Our free access period ends on the 18th April 2022. To find out about membership to Sustain RE, please contact us.

Sustainability conference ReThink HK returns to the city on October 5th-6th at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In its third year, the event aims to help businesses accelerate their transformation towards a more sustainable future. It features a number of speakers from the real estate industry and a “Rethinking Built Spaces” programme, focusing on the built environment.

Sustain will be reporting from the conference next week so look out for news and interviews. 

See https://rethink-event.com for more information. 

JLL has promoted Helen Amos to the role of head of sustainability for Hong Kong. 

She has over 18 years of experience in the sustainability sector, working for companies including Mace and Cundall before joining JLL in 2020. 

Amos specialises in the development and implementation of decarbonisation targets and strategies for both operational and embodied carbon. 

Alex Barnes, managing director of JLL Hong Kong and Macau, said: "Sustainability has become an important element in the real estate sector and our clients are increasingly taking a building's sustainability into account in their investment decisions as sustainably operated properties perform better in the long term at both the asset and portfolio levels.”

Longevity Partners has opened its first office in Asia. 

The real assets ESG consultancy has set up shop in Tokyo and appointed Kemmu Kawai as country director for Japan. The UK-headquartered company now has nine offices worldwide.

Etienne Cadestin, founder and global CEO at Longevity, said: “To respond to fantastic client demand and accelerate our impact in the Asia Pacific region, I am delighted to announce the launch of our Asian headquarters and fully owned subsidiary in Tokyo. We are very excited about our Japanese expansion, the world's third-largest economy.”

“Though the country is the fifth largest carbon emitter in the world, Japan has a very ambitious emission reduction program to halve its emissions by 2030. Longevity's local team of experts will provide a unique global experience to the local real asset market to meet its climate goals. Our ambition is to create plenty of green jobs and employ more than a hundred people in the next few years in our Tokyo office, to support our partners and accelerate the region's decarbonization efforts.”

Collaboration and data are needed to drive decarbonisation and climate resilience in Asia Pacific, ULI conference delegates heard this week. 

The first session of the ULI Asia Pacific Summit, which took place in Hong Kong on August 30 and 31, focused on industry efforts to decarbonise and to mitigate climate risk. 

The summit also saw the launch of a joint report by ULI and HSBC, looking at climate risk in the Greater Bay Area of China, which consists of major Southern China cities such as Guangzhou and Shenzhen, as well as Hong Kong.

The report found that market participants were only in the early stages of assessing, pricing and mitigating climate risk. Limited availability of high-resolution data was cited as a prime roadblock for dealing with climate risk.

Throughout the session, leading Asian real estate experts called for more industry collaboration to address the issues of decarbonisation and climate resilience. Sharon Quinlan, head of real estate finance at HSBC, said there was “a variable degree of understanding” across the real estate industry about climate risk. 

Jenny Lee, undersecretary general for the Hong Kong Green Finance Association, said market players needed access to climate data in order to fulfil their regulatory obligations; she added that the finance industry needed to upskill in ESG.

Raymond Yau, general manager, technical services & sustainable development, at Swire Properties, said the need to engage with tenants over Scope 3 emissions had been a major motivation for Swire’s collaborative efforts in sustainability.

Lendlease Global Commercial REIT has announced that it is the first Singapore real estate investment trust to achieve net zero.

L-REIT said the target was achieved "through various carbon reduction strategies including energy efficiency initiatives and reducing energy consumption within its Singapore assets". The REIT cut its electricity consumption by 12%.

Kelvin Chow, CEO of LREIT’s manager, said: “As the first S-REIT to attain net zero carbon status, we are poised to make strides in our decarbonisation journey to achieve absolute zero carbon by 2040. Besides adopting energy efficiency measures, we are actively exploring new ways to reduce our energy consumption.”

LREIT also said it expected to meet its sustainability performance targets under its S$960 million ($688 million) of sustainability-linked loans and S$216 million of sustainability-linked derivatives, triggering reduced interest payments.

