Green to Gold: A Need to Lead


The built environment is integral to many of the changes required in order to create a sustainable society. Through our GVA Green to Gold survey we ask property fund and portfolio managers their views on how they and the industry are responding to the challenges.

Our resulting report, the sixth in the series, analyses the responses and compares them to those of previous years. There are sections on strategy and reporting, implementation and market impacts and this year we also asked about the Paris Climate Agreement and the upcoming minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES).

As well as lovely stats and charts, we have provided our own insights as to the direction of travel within the industry and how some of the challenges can be met. We were delighted to also be able to call upon the thoughts of three of our clients: Land Securities, RBS and BMO Real Estate Partners.

The challenge

Our report identifies seven environmental and social megatrends and some of the ways in which governments, investors and businesses are responding. It is clear that the built environment, through choice or otherwise, will be integral to many of the coming changes.

For example, how will property reduce the 30% of greenhouse gas emissions that it is responsible for; how will buildings demonstrate a positive effect on the health of their occupiers and communities; can offices adapt to the greater number of older age workers; how will properties and cities operate in a world of connected technologies?

Property and land accounts for 70% of all global wealth and it is clear that the money is increasingly flowing to assets that can demonstrate they are part of the solution and not just part of the status quo. Therefore, if commercial property is to retain its value and fulfil its role in ensuring a sustainable society it must accelerate its pace of change.

The good, the bad and the disappointing

The 2016 findings provide a signal as to how the commercial property industry is responding to the challenge.  Here are some of the headline findings from the survey responses:

  • 55% have sustainability strategies or policies at a fund/portfolio level
  • 50% only have sustainability plans for less than a quarter of their properties
  • Occupier demand is the primary reason for integrating sustainability criteria
  • Half report their sustainability performance via annual corporate responsibility reports
  • 45% report to the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB)
  • 95% give sustainability criteria “some importance” or “equal importance with other factors” at the time of acquisition
  • 63% do not assign specific figures for sustainability issues within their investment appraisal calculations
  • 84% believe that valuers inadequately reflect sustainability issues
  • 57% have assessed their portfolio’s risk profile in regards to the MEES regulation
  • 63% believe the Paris Climate Change Agreement will have “some impact” on the real estate investment market by 2020
  • 70% think that the commercial property sector cannot achieve reduction in carbon emissions of 52% by 2030

Business unusual

Our previous Green to Gold reports illustrated that property owners are operating in an increasingly sustainable manner, with our 2014 report concluding that sustainability was no longer “just a nice to have”. Sadly, this year’s Green to Gold findings do not provide the signals of progress that we would expect considering the broader global trends.

Further work is required by businesses to map the environmental and social challenges to their operations and identify how they can be part of the solution. Strategies need to then be reflected in new processes, asset management plans and training to close the skills gap. Collaboration is key; with occupiers, suppliers, partners and other businesses.

Luckily a lot of the technology, best practice case studies and collaborative organisations already exist. Now is the time to make it mainstream. From politicians, industry groups, companies and individuals; there is a need to lead.

For the full story please download the new Green to Gold report “A need to lead” hereunder.

You can also contribute your thoughts on Twitter via #GVAG2G