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PBSA firm releases Net Zero Carbon Pathway

Unite Students, the UK's leading owner, manager and developer of student accommodation, has published its net zero carbon pathway.

The pathway sets out the activities and investment required to achieve its objective of becoming net-zero carbon across both the company’s operations and development activities by 2030.

It includes targets for carbon reduction, which have been formally validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).


The pathway outlines four key steps to achieve net-zero carbon:

1. Reduce operational energy consumption: Based on a target 28% reduction in energy intensity by 2030 against our baseline set in 2019. This target is in line with the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) 1.5°C energy reduction pathway.

2. Invest in renewable energy: We have a commitment under the RE100 programme to source 100% renewable electricity by 2030 (2020: 74%) and will seek to purchase more energy in the future in a way that supports the development of new renewable energy generation capacity.

3. Reduce embodied carbon: Based on targets in line with the RIBA Climate Challenge programme, which require a 48% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030.

4. Mitigate residual carbon: We will offset any residual operational or development emissions that cannot be removed completely using certified carbon offsets, aiming to prioritise measures that actively remove atmospheric carbon.

The Group has already invested over £30 million in energy efficiency since 2014 and, as outlined at its Capital Markets Day in October, has identified a further circa £100 million of additional opportunities for capital investment to achieve its carbon reduction targets.

This represents an annual investment of around £10 million in energy initiatives going forward, equivalent to £5-7 million p.a. on a Unite share basis. These initiatives will also deliver an attractive financial return through a payback period of fewer than 10 years from savings in utility costs.

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, comments: “Taking bold and decisive action to reduce environmental impact makes good business sense, as well as being the right thing to do. We believe that our 2030 net-zero carbon ambition, built on science-based targets validated by the SBTi, will help us play our part in tackling climate change for the benefit of generations to come.”

“We will achieve net-zero by changing how we design and develop new buildings to cut embodied carbon, investing in existing buildings to make them as energy-efficient as possible, and buying renewable energy in a way that directly supports the creation of a new green power generation.”

“We understand the scale of the challenge but believe it will make us a stronger and more resilient business,” Smith concludes.

The pathway document can be accessed here.


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