JSE-listed Emira Property Fund says it has made meaningful progress on its biodiversity policy in consultation with the Biodiversity Disclosure Project (BDP) and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).
“Emira is proud to have initiated its biodiversity plan and aims to enhance it even further as we continue on our journey to protect the natural environment. South Africa’s natural ecosystems are under pressure and there is a need for greater environmental sustainability locally and globally – we need to act now.
“Emira strives for positive environmental impacts through our substantial real estate portfolio and by working with others towards shared ecological goals,” says Emira CEO Geoff Jennett.
BDP began its Biological Diversity Protocol (BD Protocol) three years ago, creating a framework to enable organisations to identify, measure, account for and manage its impacts on biodiversity. The protocol was finalised earlier this year.
Emira then undertook a biodiversity audit and pilot project at its head office building in Knightsbridge, Bryanston, Johannesburg.
Knightsbridge is located in the Egoli Granite Grassland, which is unique to Gauteng. It is classified as critically endangered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute.
Owing to urbanisation, cultivation or building of roads, less than 32% of this vegetation type remains untransformed – a figure that is rapidly nearing the national 24% target for conservation protection of this type of vegetation.
Only 3% of Egoli Granite Grassland is conserved in statutory nature reserves. This means Knightsbridge is located in an area where there is a genuine and urgent need for biodiversity preservation and restoration, Emira notes.
Emira engaged the ecologists of The Biodiversity Company for the audit, and the recently developed Knightsbridge proved to be an ideal subject case – it was developed with indigenous landscaping, natural bioswales and its original 30-year-old trees were replanted in the office park after being removed and kept safe during the development’s construction.
“All the office buildings at Knightsbridge have received a 4-Star Green Star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), so it was important to Emira that this pilot project also promoted an understanding of how the BD Protocol and GBCSA sustainable management policies work together,” explains Emira sustainability head and national development manager Justin Bowen.
The Biodiversity Company said in its findings: “The design and construction of Knightsbridge Office Park was found to be excellent in allowing Emira to mitigate numerous impacts through engineering controls.
“In addition, the operational controls in day-to-day management of aspects such as waste management was found to be above par. In the 12-plus years of environmental auditing, the audit team has not found a comparable office park in terms of overall environmental management.”
Following this project, a biodiversity action plan is being crafted for Emira based on the BD Protocol.
These actions include indigenous landscaping, removing and controlling alien vegetation, encouraging habitats for indigenous birds, installing beehives in appropriate spaces, water harvesting and improving erosion and stormwater drainage, with the company having implemented some of these measures even prior to this.
In addition to working with the GBCSA and the EWT, Emira also has strategic partnerships with the World Wide Fund for Nature and Trees for Africa.
This year is the third successive year that Emira has offset its operational emissions by working with Food and Trees for Africa to plant trees both on its properties as well as fruit and indigenous shade trees at under-resourced schools. Over the past three years, it has planted over 600 new trees.