Our Own Business Activities
This section looks at company environmental protection and the impact of transportation/logistics (see Materiality Matrix).
Compared with the lever that climate and environmental protection measures relating to our existing buildings have, changes to our business processes have much less of a potential impact. Nevertheless, we continuously seek out opportunities to increase our level of resource efficiency and reduce our impact on the climate and the environment in our internal processes as well.
In 2018, Vonovia moved into a new corporate headquarters in Bochum. The building, which was completed in the middle of the year, provides space for around 1,000 employees and has been awarded DGNB Gold Standard certification. In addition to the positive changes regarding workplace design, this translates into potential for considerable savings with regard to energy requirements and emissions.
Due to the large number of technicians in the technical service and gardeners in the residential environment service, Vonovia maintains an extensive fleet in Germany of around 5,200 vehicles. This means that fleet management plays an important role in climate and environmental protection.
While our fleet will continue to grow in tandem with our business over the next few years, we aim to use scheduling and route planning, as well as lower-consumption vehicles, to ensure that the increase in fuel consumption and, as a result, in our CO2 emissions is less pronounced than the increase in the fleet itself. Pilot projects are also being used to test alternative drive models for their suitability for day-to-day use in long-term field trials.
All of these measures aim not only to reduce costs, but also to reduce the energy that needs to be used. This applies both to average fuel consumption and to the total energy used in our business operations. These are to remain at least constant, but ideally drop, in 2019.
Environmental Key Figures as a Challenge
One particular challenge facing the real estate industry involves making environmental key figures available for the housing stock. These are calculated based on the consumption of resources in rented areas which is, in turn, calculated largely based on the statements prepared by the utilities companies. Due to the delayed billing periods, reliable data for the 2018 fiscal year cannot be calculated until a later point in time. As a result, this data will be published in the Sustainability Report, which is scheduled for publication at the end of April 2019.
In order to place more emphasis on this complex issue within the company and to significantly increase data quality, Vonovia launched a project on the collection and reporting of key environmental figures, under the auspices of the central controlling department, at the end of 2018.