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Sustainable transition in logistics: Interview with Julie Barlatier-Prieuret of BARJANE

The logistics real estate developer speaks about the imperative to create new sustainable warehouses and logistics infrastructure.

The convergence of the climate crisis and a growing need for warehousing is driving the ecological transition of the logistics industry in France and the UK.

At the forefront of this transformation is BARJANE, a Franco-British company which develops land and property in the logistics corridor running from Marseille, through Lyon, Paris and London. The company, an SME with an annual turnover of €37m in 2019, has built roughly 500,000 sqm of sustainable infrastructure since its launch fifteen years ago.

According to co-founder and Director Julie Barlatier-Prieuret, logistics was an often-overlooked area of business, but it is now gaining importance thanks to the rise of e-commerce which has been even more necessary due to the pandemic.

BARJANE's first logistics building in the UK, the Decathlon DC platform in Northampton, was built according to BREEAM standards with 23,000 sqm of warehouse and office space hosting 300 employees. BARJANE won the 2018 Sustainability Award at the French Chamber’s Franco-British Business Awards for this very platform.

As sector leaders in tackling the climate challenge, Julie Barlatier-Prieuret sees momentum in the industry to change. ‘Fifteen years ago, clients didn’t understand what we were doing, but now most people in the industry realise that there is an urgency, and that we have to think about what the next type of logistics building will be.’

The question for her now is how the industry responds this growing demand while being responsible to people and planet. This means developing sites with a wide set of considerations from complex sourcing of construction materials, to electric charging stations, to biodiversity impacts. Also critical is to favour the refurbishing of brown sites, instead of using green land for developments.

‘Logistics can be a challenging and expensive industry, but we are working hard to show that not only is this an essential part of the economy, but it can be done in better ways,’ she says. ‘The rational for us has always been if you offer something that is high quality, flexible for client needs and environmentally sustainable, then the financial sustainability of the company will be assured by clients who can operate efficiently in our buildings in the long term.’

BARJANE prioritises the minimisation of the energy footprint of its buildings and the high majority of its projects has been fitted with roof-top solar panels. The group was the first logistics provider in France to do so, with a nearby-future annual production of 22 megawatts peak.

These efficacies, often translated to client savings, are among many aspects of its buildings which have contributed to a competitive advantage for the company. ‘Some of our clients advertise about the sustainability of our buildings which they work in, both to their employees and the external world – I’m always proud when that happens.’

People and Planet

Julie Barlatier-Prieuret launched BARJANE with her brother Léo Barlatier in 2006, building on family roots in the industry. ‘From day one, it was important for us to feel proud about what we were building,’ she says. ‘We wanted it to be beautiful and for it to be environmentally and socially responsible.’

The sustainable project is one with long term goals, and what Julie Barlatier-Prieuret calls a twenty-year business plan. ‘When you are trying to make this kind of difference, having a five-year plan is not going to work, and you won’t see a return on your money. Too often we see this short-term thinking. But over twenty years, it is possible to effect change and make it work as a business – while thinking about the longer-term consequences of what we are doing.’

This has meant that BARJANE was an early adopter to international standards for sustainability, in addition to building according to BREEAM, BREEAM ‘in use,’ and the equivalent HQE standards in France, all of its projects have been certified ISO 14001, the international standard for environmental management, since 2012.

‘These certifications are tools to improve, which give us a framework to make ongoing improvements. Each year we set more and more challenging targets for following years.’

‘We need to keep in mind that we are building for a client to operate a business and be super-efficient, but these buildings also must work for the people who are going to spend their days in them.’

The deeply embedded social purpose in BARJANE is being codified in an ongoing B-corp certification, a process which has also allowed the Group to begin conversations down its supply chains to ensure that BARJANE is sourcing sustainably, while meeting the needs of the holistic range of stakeholders in the business.

‘It’s about our employees, our clients and suppliers,’ she says. ‘We don’t do this just to run a business, we are doing this because we enjoy it – it is planet before profit.’

Sustainable Foundations

In 2016, when BARJANE turned ten, the company set up a Corporate Foundation to educate children about sustainable development among other things. The company welcomes school groups to its logistics worksites, to show building practices and how the sites protect and nurture biodiversity. ‘When they come to our sites, they see birds and insects, and some also visit the roofs to see our solar panel array.’ Two of BARJANE’s business parks in France have been designated as bird protection areas, with the firm working in partnership with the League for the Protection of Birds.

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