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Blog: Why sustainability reporting matters in housing

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Group Chief Executive
Published on 28/01/2022

Today, we published our first sustainability report. 

The report demonstrates our ongoing commitment to sustainability and our goal to meet net zero carbon by 2050. It also highlights the positive impact of our work on residents and communities and our continued focus on robust and effective governance.

Here’s five reasons why it is important.

Firstly, it helps us to tell our story better. This report is more than a set of metrics or an impact measurement framework. It’s a way to communicate outcomes and the positive impact we have on society, the economy and the environment, above and beyond our role as a housing provider.

Put simply, the homes that we build are much more than physical structures. We all know that a safe, secure and comfortable home plays a vital role in determining quality of life. Yet it is one of many factors. The health, financial stability and social opportunities of individuals and families are other components that are critical to living well.

Much other work is being undertaken by colleagues from across the organisation, which has a direct positive impact on our residents. Take, for example, the work of LQL in providing tailored care and support services that are desperately needed by vulnerable residents. Or the L&Q Foundation’s investment in local communities, giving people the opportunities to hope, imagine and succeed.

These important efforts enrich and enhance so many lives. They are at the heart of our identity, and it is right they are recognised as such.

Secondly, publishing this report motivates us to do better. A holistic approach to sustainability not only demonstrates how we are meeting the needs of people today, but also pushes us to do more in the future. If we view our reporting through the lens of continuous improvement, we can use it as a real force for change. It’s not about setting unachievable targets we’ll never reach; it’s about striving to do our best so that we can make the biggest difference.

This leads us on to the third reason - impact. Rising energy bills, growing inflation levels, and low wages all add to the myriad challenges facing many people living in our neighbourhoods.

As a charitable housing association - with the expertise, infrastructure and means to help people - we are perfectly placed to alleviate some of these problems. After all, shaping the places in which we operate and supporting them to thrive is central to our mission.

Our social rents – ranging between 40% and 60% of market rent levels - are an obvious metric to highlight. So is our HomeSave energy programme, which saw participating residents benefitting from average savings of £679, through an innovative energy efficiency and fuel poverty intervention, delivered to them in their homes.

Similarly, our debt and money advice service, Pound Advice, saw increased demand in 2020/21 and led to a record year of financial gains for residents, totalling nearly £15m.

Our new report sets out how we will continue in this vein, by aiming to support 1,435 people into work by 2024, helping 2,310 residents get their tenancies back on track, and opening up pathways for 2,100 young people.

By placing ourselves in a broader context, future reports will show how we are delivering positive and lasting outcomes as part of a wider social agenda.

The fourth reason is finance, and where most funding for the sector – and indeed the wider economy – is going in the future. Investors, lenders and housing associations are more aligned than ever. We are all being held to account for environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and that is only going to increase in the years to come.

We recently completed the first Sustainability-Linked Bond (SLB) for the social housing sector, pledging to investors that we will achieve a string of environmental improvements across our housing stock. Valued at £300m, the SLB is directly linked to us reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency in our homes, whilst creating more affordable homes for people that need them. In line with our Sustainable Finance Framework, this landmark agreement will pave the way for future loans and bonds that will bring us closer to our sustainability targets.

The fifth and final reason relates to collaboration and partnerships. The housing sector is facing a monumental challenge to meet all of our objectives, including a major investment in our existing homes to meet the building safety agenda. This challenge – and that of making all of our homes ready for net zero – sit alongside the perpetual issue of a chronic shortage of housing.

The scale and breadth of the task at hand means it isn’t one that any of us can do alone – there has to be collaboration with our supply chain, investors, and like-minded organisations. The sustainability report provides a framework through which we, and our partnerships, can grow, in order to meet and respond to the evolving issues of the day. Through this work, our hope is for our communities to not only be a nice place to live, but an exceptional place to be, both now and for future generations to come.

We are operating in uncertain times, but I am confident that our sector’s engaged residents, motivated colleagues, and strong governance give us serious cause for optimism.

Read L&Q's full Sustainability Report (PDF)