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Hongkong Land credits a collaborative “holistic ecosystem” with tenants and other stakeholders for significant improvements in its sustainability performance.

The Hong Kong-listed highlighted a number of achievements in its 2023 Sustainability Performance Report including achieving ESG certification for 94% of its assets and reducing Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions by 29% from a 2019 baseline.

It has developed a Tenant Sustainability Partnership Programme which aims engage tenants in sustainable practices and initiatives. For example, in conjunction with retail tenants at its Landmark mixed use asset, Hongkong Land introduced a reward programme for sustainable shopping. 

The company has also committed HK$110 million ($14 million) to its ‘Home Fund’ community programme. The programme invested in 18 projects in 2023 and now partners with more than 100 NGOs. 

Hongkong Land is also taking a full life cycle approach to emissions, including developing bespoke embodied carbon tools. These tools are being integrated into the design, tendering, and construction stages of the company's projects, ensuring that sustainability considerations are embedded in the entire lifecycle of the buildings.

Thriving Investments has raised £100 million ($126 million) in new equity for its flagship private rented sector (PRS) strategy.

The “socially conscious” fund manager, which focuses on the UK living sector, has secured a further £100 million of equity from Universities Superannuation Scheme for its Picture Living platform.

This latest commitment will support Thriving Investments’ ambition to grow the Picture Living portfolio to more than 2,000 homes by the end of 2024. Picture Living has a mandate to deliver high-quality new or modern, predominantly single family homes for rent across the UK. All homes will have an EPC rating of ‘B’ or better.

Jamie Younger, fund manager for Picture Living, said: “Solving the UK’s rental crisis has become an issue of national importance, and one where it has become increasingly apparent that the solution to delivering homes at the scale and pace required lies with institutional capital and fund managers.”

Aviva Investors has provided £50 million in funding to Hightown Housing Association (“Hightown”), which owns and manages more than 8,700 homes and care and supported housing projects in the South East of England.

The investment will help Hightown continue its delivery of new, energy-efficient, and affordable housing across the region. It aims to provide more than 1,000 new homes over the next two years.Aviva has now invested £800 million in housing associations across the UK since 2020, in 16 transactions.

Munawer Shafi, head of structured and private debt at Aviva Investors, said: “Hightown has delivered over 4,100 affordable tenure homes in the last ten years, which fits with our preference for investment opportunities that can also contribute to positive impacts at a societal level.”

The Pension Real Estate Association has published a social sustainability primer for real estate investors. 

The US institutional real estate investor body released What Is the S in ESG?A Guide for Real Estate Investors in order to clarify the topic of social sustainability and provide constructive guidance for integrating such considerations into the investment management process.

PREA says: “Although decisions on how to address social factors within real estate investment activities and which social factors to address are up to specific organizations, we believe that simply ignoring the ‘S’ of ESG could ultimately impede investment performance, potentially reducing returns and/or increasing risk.”

Developed by PREA's social impact committee, the guide identifies common misconceptions about social factors in investments, including the primary one that these are not a matter for real estate investors. 

Social sustainability does not necessarily require investors to sacrifice performance to achieve social or environmental goals, the guide says, citing a 2023 survey by the Global Impact Investing Network, which found that 74% of impact investors target market-rate financial performance and 79% performed in line with expectations.

The guide suggests three main categories under which to consider social sustainability:

  1. Community impact
  2. Health and wellness
  3. Human capital

It also suggests how to create a framework for socially-aware investing and provides guidelines for implementing social sustainability measures. 

The guide “shows how socially responsible strategies can be implemented in a programmatic way with measurable outcomes that are consistent with fiduciary responsibilities", said Jacques Gordon, co-chair of PREA's social impact committee and executive in residence at the MIT Centre for Real Estate.

The report can be found here.

Savills has appointed Michael Blake as an associate director within its social value team.

Blake has 10 years’ experience in the field of social value and community wealth building across the private, public and voluntary sectors. Most recently, he was head of social investment at the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London.

At Savills, he will support clients to get the greatest social value out of projects and programmes across their UK portfolios.

Wesley Ankrah, director of social value for Savills Earth, said: “Michael has been recognised within the sector for his work on helping to create social value and I am delighted he will be joining our growing social value team. Having launched our social value offering in January this year, it has been clear to see the industry demand and the important role the ‘S’ plays in our ESG agenda.”

Wesley Ankrah has joined Savills Earth as social value director.

Ankrah joins the broker’s specialist energy and sustainability division from Dominvs Group, a UK real estate developer, where he led a social value team which delivered social and community value projects and strategies for projects in the City of London, Nine Elms, Stratford and Enfield. 

Prior to Dominvs, he founded SeerBridge, a social value and community benefit consultancy which worked with clients such as housebuilders Berkeley, Bellway and Galliard, and The Earls Court Development Company.

David Jackson, head of Savills Earth, said: “Wesley has industry recognition for his work in social value and we are delighted to welcome him to Savills Earth. His appointment will bolster our ability to ensure social value is embedded in projects from the earliest stage and thereby optimise the benefits derived from the S of ESG.”

Ankrah was awarded Social Value Creator of the Year at the inaugural 2021 Real Estate Investment & Infrastructure Forum. 

Confusion can often pervade the social dimension of sustainability, in particular a lack of certainty regarding which actions deliver truly positive social outcomes and value. 

As a result there is a tendency to favour reporting of inputs and outputs (what’s been done and what happened as a result), which alone does not fully demonstrate success and can lead to restricted or formulaic results.

Quantification of social outcomes is not straightforward, let alone desirable. The change one person experiences from an intervention can be completely different to the change experienced by another. 

