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    Buildings & cities


    Increasing environmental challenges…

    As energy consumers, greenhouse gas emitters and to lesser extent water consumers, buildings are the source of major environmental impacts. CO2 emissions generated during the production phase of building materials combined with a large energy consumption during the use phase puts buildings at the heart of environmental concerns. Considering the population increase and rapid rate of urbanisation, the needs in terms of construction are ever increasing (buildings, infrastructures, etc.), which further intensifies the environmental challenges associated with this thematic.

    …and numerous catalysts accelerating profound changes in the building sector

    Given the scope of the challenges, measures are being put into place to move buildings towards a more sustainable model. Introducing carbon markets in different parts of the world should lead to, for example, less pollutant production methods of heavy materials (e.g. cement).Furthermore, regulatory measures are multiplying towards more energy efficient buildings: the European Energy Efficiency Directive of “nearly zero energy buildings” by 2020, the “Better Buildings Initiative” programme in the United States, ambitious objectives in China in terms of green building in the 2011-2015 five-year plan, etc. The development of labelling and certification (HQE(4) , BREEAM(5) , LEED(6) , etc.) also promotes environmental efficiency in the macro-sector.

    Solutions offering both environmental and economic opportunities

    Despite the large amount of environmental challenges, there is a proportional amount of improvement methods to address them. In other words, the potential solutions are endless: low-carbon cements, eco-construction - reducing the environmental footprint of the early stages of construction, but more specifically optimising the utilisation phase focusing on the core of the impacts (better thermal insulation, controlling and management of water and energy consumption, etc.) If energy efficiency requires certain investments, this will reduce the energy bill in the more or less long term depending on the adopted solutions.

    Access to housing – a social challenge to overcome

    Although the issues of sustainable building are primarily environment-related, there is also a significant amount of social challenges. It is estimated that there are more than 100 million homeless and 1.6 billion inadequately-housed people worldwide, according to the UN. These figures are set to increase due to the growing population in emerging countries.  Nevertheless, housing remains a fundamental Human Right(7). The building sector therefore has a major role to play in access to housing for all and in housing quality improvement for low-income populations.



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    In addition to the identification of business models that respond to sustainable development challenges, a CSR policy review of quality is systematically carried out before selecting values for the portfolio (management systems analysis, investigation of controversy, etc.). This is done to confirm that the company is relevant to the investment theme and ensures that the overall business operations are consistent with the sustainable development positioning of the company’s products and/or services.

    This analysis focuses on key areas, for example in construction: health and safety at work, respect for fundamental Human Rights in emerging countries, impact on biodiversity, business ethics, etc.

    (1) Source: Internation Energy Agency (IEA), “Energy efficiency requirements in building Codes, Energy Efficiency for new buildings”, 2008
    (2) Source: UN, The Human Right to Adequate Housing, Special Rapporteur publication, 2005
    (3) Source: UN, World Urbanization Prospects The 2011 Revision
    (4) HEQ: “High Environmental Quality
    (5) BREEAM: “BRE Environmental Assessment Method”
    (6) LEED: “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design”
    (7) Source: Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights