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Three Tips for Marketing Sustainability Success

June 26, 2019 | Todd Feist

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The link between sustainability and asset performance is becoming clear. Studies show that stocks of sustainable companies outperform their less sustainable peers and REITs with higher Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance, as determined by GRESB scores, have higher returns on assets (ROA) and returns on equity (ROE). (For more about these studies, see the notes at the end of this blog.)

As this link comes into view, more owners are pursuing comprehensive sustainability initiatives for their portfolios. One way that property managers can provide value to owners who prioritize sustainability programs—and maximize the asset performance associated with sustainability success—is to market the achievements of green properties.

Following are three tips for marketing that success.

  1. Create a plan.
  2. IREM education, including the courses required for the CPM, ARM and ACoM credentials, stress marketing according to a plan. Marketing the property’s sustainability achievements is no different.

    You can roll your sustainability marketing into the overall marketing plan for the property or create a separate plan. A best practice is to address the following:

    • Goal(s)
    • Target market
    • Key messages
    • Timetable
    • Budget

  3. Get leasing staff on board.
  4. Your leasing staff is key to communicating sustainability achievements. Educate them on sustainability in general and the green features of a particular property.

    AMLI Residential engages leasing staff to educate existing and prospective residents on the benefits of living in an ENERGY STAR® certified community and the energy-efficient features of their properties. AMLI is a 2019 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, partially for this effort.

    On the commercial side, try to get brokers to understand that tenants and their employees care about this stuff. Make sure you reach your existing tenants with messages about the property’s sustainability features and reinforce these messages as lease renewal approaches.

  5. Use marketing-friendly metrics and equivalents.
  6. The café at IREM HQ in Chicago has a Bevi machine. IREM employees fill reusable cups and glasses with a choice of flavored waters, and the display on the Bevi dispenser keeps a running total of how many plastic bottles the IREM team has prevented from entering the waste stream. You may have seen a similar display on Elkay water fountains.

    You can also determine equivalents for your resource reductions. Say you were able to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the office building you manage by 600 metric tons through an energy management program. You know about this reduction because you track the building in EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager®, which calculates GHG emissions.

    You can use another EPA tool, the Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, to obtain a marketing-friendly equivalent for the reduction. In this case, you have reduced GHG emissions for the equivalent of:

    EPA tool
    Source: U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator

    These equivalents offer a concrete reference point for the GHG reductions. Everyone receiving your marketing message has seen, heard, and smelled cars and their pollution, making the reduction in building emissions real and accessible.

For more tips and tools on achieving and marketing sustainability success, visit

Here are the details on the studies referenced above:

  • “Impact of Corporate Sustainability on Organizational Processes and Performance” by Robert G.Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim appeared in the December 23, 2014, issue of Management Science.
  • “The Financial Rewards of Sustainability: A Global Performance Study of Real Estate Investment Trusts” by Franz Fuerst was published June 16, 2015.

About the Author
Todd Feist is sustainability program manager at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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