The REIT owns S$3.6 billion of real estate and its portfolio comprises a Singapore mall, a Singapore mixed use office and retail asset (pictured above) and a three-building office complex in Milan.

Esther An is chief sustainability officer at City Developments Ltd (CDL), a Singapore-listed

real estate developer and investment manager with total assets under management of S$23.9 billion ($17 billion). It manages a number of private funds and real estate investment trusts, as well as owning hotels group Millennium & Copthorne.

An has been in post since 2014, making her one of the longest- standing sustainability heads in the region.

You started out in communications with CDL, how did your role and the firm’s interest in sustainability develop?

I joined CDL in 1995 to set up its public relations arm, reporting to the late Kwek Leng Joo, who was then managing director. My mentor for two decades, he was a nature lover and visionary corporate social responsibility champion. I had the privilege to work with Mr Kwek in formulating CDL’s ethos of “conserving as we construct”. The company’s leadership has been committed to sustainability.

My department became more involved with the company’s growing CSR initiatives and, in 2014, we consolidated and streamlined the structure and I assumed my current role.

Was there a particular moment that sparked your interest in sustainability?

My first job as a graduate was with a government agency in Hong Kong where I promoted public programmes, including the Clean & Green campaign. It further inspired me to catalyse community and youth programmes that drove eco-consciousness.

The turning point for me joining the sustainability profession was when I became a mother of two in the mid-1990s. As a mother, I was naturally more concerned about climate change, food security and anything that would potentially impact the future my children would live in.

What have been your proudest achievements at CDL?

CDL being the first Singapore company conferred the SDG Pioneer award in 2018 by the UN Global Compact. It recognises not only a personal accomplishment, but also celebrates the two- decade long commitment of CDL’s sustainability journey.

The zero-energy Singapore Sustainability Academy (SSA) is my pride and joy. The SSA was designed and built by CDL as Singapore’s first ground-up and zero-energy facility dedicated

to advocacy, capacity building, and the sustainable development goals. It is an extensive partnership involving six government agencies and 15 founding industry and non- governmental organisations.

CDL has also initiated the My Tree House library in Singapore to encourage environmental literacy and love for nature, and the CDL Green Gallery, a zero-energy art gallery built in 24 hours using modular construction.

What is the next stage for the company’s sustainability ambitions?

To support global and national goals, CDL’s net-zero commitment will remain the top priority in the near and long term. CDL is one of 7,550 companies worldwide in the UN Race To Zero campaign.

Last year, we were the first real estate conglomerate in Southeast Asia to sign the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. This is a global pledge to achieve net zero operational carbon by 2030, covering new developments and existing wholly-owned assets under our direct management and operational control.

CDL will also accelerate the push towards adoption of green innovation and technology to achieve net-zero solutions. In 2020, we created a Green Building & Technology Application team and are collaborating with the National University of Singapore’s School of Design and Environment and with the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore. CDL also invests in a green proptech funds.

We are exploring circularity practices and solutions, such as adopting advanced low-carbon construction methods and materials as part of our efforts to reduce embodied carbon. Low-carbon solutions have also been piloted at our corporate headquarters.

Collaboration is crucial in meeting the climate emergency. In January, CDL and Global Green Connect launched Sustainability Connect, a platform to connect and empower sustainability professionals amid growing demand for ESG training.

How different are the sustainability challenges CDL faces in the APAC region and worldwide?

Renewable energy is a challenge for Singapore due to land scarcity, so the public and private sectors must step up on collaborations to find innovative technologies and solutions to raise energy efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint.

In the wider region, there is still a lack of awareness about the benefits of sustainable business and a view that it is just an extra cost. We need to raise awareness of the potential to add value.

How do you think Singapore is doing overall in terms of sustainability?

Singapore’s development as a clean and green city is the result of decades of planning and effort, striking an important balance between development and conserving the environment.

In February, the government stepped up its commitments, announcing that Singapore would raise its ambition to achieve net- zero emissions by or around 2050, aided by a rising carbon tax.

