The transition to a low carbon economy can be complex. For companies that have well-established processes and operations, this often means reviewing how business is done from the ground up. Electricity and heating are the biggest contributors for service companies like UBS. Around 73% of our total CO2 emissions are due to electricity use, while heating contributes another 12%. This said, we're working to reduce and find alternatives where possible.
800 opportunities to do better
UBS operates in over 800 buildings throughout the world. And back in 2004, we were emitting 360,502 tons of CO2 – the equivalent of 130,000 cars, each driving 20,000 kilometers in a year. By 2020, we aim to reduce that number by 75% and to use electricity only from renewable sources.
Our flagship office in the heart of the City of London was opened in September 2016. The 12-storey building houses over 5,000 UBS employees across all business divisions. From solar thermal water heating to rainwater harvesting, the building is a model of what's possible with modern sustainability features. The office contributes zero waste to landfill as we've implemented central recycling and bin-less floor policies. We've seen a 53% reduction in average energy use on site and in 2018, the location was named the UK's most sustainable building at the EDIE Sustainability Leaders Awards.
The restoration of our historic headquarters on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich is set to be completed in 2018. Eco-friendly and low-emission building materials have helped us with our sustainability goals. When finished, we aim for a LEED platinum certification (the highest level under the international standard for sustainable, eco-friendly and resource-conserving construction). The forecasted energy savings after the refurbishment of Bahnhofstrasse 45 are 30%.
Turning off the lights
Outside of actual building construction and restoration, lowering our carbon footprint has been about many seemingly minor changes that, taken together, amount to significant results.
In 2017, we reduced our energy consumption by more than 5% compared with 2016 and 19% compared with 2012. Achieving this has involved:
- consolidating work spaces in larger and more energy-efficient buildings;
- renovating buildings in order to comply with green building certifications;
- optimizing heating by switching from fossil fuels to district heating and geothermal heat pumps and improved insulation on façades and roofs;
- improving air-conditioning by implementing highly efficient cooling units with natural refrigerants with no global warming potential and
- implementing better lighting systems and controls in our buildings (e.g., LED retrofit in Weehawken).
We've also worked to change the way we source energy. Today, 50% of our heating energy is renewable. Of UBS’s worldwide electricity consumption, 56% was sourced from renewable energy in 2017. We source electricity from 100% renewable sources in Switzerland, Germany, the UK and Luxembourg (mainly hydropower and wind power). We also produce our own electricity with solar panels, for example in South Africa, Milan, Zurich, Basel and London. By 2020, we aim for 100% of our electricity consumption to be from renewable energy.
Reducing our footprint also meant looking at the other side of the equation – consumption. We have collaborated with external organizations to find more responsible solutions for everything from procuring paper from recycled or certified sources to implementing the first zero plastic staff restaurant in Luxembourg. Additionally, in an effort to minimize our CO2 emissions in business travel, we encourage our employees to choose alternatives to air travel. Since 2006, we have been offsetting our emissions from business air travel by investing in third-party projects that reduce an equivalent amount of greenhouse gas emissions.