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The Jupiter Fixed Income team have engaged with Center Parcs on a range of topics, from their Scope 3 emissions to biodiversity. Find out what other points were raised and how Center Parcs responded in the full engagement study.
We had a positive initial meeting with Center Parcs on ESG. In many of our engagement calls, we find that there is a lot of work happening within an organisation that is not yet being published on their website, and this was the case for Center Parcs too. They highlighted the various ESG data that is still needed and the work that now must be done to pull it together in one place in a digestible format.
Center Parcs is working on their Scope 3 emissions data. They believe their supply chain is the area that requires the most work, as their suppliers range from large corporates such as Molson Coors and PepsiCo to many hundreds of SMEs and family-run businesses who possibly do not yet have a good idea of their own emissions. In our questions to Center Parcs, we mentioned that Tesco’s Scope 3 is 90% of their GHG emissions, and Center Parcs estimate their share of Scope 3 is of the same magnitude. For their Use of Sold Products (category 11) Scope 3 accounting, they would be looking at circa 2 million nights per sleeper annually, as well as having to assess all emissions from visitor travel to their sites. Laundry would also be a critical area for assessment of emissions. Internally, there is a discussion about how to measure their footprint, and whether this should be done per sleeper night. We pointed out that relative measures are fine if they are done in order to track progress and not to hide overall emissions increasing over time. We always prefer to see both methods reported.
The owner of Center Parcs, Brookfield, is increasingly involved in all of their investee company ESG reporting efforts. They cited Martin Gettings, Head of ESG Europe Real Estate at Brookfield, as helpful to them for their carbon reporting and TCFD report work. Brookfield also manage a transition fund1, and Center Parcs expect further input from their owner on decarbonisation technologies.
It remains the case that Center Parcs’ villages are extremely energy intensive, from heating all of their lodges and public facilities to heating the water in their pools and spas. They detailed the planning that goes into energy sourcing, but electricity supplies are not available for some of their remote locations.
Helpfully, Center Parcs detail what they have so far achieved on their site. To summarise:
- They have switched their grid electricity to 100% renewable energy, reducing carbon by 21% and saving more than 13,000 tonnes of carbon each year
- They use solar power to generate renewable energy at four of their villages and their head office building
- They use ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps to heat and provide hot water for a number of lodges at Sherwood Forest and Longleat Forest
- They use combined heat and power systems (CHPs) to provide hot water for their central buildings (at Elveden Forest, Longleat Forest, Whinfell Forest, Longford Forest and Sherwood Forest) and Aqua Sana Spas (at Elveden Forest, Longford Forest and Longleat Forest)
- They use an anaerobic digestion plant to provide electricity and heat to Sherwood Forest
- They installed biomass boilers into the district heating system at Woburn Forest, generating renewable energy and removing the need for boilers in all lodges
- They have switched to low energy lighting in all of their central buildings and more than 4,000 lodges
- They have replaced the grilling equipment in their restaurant kitchens and refrigeration equipment in their Parc Markets with energy efficient alternatives
- They have upgraded the kitchen appliances to A+ rated alternatives and added thermostat controls to the boilers in their lodges
- They use a number of electric vehicles in their fleet and offer electric vehicle charging points for guests
However, in their Directors Report (page 13), Center Parcs report that 75% of their energy consumption still comes from natural gas, which makes up 76% of their GHG emissions from energy use. Center Parcs are aware of this and are talking internally about following the progress of hydrogen as a potential fuel and increasing their use of anaerobic digester plants. Solar energy is possible where there is arable land close to their villages, but while some farmers are keen to offer their sites, planning may be problematic as much of this land is prime arable land and a change of use may be hard to obtain from local authority planning departments.
TCFD reporting is important to the company. Center Parcs already see impacts to their business from climate change. The droughts over the summer impacted them, as did high temperature levels, with some outdoor activities they offer having to be cancelled. Their business is water intensive (swimming pools, hot tubs etc) so water scarcity in the future would be problematic to them, as would sourcing the energy needed for increasing aircon use and refrigeration. During Storm Eunice, they suffered tree damage, and the Longleat site was closed for a week post the storm to enable the clear up of damaged trees. They are concerned about the increasing risk of forest fires in drought conditions. A counter to these risks would be the increase in demand for the UK as a holiday destination from elsewhere in Europe, as southern areas of Europe are becoming increasingly hot. They are looking towards publishing their TCFD report later this year, and we came away with the impression that this was seen a valuable “business change” work that they wanted to quantify properly.
Insurance is a topic of interest to us too. On this topic, Center Parcs expect to see rising insurance costs, though climate change is not yet seen as a factor for price increases. However, the larger UK insurers are telling them that, should losses increase in other divisions because of climate change, it is not unforeseeable that all premiums written will increase in order to recoup losses.
Biodiversity is a topic that Center Parcs has received negative press over, so we asked how Center Parcs work to preserve biodiversity in prospective and current sites. Early surveys are undertaken, soil samples are taken, and ancient woodland analysis is carried out; should there be negative impact to a site, they say they would not seek to build there. Center Parcs gave the example of their newest village, Woburn Forest, as being built on a site of commercial forestry which had previously been poorly managed. They have worked hard to improve the biodiversity on this site and have planted more trees there than they have felled. Currently they are looking at a site known as site 6, which has received negative press. They were quite clear, however, that they would act to preserve ancient woodland there and would only impact commercial forestry. There is more information on their website on forestry management.
Center Parcs try not to use single use plastics where possible, and they are working with their supply chain to eliminate packaging where they can, for example by removing plastic wrapping from their laundry. They also are working to reduce their water consumption: toilets are flushed using grey water, low-flow showers and taps have been installed in lodges, and the quality of the water discharged from their villages is carefully controlled by discharge consents. Their lodges are built using sustainable timber.
We also touched on the recent death at Longleat forest. While they were restricted as to what they could say, they pointed to their low incident rate and the fact that they work very closely with the RLSS, the national lifeguarding body on life station placement and training lifeguards.
Center Parcs has an all-male Executive Board and recently hired one female to their Operating Board (16.7% female ratio). In 2021, their mean pay gap was 16.1%, compared with 14.1% in 2020 and 17.2% in 2019.2 They are training all staff on diversity and inclusion awareness, and they have a women’s development programme in place. They have c. 10,000 employees, so what they do here really matters. One initiative mentioned was that female employees who return from maternity and work part time are still able to become departmental managers, which they believe will help address their GPG.
Our final question to Center Parcs was, “how much do your customers care about sustainability?” Encouragingly, Center Parcs believe their clients really care, and they see this awareness increasingly through the younger visitors to their lodges. They believe that showcasing a sustainable business model will be a business advantage and will help them remain a destination of choice for their client base.
“Climate change affects every part of our lives, and the conversation is now louder than ever. It is time for us all to do the right thing, right now.”3
The value of active minds – independent thinking
A key feature of Jupiter’s investment approach is that we eschew the adoption of a house view, instead preferring to allow our specialist fund managers to formulate their own opinions on their asset class. As a result, it should be noted that any views expressed – including on matters relating to environmental, social and governance considerations – are those of the author(s), and may differ from views held by other Jupiter investment professionals.