By far the most important reason for the unprecedented loss of biodiversity around the world in recent decades has been the destruction and alteration of habitats by humans.
Our main impact on biodiversity results from the development of land, particularly when projects are built on un-developed ‘greenfield’ sites that are most likely to be rich in biodiversity or to perform valuable ecosystem services and functions. This diminishes a scarce resource and has potentially significant ecological effects. In addition, construction activities can also cause damage to natural habitats, threatening wildlife and plant species through disturbances. As well as causing damage to biodiversity and habitats, development on ecologically sensitive sites can increase the likelihood of opposition from local communities to our shopping centres, resulting in expensive delays to, or rejections of, planning applications. It also increases the risk of fines due to pollution or litigation through environmental liability laws.
When undertaking new projects on previously developed land there is a risk that the land may have been contaminated through previous uses. The release of harmful substances into the ground can cause long-term problems, including loss of soil biodiversity, reduction in soil fertility and potential danger to human health. On the other hand, constructing on previously developed land and enhancing the ecological value of contaminated sites can bring benefits to the local economy, environment and community. This can increase support for new projects and enhance our reputation.
Despite these challenges, Sonae Sierra strives to minimise biodiversity loss in its sites and has established measures to protect habitats.
Environmental Due Diligence, Environmental Impact Studies (EIS), Safety, Health and Environment Development Standards (SHEDS), and a site specific Safety, Health and Environmental Management System (SHEMS) are applied to all our new developments. EIS are performed when required by legislation and, in all other cases, Preliminary Environmental Evaluations (PEE) are performed according to Sonae Sierra’s specifications. The SHEDS include a standard related to long-term impacts on biodiversity and our SHEMS require that all the recommendations of the Environmental Impact Study that refer to biodiversity compensation on greenfield sites are implemented where full mitigation of biodiversity impacts is not possible.
The EIS identifies potential environmental impacts of each project’s design, construction and operation on the site’s biodiversity and specifies mitigation measures. We monitor the implementation of these recommendations to ensure that impacts on biodiversity are minimised as far as possible. In cases where we are building a shopping centre on a Greenfield or previously undeveloped site, we ensure that all recommendations are implemented to compensate for any loss of biodiversity.
At our operational shopping centres and our corporate offices, biodiversity impacts that may result from day-to-day activities such as waste disposal and water consumption are monitored through our SHEMS procedures. We also seek to raise awareness of biodiversity through marketing events and other initiatives among shopping centre staff and/or visitors.
Our long-term objectives
- Promote the use of previously developed land or brownfield land for new Sonae Sierra shopping centre projects and protect and enhance biodiversity wherever possible.
- Strive to protect and enhance biodiversity on both existing Sonae Sierra sites and new projects and add value to new projects by actively integrating biodiversity whenever possible, taking into account the regional context.
Our performance, up until 31 December 2014
Note: At the "Sustainability" all information is comprehensive and refer to the Sierra and its shopping centers in the various countries in which it operates, including Brazil.