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Sustainability glossary for commercial tenants

20th July 2021

Sustainability is becoming more and more ingrained in business operations. 

With the issue now monitored by consumers, investors and the UK Government. Commercial occupiers need to start considering where and how they can implement changes to lessen their impact on the world around them.

This often requires working with landlords to ensure that both parties are doing what they can limit their carbon emissions before, during, and at the end of their lease terms.

Many of the sustainability terms listed below may already be familiar to commercial tenants, but some of the more specific terms may help to broaden any knowledge of the subject further.
Air Pollution

The modification of the natural characteristics of the atmosphere by a chemical, particulate matter, or biological agent.

Alternative Fuels

Fuels like ethanol and compressed natural gas that are more sustainable as they produce fewer emissions than traditional fossil fuels.


Capable of being decomposed through the action of organisms.


The variety of life in all its forms, levels and combinations; includes ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity.

Carbon Credit

A market-driven way of reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions; it allows sustainability-focused companies to benefit financially from an emission reduction.

Carbon Footprint

A measure of the carbon emissions that are emitted over the full life cycle of a product or service and usually expressed as grams of CO2-e.

Carbon Offset

A sustainable way to compensate for carbon emissions by funding an equivalent carbon dioxide saving elsewhere.

Carbon Neutral

Activities where net carbon inputs and outputs are the same and are therefore sustainable. For example, burning wood will add carbon to the atmosphere in the short term but this carbon will cycle back into new plant growth.

Carbon Taxes

A surcharge on fossil fuels that aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate Change

A change in weather over time and/or region; usually relating to changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall; although may be natural or anthropogenic, common discourse carries the assumption that climate change is anthropogenic.

Corporate Social Responsibility

The integration of sustainable social and environmental policies into day-to-day corporate business.


The conversion of forested areas to non-forest land for agriculture, urban use, development, or wasteland.


Decreasing the consumption of materials and resources while maintaining quality of life.


A prefix now added to many words indicating a general consideration for the environment e.g. ecohousing, ecolabel, ecomaterial.

Embodied Energy

The energy expended over the entire life cycle of a good or service.

Emission Standard

A level of emissions that, under law, may not be exceeded.


Substances such as gases or particles discharged into the atmosphere as a result of natural processes of human activities, including those from chimneys, elevated point sources, and tailpipes of motor vehicles.

Energy Efficiency

Using less energy to provide the same level of energy service.

Energy Management

A program of well-planned actions aimed at reducing energy use, recurrent energy costs, and detrimental greenhouse gas emissions to increase the overall sustainability of a business.


An Energy Performance Certificate rates how energy efficient a building is and is a legal requirement for any buildings that are being leased or sold.

sustainability glossary EPC

This acronym standards for Environmental, Social and Governance. These intangible assets are measured to provide an overall understanding of a business’ sustainability and societal impact.

Ethical Consumerism

Buying things that are made ethically i.e. without harm to or exploitation of humans, animals or the natural environment.

Greenhouse Effect

The process in which the emission of infrared radiation by the atmosphere warms a planet’s surface.

Greenhouse Gas

Components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Green Leases

A green lease is a lease that incorporates clauses whereby the owner and the occupier undertake specific responsibilities/obligations with regards to the sustainable operation/occupation of a property, for example: energy efficiency measures, waste reduction/ management and water efficiency.


Greenwashing is when companies portray themselves as environmentally friendly even though their business practices do not back this up.

ISO 14001

The international standard for companies seeking to certify their sustainability and environmental management system.


A site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment.

Life Cycle (of a product)

All stages of a product’s development, from raw materials, manufacturing through to consumption and ultimate disposal.

Natural Resources

Naturally occurring substances that are considered valuable in their relatively unmodified (natural) form.

Net Zero Carbon Building

A highly sustainable and energy efficient building may be fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources and offsets. When the net amount of carbon dioxide emissions released from a building is zero or negative, this is known as a net zero carbon building.

Noise Pollution

Displeasing human or machine created sound that disrupts the activity or happiness of human or animal life.


A wide range of activities, including collection, sorting, reprocessing and manufacture of products into new goods.

Renewable Energy

Any source of sustainable energy that can be used without depleting its reserves. These sources include sunlight (solar energy) and other sources such as, wind, wave, biomass, geothermal and hydro energy.

Solar Energy

The sustainable radiant energy of the Sun, which can be converted into other forms of energy, such as heat or electricity.

Solar Power

Sustainable electricity generated from solar radiation.

Sustainable Development

The Brundtland definition: ‘Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.


Any material (liquid, solid or gaseous) that is produced by domestic households and commercial, institutional, municipal or industrial organisations, and which cannot be collected and recycled in any way for further use.

Water Footprint

The total volume of freshwater that is required in a given period to perform a particular task or to produce the goods and services consumed at any level of the action hierarchy.

Wind Energy

The sustainable kinetic energy present in the motion of the wind. Wind energy can be converted to mechanical or electrical energy. A traditional mechanical windmill can be used for pumping water or grinding grain. A modern electrical wind turbine converts the force of the wind to electrical energy for consumption on-site and/or export to the electricity grid.


More sustainability terms can be found here.

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