How much do you try to live sustainably?

I have not eaten red meat for 30 years, drive an electric vehicle and try to walk or use public transport where possible. I have also always recycled clothes by giving them to friends or charity.

ULI Asia Pacific and Taronga Ventures have launched a competition for real estate sustainability solutions. 

ULI and the sustainability and proptech-focused investment manager have teamed up for the Innovation in Sustainable Real Estate Challenge, which aims to reward innovation projects which have delivered superior sustainability outcomes in real estate. 

Real estate and proptech companies are invited to submit case studies on a particular solution which was implemented to create sustainable environmental impact such as reduction of carbon footprint, energy optimisation and efficiencies or waste management solutions.

Winners will be announced at the ULI Asia Pacific Summit on August 30th.

 Registrations close on July 12th. For more information, contact: asiapacific@uli.org

New World Development has issued a dual tranche of US dollar green and social bonds, which it claims is a world first.

The Hong Kong-listed developer has raised $200 million from the social bond, which pays a coupon of 5.875% and $500 million from the green bond, with a coupon of 6.15%, both issued under its sustainable finance framework.

New World also said it was the first non-financial corporation in Asia to issue social bonds, where the proceeds must be used for projects with positive social outcomes. The developer has stakeholder wellness and advancing community development as two of the four pillars of its sustainability strategy.

Edward Lau, chief financial officer, said: "We are delighted to be the first corporate in the world to issue a USD-denominated social and green dual tranche offering in the public bond markets. The growth of social bonds is reflecting a diversification of sustainability objectives financed by investors.

"Corporations and financial institutions will become more active in the social bond market as the pandemic accelerates private issuers' interest in social considerations. And, while the recent surge may have been precipitated by Covid-19, the appeal of social bonds as a sustainable finance instrument may endure long after its effects have subsided."

Asia Pacific hotels are lagging the rest of the world when it comes to sustainability, however investors are keen to improve its performance, a JLL report claims.

Following the signing of the Glasgow Climate Pact and by agreeing to the Paris Rulebook by COP26 in November 2021, the sustainable Hospitality Alliance reported that hotels in the world need to reduce carbon emissions by 66% per room by 2030 and by 90% per room by 2050. The hotels sector is also the biggest consumer of energy and water among all real estate sectors, JLL said.

Asia Pacific hotels perform worse than their counterparts in the US and Europe, partially due to the need for more air conditioning in many markets and also due to the higher proportion of full service hotels. 

A JLL survey of 168 owners and operators of Asia Pacific hotels found that 75% of investors considered ESG factors are important when deploying capital in the region. However only 25% had tapped sustainability-linked finance for their assets.

Owners and operators were more focused on improving operational ESG performance and more sustainable construction, rather than retrofitting improvements to existing assets, the survey found.

“The hotel industry in Asia Pacific does lag other regions when benchmarked on sustainability factors and practices. However, we do see opportunities for new developments built by local high net worth individuals and local corporates and developers to tap global investors for green funding options,” said Nihat Ercan, senior managing director and head of investment sales, Asia Pacific at JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. 

The report said investors and operators in Asia Pacific found it difficult to secure cheaper sustainability-linked finance, which could help towards retrofitting existing hotels to make them net-zero. 

The main challenges cited by investors and operators were lack of consistent data, lack of in-house expertise and the related difficulty of determining the key performance indicators against which to measure success.

A Hong Kong real estate investment trust has secured a second sustainability-linked loan from Bank of China. 

Sunlight REIT’s HK$800 million ($100 million) loan follows an earlier HK$500 million loan from Bank of China (Hong Kong). More than 60% of the REIT’s borrowings are now sustainability-linked finance.

This SLL, which is an unsecured loan facility and has a tenure of four years, allows Sunlight REIT interest margin reductions based on achieving environmental sustainability performance targets: reduction in energy consumption and indoor air quality certifications. The proceeds of the loan will be used for refinancing and general working capital.