How we achieved the Planet Mark certification

12.12.2023

We were awarded our first year of Planet Mark business certification as part of our sustainability drive – this is why and how we did it, and what we learned in the process…

Fund managers work hard to ensure that their assets are performing against sustainability criteria, but this can come at the expense of their wider sustainability responsibilities. In striving for improvements in their assets, they often overlook the emissions produced in the day-to-day running of their own offices.

At Clearbell, we’ve been implementing big changes in the way we approach asset management to have a greater impact across our portfolios from a sustainability perspective. However, in doing this, we were adamant that we would not fall into the trap of ignoring emissions at any level of our operations, including our own office emissions.

In July 2023, we engaged with Planet Mark – which was launched in 2013 and backed by the Eden Project – after identifying them as an ideal partner to work with in our firm’s sustainability drive.

Planet Mark’s Business Certification has a three-step structure: measure, engage and communicate. An applicant will:

  • Submit comprehensive data (relating to Clearbell’s office and activities)
  • Receive carbon emission reports as well as a personalised action plan on how to improve these figures
  • Be invited to join Planet Mark’s community platform to engage with a wide forum of other businesses committed to their net zero journey

The Certification requires significant investment into data collection, submission, and liaison with Planet Mark. Planet Mark struck us as having a robust method for better understanding and improving our own carbon footprint, so we set to work.

The process

The data we gathered included our office’s electricity, water and paper use, as well as our business travel, procurement processes and homeworking information. Planet Mark’s anti greenwashing assurance meant that our submission was subject to extensive checks.

This stage came with plenty of challenges, but it also allowed us to reflect on our responsibilities as a fund manager. Our London office is a rented space, so we had to overcome difficulties to access information on the office’s energy and water use. This is not a unique problem either, many companies struggle to take the first steps towards net zero as they do not have any accurate data to draw on as a starting point. This has pushed us even harder to ensure that tenants of the buildings we manage can more easily obtain the figures that they need to assess their carbon footprint.

Social value measurement

Beyond the environmental element of our ESG commitment, we also chose to look at our team’s social value contribution. This audit broke down what we have provided the community close to our office through the channels of our people, community and volunteering initiatives, donations, and in our procurement chain.

The assessment both recognises our recent community outreach projects and provides a benchmark for future initiatives. It also helps us to scrutinise our supply chain, a great way to ensure that we work with like-minded companies.   

Next steps

This certification is only the beginning of our relationship with Planet Mark. Following the initial report, our whole team will attend an “energiser workshop”, a session to help us better understand our results. The workshop will provide the basis of a comprehensive action plan to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our social value contribution. From there, it will be a full team effort to implement the changes and stay focussed on achieving our targets.

To help with this, we have also developed Clearbell’s own environmental management system aimed to provide colleagues with the tools and skills they need to embed sustainability in the day-to-day management of assets and in the office, as well as enhancing awareness of the firm’s ESG commitments and engagement with its stakeholders and investors.

Planet Mark’s certification serves as a reminder of continued commitment to net zero. As part of the accreditation, we’ve promised that after our second year we will reduce our office emissions by at least 2.5% each year.

Now, more than ever, we understand that sustainability is a journey rather than a destination, and that it is not an individual pursuit – it’s impossible to reach net zero without collaboration.