World Environment Day: The Howard de Walden Estate

Q&A with Head of Sustainability, Laura Jockers

Tell us about your role at the business?  

Last September, I joined the ranks at Howard de Walden  as Head of Sustainability, a newly carved-out title within the organisation. I am charged with ensuring our operations and investment programmes are designed to create sustainable growth far into the future. Whether it's acquiring, leasing, managing, refurbishing, or redeveloping the buildings on our estate, we will apply sustainability principles and we understand that compliance with legislation is the minimum standard, always striving to go beyond. The role spans a lot of themes – energy efficiency, renewables and net zero carbon, materials, life cycle impact, biodiversity, waste and climate change adaptation in building design, operation and maintenance.  

Simply put, every action and decision we make regarding our buildings must be underpinned by sound principles of sustainability. As a landlord to thousands of businesses and residents, and proud custodians of the area for centuries, we believe we have a responsibility and an opportunity to be a forum for new ideas and a platform for action. We seek to build upon the power of our community of employees, customers, suppliers, residents and businesses to have the greatest possible impact.  

What does this year’s World Environment Day theme, ‘Generation Restoration’, mean to you?  

Restoration is the process of returning something to its former state. For a long time in corporate circles, people have talked about doing less harm. In recent years and particularly since the pandemic, a deeper level of consciousness and responsibility has emerged as people realise that a healthy planet is not an option — it is a necessity.  Doing less harm isn’t enough to reverse current trends and to make changes at the scale and pace required to protect and restore our planet companies must actively do more good in the world. Today’s youth are entering adulthood determined that they can build a better future for themselves and for those that follow.  This is the generation that can change the world – if we let them.  

What steps are you personally taking to minimise your impact on the environment?  

I think I live a pretty low impact lifestyle but there’s always more we can do. I’m a flexitarian and have been phasing out meat from my diet for some time but now must work on getting the rest of the family onboard who can’t begin to imagine a summer BBQ without a chipolata. My father is the hardest to convert but I regularly try and trick with tofu and other meat alternatives when cooking for him.  

For years, my friends and I have organised clothes swaps so we can pass on things we’ve grown bored of or good clothes our own children have outgrown, and I also make a point of buying eco-friendly gifts for friends where I can. Last year I bought most of my friends a bag of my favourite coffee with a gorgeous reusable coffee cup made from used cups.A proportion of every portion goes to supporting sustainability solutions around the globe.   

Packaging waste is my next challenge. I already reuse everything, boxes, wrapping paper, gift bags. I grow my own, or buy local, unwrapped fruit and vegetables but I am still amazed how much packaging comes into the house and how complex some of the materials are to recycle. It’s a massive challenge when you are a busy, full-time working parent but more stores are making it easier with refills and zero waste offerings.   

What do you think are the main challenges for sustainability at The Howard de Walden Estate right now?  

The main challenge is the nature of our heritage buildings. In the drive to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the built environment, the spotlight often falls on new buildings and their sustainability credentials. However, the UK has a huge number of period buildings which also need to be addressed. On the upside, these buildings have been around for a long time and are often recycled for a number of uses and lock in carbon for hundreds of years.  

Our buildings are all within conservation areas and 200 are listed. Not surprisingly, the enhancement of the sustainability credentials of period property is really difficult. On the upside, these buildings have been around for a long time and are often recycled for a number of uses and lock in carbon for hundreds of years.  As the long-term steward of this unique part of central London, we are responsible for retaining the beauty and heritage of our period buildings, whilst repurposing and reinventing them for the requirements of the 21st century. This includes decarbonisation and enabling our customers to live and work in increasingly energy efficient and comfortable buildings.  

What are you doing for World Environment Day this year?  

Aside from scattering my wildflower mix from SowManySeeeds, I hosted my own “love food, hate waste” with my friends in my garden. I asked everyone to bring a delicious dish they have created from left-over food and ingredients that they’d usually throw away. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!  

Why does sustainability motivate you?  

A lot of jobs are steady state, about delivering the status quo. I get it. But most of us got into the world of sustainability because we wanted to solve big global problems. I grew up on a remote farm in rural Cornwall riding wild horses across the moors. I was never going to do an ordinary desk job. I was born and raised to be different and to appreciate the living world around me.   

Who inspires you to be more sustainable?  

A podcast I listened to a while ago interviewing Scott Kelly, retired NASA astronaut who spent almost a year in space gave an interesting perspective on it. He described looking back at Earth from space and how small it is—nothing more than a tiny blue dot—and how fragile it is. “As a planet, we are isolated in the Universe. The environment is fragile-looking from space and the atmosphere is incredibly thin. When we realise our vulnerability, we can be reminded of our need to care for others and our environment. And when we see Earth from space, it reminds us we are connected to something much larger than ourselves.” Interestingly after spending 340 days alone in space he has also been helping people cope with isolation during this pandemic!  


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