Only by securing full commitment from employees and stakeholders for ESG goals can property companies lead the way in creating sustainable buildings and cities, argues Redevco’s Brigit Gerritse.
The built environment is currently responsible for almost 40% of all global carbon emissions. The world’s population is projected to grow by 20% to 9.7bn by 2050. The United Nations forecasts that 70% of people will live in urban areas by this time. And all of these people need homes to live in and other buildings to work in or spend their time otherwise.
As cities grow larger, so will the built environment. But to protect people’s health and wellbeing we need to ensure that new buildings are less carbon intensive, more energy efficient with cleaner energy sources, while older buildings are retrofitted to become greener.
We certainly don’t pretend to be able to solve this enormous challenge, but we do feel it is our duty to contribute. Acknowledging that we have already been working on ESG for a decade, having built one of the largest BREEAM-certified portfolios, we still felt we were not doing enough considering the many crises in this world, including the climate crisis, ongoing war and increased social divide.
That is why we have put even more emphasis on our sustainability aspirations and introduced a new mission statement last year - ‘To lead the transformation of cities to ensure they are sustainable and liveable’. The company is now even more focused on ensuring that all its actions are taken, and all decisions are made in the spirit of this ambitious and bold statement.
When first introduced to our colleagues, the immediate response was: ‘What does it mean to lead?’ In our opinion, it is about stepping up our game and wanting to be one of the leading real estate players to make a positive contribution to the built environment’s challenge to decarbonise and make our cities better places to live. In order to do so, collaboration with our industry peers, municipalities and legislators -to name but a few- is absolutely necessary. We know perfectly well that we cannot do this in isolation, and we do not want to be the lone pioneer.
It all starts internally, by embedding this mission statement and explaining what it incorporates and how we apply this – this can lead to discussions which is good as it flushes out ambiguity and helps define the steps we need to take more clearly. We are involving colleagues from every layer in the organisation in the process of defining the way forward in terms of specific measures and next steps, training leadership to communicate this message internally and externally.
We are currently reviewing all our existing strategies to make sure they fully comply with our mission and that we become more explicit about what we are targeting. In addition, we already added an inventory of non-financial KPIs to our business plan process. And we are reviewing our Asset Attractiveness Tool and our City Attractiveness Model to support the organisation and create guidance. These frameworks will help to get a better understanding and clarity on how to execute our strategies.
Our ultimate aim is for the ESG topic to be ‘owned’ by everyone in our organisation but also by the stakeholders we work with so that we can create and drive meaningful impact across our industry together.
Brigit Gerritse is Head of Research & Strategy at Redevco