Sunday, February 17, 2019 | ePaper

Real estate sector's push for sustainability

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Hannah Jones :
The listed real estate sector heeded this call for action and is ready to take further steps to ensure that the built environment fulfils its role in a carbon-neutral future.
Last week in London we hosted our Sustainability Workshop for the third year running, which gathered over 100 stakeholders from the European listed real estate sector and external experts to debate sustainability at large and in depth, its impact on the sector and how the industry in turn can meet challenges.
The prime focus of the morning was to better understand the phenomenon of global climate change, both current and future risks and how property companies can contribute to tackling these issues.
Christopher Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London as well as the keynote speaker, briefed the audience about why there is such a reluctance to act on combating global climate change despite its imminent danger and the far-reaching consequences it could bring.
The prospects of keeping global temperatures below the desired 1.5°C threshold seems gloomy at best, with Rapley stating that "we are imperfectly adapted to the climate system we inherited and we are not adapted to the system that we are provoking".
These sentiments echo the warnings and future predictions as seen in the most recent IPCC report, yet Rapley stressed that we still have time if we act now.
Notably, one of the most positive and encouraging signs come in the form of corporates and markets, which in combination with political will and legal implementation, are key factors in spearheading actions that can steer us towards a future in which global warming stays well below a 2°C temperature rise rather than the current trajectory set for a 3 or even a  4°C temperature rise.
This call for action set the tone for the rest of the day, as the following panel sessions continued to explore the climate-related aspects of sustainability, and how listed companies can bring their ambition, competence and resources to the forefront.
Among the most notable benefits, property companies are directly accountable to their shareholders and have to be in tune with the dynamics of market demands, which has resulted in high CO2 reduction targets and substantial investments in renewable energy and storage in line with the European Commission's long-term strategy for a climate neutral Europe by 2050.
While the listed sector clearly has a key role to play in combating global warming, there are other areas of sustainability in which property companies are making progress, particularly in terms of advancing well-being and governance.
Wellness has fast become one of the top priorities for the listed sector, as companies have increasingly taken steps to boost productivity and comfort through a series of measures, including flexible hours, natural lighting and community engagement.
Additionally, diversity has long been the talking point in the sector and it is now time that we push forward and start acting on these issues as well. There is a clear agreement that the industry can only engage with the public if the staff and management teams more widely reflect the population at large.
At a time when sustainability is the topic that is on everyone's mind and governments are not in tune with international obligations, the listed real estate sector is leading the challenge and spearheading sustainability at multiple fronts.
(Hannah Jones is the communications manager at EPRA, the European Public Real Estate Association).

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