Life Sciences on the path to net zero

Sector aims to remain competitive while fulfilling social responsibility

December 08, 2022
  • Victoria Shreeves
  • Dr Ross Gray

The Life Sciences sector accounts for just 1% of real estate.

But laboratories have a disproportionate effect on the environment, using up to 10 times the energy and four times the water consumption of a traditional office. Not to mention enough plastic waste to cover 138,000 hectares each year.

While the sector does well on the ‘S’ in ESG, through employment, innovation and public health, it faces challenges on the ‘E’ and environmental factors.

This will need to change as political, regulatory, societal, and financial pressures are now causing occupiers to think seriously about the environmental and social impact of their workplace. In JLL’s latest Future of Work Survey 2022, 72% of healthcare and life sciences companies said their employees will increasingly expect their workplace to have a positive impact on the environment.

Industry Challenges
Proactive approach

Achieving sustainability in Life Sciences real estate is feasible. But appropriate targets are needed and a proactive approach from both occupiers and owners.

  • Measuring - Benchmarks are a vital first step. But in order for them to be set, occupiers, investors, developers, operators and landlords need to measure incremental improvements in their asset’s carbon footprint or resource usage. That helps identify the interventions needed to meet targets in areas such as energy efficiency.

  • Monitoring – When measuring tools are in use, the performance of a building needs to be checked against its own baseline and monitored through time.

  • Targets - Once systems for measurement and monitoring emissions are in place, sustainable, measurable and scalable targets that are relevant to occupiers, investors, landlords or developers can be set.

  • Certification - Achieving or aiming for a certification is one route to future proofing an asset. However, at present there is no sector-specific certification in EMEA for Life Sciences. Nevertheless, several green certifications in the wider real estate industry, such as BREEAM and LEED, offer appropriate interim pathways.

Once benchmarks have been established and targets set, life sciences occupiers, developers, and landowners can consider the most effective ways of mitigating the environmental impact of their assets. There are many possible routes. JLL’s latest Life Sciences Sustainability Series report focuses on decarbonisation, waste and water usage, circular economy, and partnerships.

Rising employee expectations lead to an acceleration of investment into ESG
Landlord and occupier engagement

There’s a need for a change in behaviour to ensure assets continue to operate in the most sustainable way.

  1. Open communication, collaboration, and engagement, as well as training at every step are key.

  2. Ensure both landlords and tenants share responsibility and accountability for achieving sustainable targets.

  3. Encourage this partnership through green or ‘responsible’ leases, particularly responsibilities and obligations regarding the building’s environmental impact to each party.

To read more in JLL’s latest edition of the Life Sciences Sustainability Series, including a deep dive on sustainability solutions for Life Sciences, download JLL’s latest report Achieving Environmental Sustainability

You can also subscribe to our Life Sciences podcast series ‘Clustering Insightshere