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A new competition has been launched for companies specialised in the decarbonisation of real estate.

European investment manager Azora and CBRE Spain have launched the Climate Solutions Challenge, a European competition to identify leading companies which contribute to mitigating the environmental impact of real estate, increasing the adaptive capacity of urban ecosystems and delivering a positive impact on society. 

The competition is open for smaller companies with EBITDA of up to $10 million.

“The Climate Solutions Challenge is a direct route for European companies to access a unique business development opportunity in decarbonisation by working with two of the most important companies in the real estate sector,” said Fernando Gómez Fortún, investment director at Azora.

“With the Climate Solutions Challenge we hope to identify more innovative formulas with which to accelerate decarbonisation and achieve a much more sustainable real estate sector", said Patricia García de Ponga, head of ESG at CBRE Spain.

Applications will be accepted until Monday, December 11, and the winning project will be eligible to receive funding from Azora and work with both companies to boost its business development. More details are available here.

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) has appointed Aleksandra Smith-Kozlowska as director, sustainability research.

Based in London, she will focus predominantly on ESG and environmental sustainability across the built environment, working with ULI’s European and US research teams.

Smith-Kozlowska joins from consultancy JustOne and prior to that spent six years at JLL, where she was a sustainability consultant and an in-house sustainability manager.

Lisette van Doorn, CEO, ULI Europe, said: “In close collaboration with our members from across the globe, we have developed extensive programmes geared towards accelerating the decarbonisation of our industry. Aleksandra will play an important role within the sustainability research team here, collaborating with our global colleagues, and she will be working closely with our members to pilot some of the progressive measures ULI is developing.”

AXA IM Alts has appointed Laurent Lavergne to the newly created role of global head of sustainability.

Lavergne, who joins on October 1 in Paris, will report directly to global head Isabelle Scemama. His new role includes the responsibilities of Justin Travlos, global head of responsible investment, who is leaving after five years with AXA’s alternative investments arm to return to Australia.

The new role covers AXA IM Alts’ business lines, comprising real estate, infrastructure, alternative credit and natural capital & impact investments.

The investment manager said its decarbonisation strategy would be a key focus for Lavergne. Targets include aligning 50% of the business’ real estate AUM with the Paris Agreement targets by 2025, avoiding carbon through investment in renewable energy solutions, and sequestering carbon through investment in forestry and timber management investments.

Lavergne has more than 28 years’ real estate and has been with AXA IM Alts since 1994, most recently as global head of real estate asset management and development.

Scemama said: “Sustainable investment is integral to our business and plays a fundamental role in our decision making to ensure we deliver value to our clients through future proofed investments that positively impact the world around us. 

“Laurent’s appointment marks a critical point in the acceleration of our decarbonisation strategy across our business lines, as we continue to protect our investments, mitigate against climate risk and advance our market leading approach in this field.”

JLL has launched a new proptech-powered decarbonisation advisory service. 

The new Decarbonization Strategy business line aims to help corporate real estate owners and investors understand their carbon footprint and develop a data-driven investment roadmap to create and protect value across their real estate portfolio. 

The service uses Carbon Pathfinder, JLL’s new software as a service technology, which “provides investment planning insights to support carbon reduction goals,” the firm said.

“Combining local technical expertise with unique technology, we can effectively and quickly guide companies through their entire decarbonisation pathway,” said Guy Grainger, global head of sustainability services & ESG at JLL. “This offering provides a quick, step-by-step process for organisations to manage risk and unlock value on real estate portfolios across asset classes and geographies.”

Carbon Pathfinder was developed by JLL Technologies, the broker’s in-house technology division. It forecasts climate transition risk for investors and occupiers, so they can plan capital projects and evaluate returns.

Sharad Rastogi, CEO of JLL Technologies’ Work Dynamics Technology group, said: “Carbon Pathfinder allows decision makers to explore various decarbonisation scenarios and determine which ones will maximize their sustainability investment—while minimising their risk.”

NREP has announced a final close of €3.65 billion for its fifth value-add real estate fund.

The ESG-focused real estate manager said the new vehicle would invest in underserved real estate segments across the Nordics and selected Northern European markets. “The focus is on residential rental properties, modern logistics facilities, care homes and offices, where the company can create value through customer-centric and decarbonising solutions,” NREP said in a statement.

Rune Kock, CEO, NREP, said:“The significant scale of this fund enables NREP to make a meaningful impact through our focus on customer-centric and decarbonising ­real estate strategies, and set a positive example for the industry to follow and ultimately scale. 

“By focusing on structurally supported sectors and demographically driven trends, we have the proven ability to create value across cycles whilst demonstrating the commercial viability of brown to green real estate transition strategies.”

NREP is now part of Urban Partners, a sustainable investment platform with €20 billion in assets under management, which also houses venture capital firm 2150, credit platform Velo Capital, and private equity investor Luma Equity.

