‘Scions of Sustainability’: Sara Neff on Putting Sustainability Goals into Action

20 Jan 2022

Last week, Lendlease Americas Head of Sustainability Sara Neff, was interviewed by Crown Electrokinetics, a glass manufacturer whose DynamicTint™ technology helps buildings become more sustainable. As part of the ‘Scions of Sustainability’ segment of their blog, Crown asked Sara to discuss carbon targets in the real estate sector, Lendlease’s Mission Zero targets, and the strategies in place to achieve them.

When asked to define her role, Sara makes the responsibility of ensuring Lendlease Americas meets its targets for sustainability and social value sound like a simple one. However, it does not take long to understand that this pivotal role is incredibly complex, spanning across multiple business units.

To keep Lendlease’s sustainability targets on track, Sara constantly reverts back to the bigger picture within the real estate sector: that the built environment accounts for roughly 40% of carbon emissions in the U.S. today, making the decarbonization of the built environment an imperative for any country, state, or city looking to meet its carbon targets.

Sustainability targets such as net zero carbon emissions are not just influenced by societal pressures but financial obligations, as the investment community has become increasingly aware of a building’s ‘climate resilience’ before investing in a project. As a result, Sara explains, it has become increasingly difficult for companies operating in the real estate sector to simply “stay on the sidelines.”

Lendlease’s Mission Zero targets, while intrinsically connected in one ‘roadmap’, can be defined on two separate timelines: having net-zero carbon emissions by 2025, before advancing to absolute zero by 2040. Amidst these bold targets, Lendlease has also committed to creating $250 million of social value by 2025. It is Sara’s responsibility, she explains, to guide Lendlease towards achieving these hefty goals, through processes such as: “Designing our buildings not to use natural gas in the first place; through procuring renewables both on-site and off-site; through energy efficiency; through embodied carbon reduction work… [this all] takes a different flavor depending on what the business unit is.” Framing these goals as a whole company commitment rather than a specific business unit’s responsibility reinforces that accountability and collaboration will serve as key barometers of success.

Without the adoption of certain technologies, sustainability targets remain just that: targets. In order to measure Lendlease’s overall progress, the sustainability team adopt technologies that record building data to inform yearly carbon budgets or mandates (Footprint), energy monitoring software for real-time visualization of energy in a project (Enertiv), and a selection of other emerging technologies centered around more efficient renewables; “Bifacial solar panels…Geothermal systems…Vertical solar panels… those technologies that really help you maximize on-site renewables in buildings.” Technologies such as these are already being adopted by Lendlease, with 40 megawatts of solar having already been installed across the Lendlease Military Communities portfolio.

As Lendlease continues to be a leader in sustainability across the real estate sector, it’s abundantly clear that strategy must be informed by data if we are to stay the course on this path to carbon-neutrality. Led by Sara and the sustainability team, all business units within Lendlease remain unified in meeting our Mission Zero targets.

Check out the full interview with Crown Electrokinetics below!