Measurement frameworks provide some consistency and benchmarking (albeit based on assumptions and generalisation), but standardisation means that not only can the same project be reported in various different ways depending on which framework or methodology is used, but the experiences of those involved cannot adequately be captured. 

A return to the fundamentals of sustainability: people, planet and profit reminds us all that the social dimension of sustainability should always be about people and improving their lives.

The starting point is asking critical people-centric questions, such as who are our key stakeholders or beneficiaries? How can we reach them to ask them what their individual needs, concerns, challenges, behaviours and influences are? 

Beneficiaries or stakeholders are likely to be different depending on the entity, project or programme. Stakeholder groups may be categorised as internal (an organisation’s employees or a building’s occupiers) or external (customers, members of the wider community, supply chain). Engagement with stakeholder groups is likely to vary depending on many factors such as proximity, accessibility, and spheres of influence. 

Internal stakeholders are typically easier to identify, however this doesn’t necessarily make the engagement process any less intricate. Investing time, effort and expertise will help tease out how an organisation’s operations or a project’s objectives are likely to affect its internal stakeholder groups and vice versa. 

When it comes to external stakeholders, the further away these stakeholders are from the project, place or people, the harder it may feel to identify, access and engage with them. The solution can involve partnerships with local groups, charities or social enterprises. These groups have knowledge of local issues and can access the people experiencing them. 

These groups can help interventions reach the targeted beneficiary and also help fully integrate social value, so the impact lives on beyond the initial project window. This means the real value to society of interventions can be measured and properly evaluated over time. 

Whether it’s an organisation looking at the social impact of its operations on employees or a project team looking at the social value contribution of an asset or project, taking a deeper systemic approach is key to generating positive outcomes. 

Some considerations to take into account in a “people-first” approach to social value.

Maria Garcia is a principal sustainability consultant at Savills 

Co-living can be a sustainable housing solution for expensive and crowded European cities, claims a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and JLL.

The co-living sector provides rental accommodation which is characterised by smaller private spaces and larger shared spaces. Thus renters might have a bedroom and bathroom to themselves but share a kitchen, living room and outdoor space with other tenants. 

Co-living originated in the US, but has spread to other markets as an option for younger tenants looking for better amenities than a flat share and more social interaction than solo living.

ULI and JLL estimated total investment in the sector of around €1.2bn from 2020 to mid-2022, with further investor commitments for various operational platforms.

The report argues co-living can help cities struggling to provide appropriate, affordable housing for rapidly growing urban populations, increasingly made up of small and single households. 

It also highlights potential ESG gains which can derive from shared amenities and public spaces and converting disused buildings and spaces. These include increased affordability, energy efficiency, social engagement and wellbeing.

ULI and JLL have produced a best-practice guide to support the sector’s growth, including recommendations for policy frameworks for developers, design and development of co-living schemes, operations and technology, and financial metrics to improve transparency. 

The sector has typically been targeted at younger renters, however the report suggested it could also suit retired people who want to return to cities to access leisure opportunities and amenities.

ULI Europe CEO Lisette van Doorn said: “There is an ambitious ESG agenda linked to successful co-living projects, by focusing on repurposing of existing buildings and knitting the project neatly into the wider community, by connecting residents to local entrepreneurs or giving the wider community access to some of the amenities, like coworking and a gym. We have barely begun to scratch the surface in realising its true potential.”

Social impact will rank alongside environmental and commercial considerations in its real estate business, says Grosvenor. 

The private property company’s UK business this week launched “People Positive”, its social impact strategy. The company says priority focus areas will be driven by “extensive research into societal and local needs”. 

The strategy focuses on three areas: improving wellbeing, helping local economies thrive by championing inclusive growth and diversity and maximising the impact of Grosvenor’s staff and partners. 

Social impact metrics will now be built into decision making in the same way as environmental goals, the company said.

An early project driven by the programme is the proposed redevelopment of Grosvenor Square in London (pictured above), to promote wellbeing. The square will gain water features, seating education facilities and play spaces to make the gardens more useable for the public.

Grosvenor, which is controlled by the Duke of Westminster, will continue with its charitable Greener Futures programme, which recently expanded to Liverpool and support the Duke’s Westminster Foundation.

James Raynor, CEO, Grosvenor Property UK, said: “We want to have a genuinely long-term, positive impact on people and communities. But this isn’t something we take for granted as an automatic by product of what we do.

“So, we’ve expanded our sustainability ambitions to encompass a business-wide approach to social impact enabling us to understand, measure and maximise our impact. Social impact will now be as much a part of decision making as commercial and environmental considerations – ensuring people and planet are at the centre of our business.”

Creating shared value is the corporate mission of one of Hong Kong’s largest developers, conference delegates heard this week.

Interviewed at the UBS APAC Sustainable Conference yesterday, New World Development CEO Adrian Cheng spoke about the long-term approach to sustainable investment and the importance of the S in ESG.

“Investing in sustainable features or sustainability is more on a medium- or long-term horizon. It’s catering to the next generation. Don’t think about it as a shortcut. In the long-term, you will get tangible and intangible value,” he said.

New World is focused on creating shared value for the community, he said. The company has raised more than HK$39 billion ($5 billion) through sustainable finance, from a combination of green loans and bonds, sustainability-linked loans and bonds, and the first green and social dual tranche bond to be offered by a corporate.

Social initiatives from New World include Share for Good, the first city-wide crowd donation platform which matches donors with the underprivileged and Build for Good, a not-for-profit social housing enterprise led by the business sector, which aims to address Hong Kong’s housing and land supply problems.