Today, more than half of the world's population lives in cities. Demographic pressure in urban areas will continue to increase, raising questions in terms of density, urban sprawl, and living environment. At the heart of these challenges: the place of nature and biodiversity in cities, which provide many ecosystem services. BNP Paribas Real Estate (BNPPRE), as a major real estate player in Europe, has taken up this subject. Meeting with Catherine Papillon, Global Head of Sustainable Development & CSR.
1 - How does the topic of biodiversity fit into BNPPRE's CSR policy?
As a real estate player covering the entire life cycle of real estate, our activities have an impact on the environment and society. This is why we have been taking into account sustainable development issues in our activities for many years. Biodiversity has been at the heart of our CSR strategy since 2016 and our commitment to this topic has accelerated in recent years.
In 2017, BNPPRE made a 3-year commitment to support the Nature 2050 programme launched by Caisse des Dépôts, a French public financial institution, to promote biodiversity and restore the full functionality of natural areas.
In 2018, we responded to the international call for action "Make our Planet Green Again" launched by the CIBI (Real Estate & Biodiversity International Club) and signed the BiodiverCity charter.
In the same year, we installed the BNP Paribas Real Estate Farm on the two terraces of our headquarters. We turned it into a space that is at once a laboratory, a demonstrator, and a place of conviviality. A laboratory, because we are experimenting with the urban cultivation of plants and vegetables on 18 containers; a demonstrator for our customers and our businesses, for the installation and the management of these natural areas on an existing building and place of conviviality, because the two terraces have become a place for meetings, of well-being and cohesion for employees.
We are convinced that promoting biodiversity in cities has a positive impact on the natural and human environment. It contributes to the mitigation of the local urban heat island effect, to the retention of rainwater, to the integration into the ecological continuity of the territory; but it also has an important social impact: nature creates links, cohesion, and contributes to everyone's well-being. This biophilic aspect thus contributes to the productivity and health of the occupants of our buildings.
2 - What are your commitments to biodiversity?
In 2019, we defined our biodiversity strategy, broken down into operational roadmaps by business line, with the aim of grasping this topic in a structured way in each project we design, manage, and occupy, in all the countries where we operate. We have summarized our commitments in a charter with 7 commitments, grouped into 2 areas.
The first approach is to strengthen the biodiversity integration into the practices of our businesses. This involves taking biodiversity into account in our product and service offers, supporting our customers in the development and consideration of biodiversity within their operating sites and assets, and enhancing the biodiversity performance of our operations through labels and certifications.
The second approach relates to our duty, as a real estate player, to advance reflection on biodiversity with the other players in our ecosystem. We strive to mobilise our employees around biodiversity, to raise awareness of our customers and stakeholders on this issue, to contribute to the initiatives and work of the profession in this area, and finally to evaluate our actions.
In concrete terms, we ensure that the buildings and assets that we design, manage or occupy, contribute to build sustainable cities, in particular by introducing biodiversity in cities, in line with the existing environment. We rely for that on the expertise of ecologists.
It is important to meet the expectations of nature in cities, which are reinforced by the increase of the urban population. We are convinced that nature helps to make cities more resilient and attractive. In fact, more and more cities are putting nature at the heart of their urban policies.
2 examples to illustrate
In Nanterre, we are participating in a project to build the largest wooden campus in Europe, on the site of a former paper mill. Nine hectares of brownfields are involved and transformed into a park, including a canal and a reed bed. Finally, we want to set up relaxation areas and vegetable gardens to supply the restaurants on site. There will be terraces on all floors, with a view over the park. With this project, we want to offer a real experience of nature to users.
Photo credit: computer-generated images: Weiss Images, Virgin Lemin, Morphé
In Bagneux, a city in the suburb of Paris, France, an 11-hectare project will include more than 2,000 housings, as well as shops, and we plan to create a greenhouse and a roof garden, open to residents, as well as an aquaponic pond on the ground floor. The project will facilitate interactions between nature and inhabitants but will also provide a productive function for co-owners and ensure the development of surrounding biodiversity.
Photo credit: architects: MFR, Naaja, Reichen & Robert. Perspective ┬® Pyralis
BNP Paribas Real Estate has supported the Green Solutions Awards since 2016.
Interview by Construction21 - Editorial team as part of the Green Solutions Awards 2020-2021 sponsorship.