The new fund has made 33 investments to date, including the Vällingby Centrum project in Stockholm, which was acquired for an environmental and social sustainability-focused enhancement strategy.

British Land has secured planning approval for an ultra-low carbon logistics hub in Paddington, London. The 121,000 sq ft facility will provide inbound access to HGVs with outbound deliveries via smaller electric vehicles and electric cargo bikes.

The UK real estate investment trust says the new facility will remove around 100 large vans from Paddington’s roads every day, leading to a substantial reduction in emissions compared with the infrastructure previously needed for the deliveries it processes. 

BL has also commissioned two recently-published studies, from UCL and the Centre for London, on urban logistics. Smaller developments, such as the Paddington project, can receive deliveries on a few lorries each day and then deliver on zero emissions vehicles. Such ‘microhubs’ do not need to store goods, only relatively small EVs. 

As well as lowering emissions, use of smaller EVs for last mile delivery reduces noise and congestion and should also cut delivery times. 

Mike Best, head of logistics at BL, said: “The post-pandemic demand for ultrafast deliveries comes with major impacts on emissions, air quality, congestion and road safety, which urban logistics hubs can combat. 

“Replacing traditional vans with sustainable electric vehicles and bikes can deliver carbon savings of up to 90% per parcel alongside the wider positive impact on air quality and wider environment for local communities.”

ESR has launched a 2030 roadmap for sustainability.

The Asia Pacific real estate investment manager said the new ESG 2030 Roadmap built on achievements under the 2025 roadmap, launched in 2020.

Jeffrey Shen and Stuart Gibson, ESR co-founders and co-CEOs, said: “Since the launch of the ESG 2025 Roadmap in 2020, we have taken big strides forward in our ESG journey. We continue to raise the bar on our ESG actions and impact, creating long-term value for our stakeholders.”

Since 2020, ESR, which has $150 billion of assets under management, has installed nearly 100MW of rooftop solar power capacity across its portfolio, exceeding its initial target of 52 MW by 2025. It has also improved the male/female staff ratio to 55/45 from 60/40 and secured sustainability certifications for 39% of its portfolio, as well as securing $3 billion of sustainability-linked loans.

The 2030 roadmap targets include achieving a 50/50 gender balance, sustainability certifications for 50% of the portfolio and creating an ESR Group Foundation programme with an investment capacity of up to US$20 million. 

The most ambitious target is to install 1,000MW of rooftop solar capacity across the group’s portfolio, which has 45 million sq m of gross floor area.

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.”

Sustainability was the area most improved in the sub-indices which make up the JLL / LaSalle Investment Management Global Real Estate Transparency Index 2022, but was also the least transparent overall.

The index ranks nations for real estate market transparency on a number of metrics: performance measurement, market fundamentals, governance of listed vehicles, regulatory & legal, the transaction process and sustainability. The UK is ranked the world's most transparent market, followed by the US and France. This year, Japan climbed into the top tier of most transparent markets, boosted partly by its improved sustainability transparency performance.

The sustainability-scoring methodology in 2022 focused on energy reporting, GHG emissions, construction standards, climate risk reporting, green leases and health and wellness in buildings. In sustainability, the US and France lead, with the UK in third place. Singapore, which does not make it into the top 10 for overall transparency, ranks 6th on sustainability.

LaSalle IM global strategist Jacques Gordon said: "With all the new guidelines, disclosure regulations and pledges, it is no surprise that the sustainability sub-index ranks the lowest of all the transparency sub-indices, reminding us of the nascency, complexity and noise surrounding this critical topic.

"Yet, the it is also the most improved, showing that many countries across the world are working through the noise and striving to build the guardrails necessary to measure and influence positive outcomes related to sustainability."

Overall, real estate scored relatively high on green and wellness building certifications and energy benchmarking, but lagged on green leases, emissions reporting and resilient building standards. For example, France is the only nation to mandate green leases.

The report noted that many of the most improved areas in sustainability were focused on carbon and climate change, reflecting the industry's new focus on fighting climate change.

BBVA has invested in Fifth Wall's Climate Fund, which will in turn invest in companies seeking decarbonisation solutions which address the entire lifecycle of buildings.

The Spanish bank said its investment would "help the bank learn firsthand about the most disruptive technologies to fight global warming, while also gaining exposure to the business opportunity that investing in climate tech presents". The amount of capital invested was not disclosed.

Earlier this year, the bank invested $20 million in Lowercarbon Capital, a venture capital fund targeting decarbonisation solutions, particularly in the field of carbon capture.

Proptech venture capitalist Fifth Wall has $3 billion of assets under management and boasts investments from real estate companies such as British Land, CBRE and Kimco Realty Corporation, as well as other investors. The firm was founded in 2016 by former real estate investment bankers Brad Greiwe and Brendan Wallace.