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  • Mar 11, 2020
  • Sam Shapiro, Director of Communications & Sustainability Initiatives for Able Services
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The evolution of sustainability in the business of real estate

At a recent business roundtable hosted by the Wall Street Journal, the topic of business decisions was debated; should profit be the exclusive motivator for decision making? Or, as some corporate leaders suggested, should we be considering all stakeholders – clients, customers, community, and the environment?

2019 has been referred to as the year the world woke up to a changing environment. With the planet’s record high temperatures, epic fires in Australia, flooding in Venice and Jakarta, and unpredictable weather patterns, what will this new decade bring? So far, 2020 has a nearly 50 percent chance of being the warmest year ever, in 141 years of record-keeping, while the consequences of COVID19 are yet to be determined.

In this era of uncertainty, commercial real estate professionals are not sitting idle. Owners and managers are taking steps to mitigate the effects of changing weather patterns with design-based technologies intended to enhance resiliency. Some byproducts of these designs will also improve air quality, reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance health and well-being, while also reducing crime.

Buildings and the communities where they operate have changed. Sustainability has changed, too. Last decade we saw green cleaning and energy conservation; this decade we’ll see an evolution with waste. Our country can no longer ship its recycling abroad, and we’re now forced to confront the reality that we can’t rely on the old ways of doing things.  We’ll be required to rethink how, and what, we throw out if we have any desire to preserve our environment.

Services have also evolved. It’s not simply enough to be a low-cost provider and expect to win business. Real estate professionals are looking at larger business trends, considering their stakeholders, and are now tasked to evaluate their supply chain. Which suppliers in the ecosystem of commercial real estate will adapt to meet the new socially responsible criteria? Real estate companies now seek information from their vendors about labor practices, carbon footprint, sustainability policies, and diversity goals.

Service providers will soon (and some currently do) partner with clients to help them reach their sustainability and social responsibility goals. Vendors will be partners in a socially responsible supply chain. Lowest cost is no longer the defining feature in vendor selection—meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria will weigh-in on purchase decisions.

Work has evolved and isn’t just work anymore; it’s how people spend their time. Younger generations in the workforce want to make an impact, and if a company doesn’t provide satisfaction beyond a paycheck, if a company disregards the environment, then younger workers will look elsewhere, possibly taking less pay for a more fulfilling job.

The evolution of the business of real estate will impact more than just real estate. It’ll impact our future health, well-being, lifestyle and environment.

About the Author
Sam Shapiro, MBA, is the Director of Communications & Sustainability Initiatives for Able Services. He has been working in the CRE industry since 2012 and is a TRUE Zero Waste Advisor.

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