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Five tips for asset managers to cut greenwashing and reduce carbon

4th October 2022

Having worked in environmental, social and corporate governance and energy management across various sectors for over fifteen years, I’ve seen ESG go from a peripheral afterthought to today’s central concern.

That, is a good thing, but the sudden pace of change and an eagerness to quickly demonstrate progress has led to an imbalance between tangible action on the ground and time spent reporting, benchmarking and earning accreditation badges.

However, with net zero targets looming ever closer, we need to step up our efforts and put measures in place that actually cut carbon and embed sustainability into every aspect of business operations.

Here are my top five tips for companies on this decarbonisation journey:

Get obsessed with data

Almost every single asset manager these days asks for ESG data in the form of reports or dashboards. These are great tools, but being presented with a summary often means that there isn’t the same incentive to really dial into the data or go behind the scenes.

This is the first thing any asset manager can improve. My advice is to dig deeper into ESG data, to the same degree that you would do with rent or valuation data. Get a little obsessed with it and you will be ahead of the game.

Complete two ESG activities each quarter, no excuses!

Many times, asset managers have to do significantly more in the initial years of any net zero carbon pathway or corporate targets being published and they forget that business is an infinite game and not a sprint. There is no trophy for winning as there is no finish line.

It is better to stay consistent, deliver two ESG activities each quarter per asset (eight a year) and try to mix up key areas such as carbon, social value, wellbeing and biodiversity. Hit this target each quarter and the improvement in 24 months will be impressive.

Ask why, more

Whenever an ESG expert tells you what technical or environmental services you need to ask why, in terms of absolute reduced carbon, improved social value or biodiversity.

Many aspects of ESG are linked more closely to reputation than true impact. Asking why will help you understand the difference.

Chase carbon reduction or ESG improvements, not badges

It’s important to remember that ESG is not a PR exercise and not about demonstrating your good intentions. 

Start seeing carbon emissions performance as more important than ESG ratings, just as you would differentiate between with actual rental values and ERVs. 

Trust your judgement on assets

ESG is complex when you explore the details, but at a leadership level, I always tell asset managers, just trust their moral judgement and always think about what is best for their children or the next generation.

Simple questions you can ask yourself: will increasing the greenery in my office have a positive impact on workers? Should we make time available during the month for fun activities with the team?

This feeling is almost always right in ESG regardless of how technical the subject may be.

Rowan Packer is head of sustainability and social value at property manager MAPP, which has developed a sustainability framework to act as a one-stop-shop for services which set out a net zero carbon roadmap.

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