David Pierotti: Silverburn sets the gold standard for sustainability

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Whether it’s the ‘Attenborough effect’, the Extinction Rebellion protests, or the war on plastic, it’s fair to say that climate change and ­sustainability are dominating the news agenda like never before. ­Consumers now expect businesses to not only be acting responsibly, but to be taking action for the long-term. That’s as true for the retail sector as it is for any other part of society.

We have known for some time and strongly believe that this is no ­longer a ‘nice to do’ – it’s an essential part of everyday business. But more than that, for us, it is not just morally right, it also makes good strategic sense.

The companies that succeed for the long-term will be the ones that make the most of renewable technologies, manage their energy use effectively, and contribute to the communities where they operate.

At Hammerson, the owner and manager of Silverburn in Glasgow and Union Square in Aberdeen, we have been leading the way on sustainability with our Net Positive strategy.

In 2017, we became the first real estate company in the world to launch a comprehensive strategy covering both environmental and socio-economic impacts.

We are delivering this strategy through our Positive Places sustainability platform, which has set ­targets. Our aim is to have a net ­positive impact across four key ­pillars – ­carbon, resource use, water use, and socio-economic impacts –in our European portfolio by 2030.

This reflects our mission to create places that deliver value for all ­stakeholders and create positive and sustainable, long-term impacts for generations to come.

Of course, all the targets in the world are pointless if you don’t deliver, and at Silverburn we’re really proud of what we have achieved over the past few years.

We currently recycle 91 per cent of the waste produced in the ­centre and have numerous recycling streams, from coffee cups and coat hangers to aluminium cans and food waste, which last year contributed to the recycling of more than 1,582 tonnes of waste.

We have launched a host of new green initiatives, including water ­refill stations, smart metering inside all outlets, and electric car charging bays and have also introduced two beehives on the centre’s roof – which are now home to more than 4,000 of Glasgow’s honeybees. Most ­recently, we have installed 900 solar panels (yes, they even work in ­Glasgow!) ­covering 13,000 square feet of the centre’s roof. This is a great example of how acting responsibly is good ­business, as we’re reducing our electricity bill and making the most of what would otherwise be unused space.

As a local business that welcomes millions of visitors through our doors every year, and where almost 2,000 people work, we’re very conscious of our role in the local community.

Via our charity, Silverburn Cares, we’ve raised more than £20,000 over the past three years for Glasgow ­Children’s Hospital Charity, and we also support a range of ­other good causes including Alzheimer ­Scotland, Beatson Cancer ­Charity, and the Glasgow South-West ­Foodbank.

Ultimately, to make a difference we all need to work together, and that’s why earlier this year Hammerson organised workshops with a number of our retailers to share best practice and discuss how we can collaborate.

There is no quick fix for this, no short sharp burst that will sort ­everything. To move the dial, we need to invest and plan for the long-term. At ­Hammerson, we are committed to doing our part, and to standing ­alongside anyone else who is ­prepared to join this fight. After all, taking action on sustainability and climate change will not only safeguard the planet for future generations, it will also make us a ­better business.

David Pierotti, general manager, Glasgow Silverburn Shopping Centre.