Regulation from above and pressure from below, community engagement and scientific evidence are all combining to put ESG issues in the spotlight, delegates heard at Real Asset Media’s Wellbeing, ESG and Sustainable Investment briefing, which was held at the International Investors’ Lounge at EXPO REAL in October.
‘Sustainability has come to the forefront,’ said Felicity Beasley, Head of Client Capital & Investor Relations, CAIN International. ‘We have a huge task ahead but the momentum is there’.
It used to be a very hard sell, but now awareness of the issues has grown in all real estate sectors.
‘We started focusing on sustainability in 1995 and we felt quite alone for a very long time, but now more investors are incorporating ESG in their business strategy’, said Elsa Monteiro, Head of Sustainability and Corporate Communications, Sonae Sierra.
Regulation is often feared but it can work, she said: ‘At European level they are putting pressure on companies and Governments to decarbonise, which in turn helps to put pressure on everyone else’.
The same applies to certification. ‘I am not a fan of labels, but certification and transparency are crucial if you want change to happen’, said Alexandra Boot, Managing Director, Blue Building Institute. ‘Data analytics is also very important’.
Sonae Sierra has analysed years of data to persuade their clients that ‘there is a business value in investing in energy and water efficiency, because it leads to savings in operating costs which always turn out to be better than forecast,’ said Monteiro.
In retail assets, they have also been able to establish a strong correlation with visitor satisfaction because of the improvement in the quality of services.
‘A sustainable building has higher upfront and operational costs, but if you look at it long term then you can attract higher rents and keep the value of the building over time,’ said Beasley.