Summerset Group Holdings Limited
The first retirement village operator to be Toitū carbonzero certified, Summerset's climate action story shows the organisation’s commitment to continually reducing their environmental impacts.
Journey to carbonzero
The retirement village operator started its journey by committing to the Toitū carbonreduce certification programme in 2018.
A Toitū carbonreduce certification means Summerset measured their emissions, set a reduction plan, and got third-party verified as per international best-practice. Though this was a great start, it was only the first step.
The programme was a way for Summerset to start monitoring its emissions, increase efficiency and reduce operational costs. The certification process helped bring focus to key insights like emissions from the use of fertilisers, waste per person and business travel - all seen as opportunities to be more efficient.
Summerset's sustainability initiatives quickly gained traction and the organisation decided to further bolster its commitment by offsetting their carbon emissions, gaining them the Toitū carbonzero certification.
Not only did Summerset gain carbon neutral status, but they also effectively assigned a self-imposed cost to emitting carbon, in doing so, incentivising reduction in the long term.
Summerset's Environmental Initiatives
Summerset has five focus areas to reduce its climate impacts - energy, waste, travel, paper use, and fertilisers.
“We’ve picked these five areas as being ones that are big emission sources but also where we can have significant influence,” says Summerset’s Financial Accounting Manager Joanna Waite.
Summerset’s carbon reduction focus areas
A key priority for Summerset is the ability to plan and implement sustainable practices in the construction and design of future villages. Given the 6-year timeline between designing a village and finishing construction, making sustainable decisions at the design phase builds in significant environmental benefits.
The Toitū carbonzero certification is a valuable tool that helps Summerset engage and communicate with its staff, residents, and other stakeholders.
Summerset’s Green Team engages individuals across the business to run environmental initiatives.
The Toitū emanage carbon reporting platform and its ability to highlight emission sources easily and visually has proved particularly useful.
“You take data that you already have. So, for example, your electricity bill, it's got your kilowatt hours of usage in there. You drop that into Toitū emanage and it comes up with what your emissions factors are and demonstrates it in a graphical way. It's really easy to use and read and draw all the key stakeholders in, in a kind of snapshot type of way,” Jo says.
An example dashboard from Toitū emanage.
Summerset voluntarily includes its residents’ energy consumption in its organisation inventory. This means a large portion of its emissions is influenced by its village residents.
Their Toitū certification serves as an opportunity for Summerset to engage its residents in the conversation and influence more sustainable behaviour.
The Business Case
Summerset’s Contracts and Sustainability Manager, Debbie Summers argues the business case for climate action is obvious.
“It's really easy to make a decision to measure, monitor, and manage your carbon emissions because it's all about efficiency,” says Debbie.
“The more efficient you are, surely it's better for business.”
Summerset CEO Julian Cook echoes a similar message in his advice to fellow New Zealand organisations.
“You need to start on this journey,” says Julian.
“Whether you like it or not, change is going to come, your customers are going to demand it, your staff is going to demand it, and you are going to see regulation come into the space and you'd better be ahead of that curve.”