Why our Sustainability offer is the start of something special
Bidwells' Senior Partner Nick Pettit introduces our new sustainability service offer and explains why it’s the most comprehensive in real estate.
When people talk to me about Bidwells, they often begin with science and technology.
Or they ask about our years of history in Cambridge and Oxford, working with our country’s oldest and most prestigious Colleges. Some for more than 150 years.
They might know we manage one million acres of land and 80 million trees across England and Scotland.
But Bidwells is about so much more than that.
Even after 17 years with the firm, I continue to be amazed and inspired by the depth and breadth of the work going on across the business; the sheer diversity of projects.
So, when we began developing our Sustainability service offer 18 months ago we knew we’d not be ripping things up and starting again.
When I became senior partner at the beginning of January, I inherited a main board that was clear we needed to build on our strengths, while reconsidering them in the context of the world we are living in today.
Joining the dots
We considered our peatland restoration team, working each day in the Scottish uplands to revive some of the most effective climate change solutions we have in the UK, and thought about how this work is helping meet the requirements of ESG investors looking to enter our emerging carbon markets.
When we sat down with the Biodiversity team working with conservation organisations across the UK, it became clear that for us to make a real impact in achieving a major uplift in biodiversity across the UK then it needs real joined-up thinking between developers, owners and local authorities, like the work we’re leading at Lower Valley Farm in Cambridgeshire.
Our Forestry team has spent the last 30 years planting and managing some of the UK’s most beautiful – and valuable – woodlands, but we heard that in recent years our team has been inundated with approaches from UK pension fund managers seeking sustainable, long term investment opportunities.
What really stood out, however, was the growth plans of our 30-year-old Energy and Renewables team.
Not only is this sector essential to reducing our carbon impact, but landowners and renewable energy developers are now seeking deep expertise around battery storage solar and hydro schemes, and emerging technologies such as hydrogen, biomass and anaerobic digestion.
The sector has come a long way from the very first large-scale onshore wind farm installations we were involved in during the 1990s. We’re now helping piece together the entire Renewables jigsaw for our landowner and developer clients.
As is sometimes the Bidwells way, we realised we weren't doing enough to shout about just how sustainable, and unique, our work already was.
Backing our business
So rather than bringing in lots of specialised Sustainability professionals or developing a sustainability brand, we decided to back the people in our business who have been driving this work forwards for years.
Rather than starting from scratch, we’ve decided to build the future of our business in a highly sustainable way, offering our clients a calibre of advice that sets us apart. We believe our clients are willing to pay a premium for our advice if it helps them get ahead of the wider market.
So today, we’re launching 28 specialist Sustainability services to investors, developers and landowners. We think the comprehensive nature of our service offer is unsurpassed in real estate professional services.
We’re consolidating our offer around three core pillars: Natural Capital & Sustainable Investment; Renewable Energy and Sustainable Buildings & Places. And we’re announcing the expansion of our Renewable Energy team with four new senior hires.
By organising ourselves in this way, it allows our clients to better make the links between the services under each pillar but also across the whole business.
Not simply an ‘add on’
We want our Sustainability work to be about more than simply an ‘add on’. We know it’s not enough to simply bring the ‘sustainability person’ to meetings.
We’re going to ensure it is part of our day jobs. This means educating ourselves on the links between our business lines and investing in training to ensure that when investors ask us to help channel their capital into the most sustainable markets available to them - as they have been in recent years - then we all know the best way to deliver it.
By combining this with an overall understanding of the impact of development, we think we can make a real difference. But it won’t be credible if we don’t focus on what we’re best at.
Our core services areas across Development, Investment, Land and Estates, Colleges and Science and Technology aren’t changing. They will remain a strong source of income for the business during my time as senior partner.
We will continue delivering the very best Grade A and BREEAM Excellent offices in Cambridge and Oxford, many of them reaching the very highest Sustainability standards, offering global investors and occupiers meet their corporate ESG goals.
What will be different though, is that more and more of our clients will be seeking a comprehensive ESG strategy for their entire portfolio. Which means making the links, or joining the dots; between natural capital investment, peatland restoration, sustainable development, biodiversity net gain and renewable energy.
We don’t think there is another professional services firm in real estate that can do that as well as Bidwells. So, when my time as Senior Partner comes to an end one day, I hope the first thing people will be talking to me about will be sustainability.