Rory Joseph is director and Sebastian Murphy is head of mortgage finance at JLM Mortgage Services
Last month, Talk Radio’s Mike Graham went ‘viral’ after an interview with an Insulate Britain spokesperson, Cameron Ford, in which the radio host appeared to suggest you could “grow concrete”.
The comments came after Ford told Graham he was a carpenter and could justify both the cause of Insulate Britain – combating climate change – and his job because, quite rightly, trees are a sustainable resource.
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Whether Graham truly is that stupid is up for debate, but no doubt he spent the next 24 hours desperately Googling, ‘Can you grow concrete?’
What it brought home to us is that, while protecting this planet and not leaving it like a version of Waterworld for generations to come might seem like an obvious and logical thing to do for most, there are plenty of people who deny climate change exists and essentially want to deride the efforts of those who believe in the science and want to do something about.
So while you probably wouldn’t want to be stuck in a 25-mile tailback on the M25 caused by a member of Insulate Britain super-glueing their head to a road, you can’t deny the fact that government action is currently nowhere near enough and many people believe direct action is the only way to get change.
Now, of course, this can’t all come from government; there has to be a collective responsibility amongst us as individuals, the firms we work for, and the industry that we are part of.
And that’s where perhaps the mortgage industry looks rather weak. How much are we doing as an industry to offset the carbon we create through the mortgage process? The answer is, not enough, and yet there are examples all around us that show what can be done.
Brewdog – a business that has had its fair share of negative press but is clearly trying to get on the front foot here – is now carbon negative. It says it removes twice as much carbon from the air as it emits and is planting its own trees and restoring peatland in order to do so.
Over the past couple of years, other large-scale businesses have either gone carbon neutral, or have pledged to do so. But, this is not something that has to be the preserve of ‘big business’; in fact, you might argue that until every single firm is working in this way, we are not going to get the uplift that is required to make a real difference to carbon emissions and, at least, slow down climate change.
If this all sounds too ‘worthy’ for you, or if you’re tempted to think we’re now a bunch of ‘tree huggers’ then you’re quite frankly, missing the point.
Don’t get us wrong, we live in houses which are perhaps not the most energy efficient, and we may also drive cars which are, let’s say, not electric, but so do most people and we can change our ways here and the way our businesses work.
Many firms might argue that they’re doing everything the government wants of them at present, and they might be right, but it’s truly not enough.
Not least because the government measures are not enough and again, lets be truthful, here a lot of what is passing for ‘green’ in the mortgage market is ‘greenwashing’ in all but name.
So, we have an opportunity here to lead the way in UK plc – what if all lenders committed to being carbon neutral by the end of 2022? What if all intermediary firms worked out how much carbon their businesses were creating during the mortgage process and offset it?
What if we secured a commitment from our clients to offset the carbon they produce as part of the process? That, like Brewdog, would be enough to restore more carbon from the air then we are all collectively producing.
We are currently exploring the best way we can do this as a network and how our firms and advisers can do the same. We’re also pushing lenders to do the same and this will be an ongoing conversation we have with every single lender we use, because it’s too important not to keep lobbying them to do something.
Action is required now; the mortgage industry is not immune from this and, given the level of carbon emissions that come from homes, we have a direct responsibility here. Send the message that we know concrete can’t be grown on trees in the ground or anywhere else, and we also know that action is required and we’re willing to do something about it.