Improving the benchmarking of ESG in real estate investment

Graeme Newell, Anupam Nanda, Alex Moss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Purpose
Environment, social, governance (ESG) has taken on increased importance in real estate investment in recent years, with benchmarking ESG being critically important for more informed real estate investment decision-making. Using 60 stakeholder interviews with senior real estate executives, this paper examines the strategic issues regarding benchmarking ESG in real estate investment; specifically, identifying areas going forward where ESG benchmarks need to be improved. This includes the issues of granularity, climate resilience and climate risk, as well as an increased focus on outcomes and performance, and using best practice procedures in delivering ESG in real estate investment.

Design/methodology/approach
In total, 60 stakeholder interviews were conducted with key real estate players globally to assess the use of ESG benchmarking in real estate investment at various levels (asset/fund-level, listed real estate, delivery, reporting and internal benchmarking), across regions and across different types of real estate investment players (real estate fund manager, real estate investment trust (REIT), institutional investor and real estate advisor). This enabled key strategic insights to be identified for improved ESG benchmarking practices in real estate investment going forward.

Findings
There was clear evidence of the need for improved benchmarks for ESG in real estate investment. More focus was needed on performance, outcomes and impacts, with a stronger focus on granularity around the issues of climate resilience and climate risk. Improvements in Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), as well as increased attention to Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) were seen as important initiatives. Clear differences were also seen in the use of these ESG benchmarks on a regional basis; with Australia and Europe seen as the world leaders. These strategic stakeholder insights regarding ESG saw the development of best practice guidelines for the more effective delivery of ESG benchmarks for more informed real estate investment decision-making, as well as a series of recommendations for improving ESG benchmarking in real estate investment.

Practical implications
ESG benchmarking is a critical area of real estate investment decision-making today. By utilising stakeholder interviews, the strategic insights from key players in the real estate investment space are identified. In particular, this paper identifies how the current ESG benchmarks used in real estate investment need to be improved for a more critical assessment of climate resilience and climate risk issues at a more granular level. This enables the identification and delivery of more effective ESG best practice procedures and recommendations for improving ESG benchmarking in real estate investment going forward. These issues have clear impacts on ongoing capital raisings by investors, where benchmarking ESG is an increasingly important factor for real estate investors, tenants and real estate asset managers.

Originality/value
Based on the stakeholder interview responses, this paper has identified key areas for improvement in the current benchmarks for ESG in real estate investment. It is anticipated that an increased focus on technology and the availability of more granular data, coupled with user demand, will see more focus on assessing performance, outcomes and impacts at a real estate asset-specific level and produce a fuller range of ESG metrics, more focused on climate resilience and climate risk. This will see a more effective range of ESG benchmarks for more informed real estate investment decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Property Investment and Finance
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2023

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