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Survey Says: Property managers embrace ESG, but acknowledge work to be done

The results of a recent IREM survey of property managers indicates that, while practitioners recognize the importance of environmental, social and governance protocols (ESG), application in specific areas clearly lags behind others.

The survey, sponsored by Yardi, was based on responses from nearly 400 professionals in the US and Canada, split pretty evenly between residential (45.3%) and commercial (46.8%) managers. Mostly, they are employed by property management firms (42.6%) or full-service real estate providers (26.8%). (See below for a more complete profile.)

The good news is that the great majority of respondents view ESG as important, both to the real estate industry as a whole (89.6%) and to property management specifically (90.3%). But considering that just over 84% are familiar with its principles, the survey report notes that “additional training in ESG, developed specifically with real estate managers in mind, may be necessary.”

Which leads to “significantly less” practical application. Less than half (46.7%) of commercial respondents have a formal ESG program, and the numbers drop from there – 30% for mixed use and 20.9% for residential. Not surprisingly, the application rate increases along with the size of the firm. 

Where is the hang-up? Respondents rated barriers to entry on a five-point scale, with 5 indicating “extreme difficulty.” Topping the list was “upfront and ongoing costs” – rating a 3.2. “Investor/owner buy-in” came in second at 3.0 and “determining value” at 2.8. Rounding out the top five were “tenant/resident buy-in” (also 2.8) and “finding qualified vendors, suppliers and installers” (2.7).

The Measure of Success

Companies that have cleared those hurdles have specific measures of success. As the report indicates, the most common measures are “energy, water, and/or waste reductions (67.8%); operational cost savings (53.3%); and satisfaction of tenants/residents (45.3%). Least prevalent are carbon reduction (27.2%) and positive publicity (21.4%).”

These measures, the report states, are natural enough for property managers, given their responsibility for “the financial and operational performance of properties.” But given those areas with lower scores, once again, the opportunity for further education presents itself. 

The top six initiatives implemented by survey-takers were: 

  1. Compliance with laws/ordinances (90.8%)
  2. Policies and procedures for property operations (89.1)
  3. An ethics code or policy (87.0%)
  4. Staff training and development (78.8)
  5. Health and safety programs for staff (78.7%)
  6. DEI (70.7%). 

While environmental initiatives didn’t rank near the top of the list, that doesn’t mean property managers have turned their backs on its goals. Nearly three quarters (69.7%) have implemented energy, water and/or waste reduction goals, while 63.8% have benchmarking in place. Building certifications are key goals for 53.3% of respondents, and sustainable purchasing has the attention of 37.3% of respondents. 

The subject of ESG is clearly a vast one, touching on so many operational and cultural aspects of company success. As the survey reveals, the property management industry has made great strides in some areas but lags in others. That, of course, is the driver of progress.

A further word on respondents

Who took part in the survey? Larger players seem to dominate, with 28.1% managing more than 10,000 residential units and 39.1% overseeing four million square feet of commercial space. In terms of regionality, 35.4% were local, 29.5% regional, 21.8% national, and 13.3% are global. 

Access the full report.

Comments

Thank you for taking the time to read this content and provide comments. The findings reported in our ESG study reflect data collected from a representative sample of 393 real estate practitioners in the U.S. and Canada, and are intended to offer readers unbiased insight. We respect the opinions of all our members, and appreciate that these professionals offer varying points of view on a wide range of topics.

Reply

Hi, As a property manager and commercial real estate agent, I have no time for this. Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment practices distract investors, property managers, real estate brokers and corporate management from maximizing long-term profitability, which is often achieved through innovation, cost control, and customer focus. By diverting attention away from priorities that align with increased productivity and toward a shifting array of inconsistently defined social-impact criteria, the ESG orientation is a long-term threat to continued economic growth and proper management of properties. This is a terrible one-sided agenda that has no place in real estate. Here is an article from The National Review: https://www.nationalreview.com/2022/08/why-esg-is-bad-for-the-economy/ I was not surveyed by Yardi. I would suggest that you actually ask IREM members other than Yardi clients to see how they feel about this irresponsible hocus-pocus.

Reply

IREM use to promote entrepreneurship. IREM used to be focused on Ethics, ESG is not ethical either. ESG is anti-capitalist and has no place in IREM. Please don't waste any more resources on this. I have been a CPM for over 30 years, I have promoted IREM and the education it offer. I will not support these kind of ideas. I also was not contacted and I have been in IREM local leadership for many years. Thank you.

Reply

ESG is the way of the future, but what is standing in the way, particularly in these times and particularly in small properties, is the impact of inflation and scarcity of materials and labor brought about, presumably, by the impact of the pandemic. Right at this time, it is difficult to keep properties safe, clean, compliant, and profitable. There is little left over to make a short-term infusion of funds into ESG even though in the long term it will be beneficial not just for single properties, but for the common good.

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