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ESG takes off

IREM’s ESG Advisory Council keeps pace with the rapidly changing landscape of ESG in real estate management

By Jesse Anderson, LEED AP O+M, Fitwel Ambassador, LFA
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Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives in real estate management have gained pace as a growing number of owners seek to mitigate the effects of climate change on their investments and more properties are in jurisdictions with climate-related regulations, among other factors. In response to this growing demand, IREM and the ESG Advisory Council seek to provide IREM members and the real estate management industry with the knowledge and tools to act on their ESG priorities.

IREM’s ESG Advisory Council

Interested in getting your properties certified through the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) program? Learn more about the certification and download application materials at irem.org/gogreen.
A key duty of the ESG Advisory Council is to provide technical guidance on developing, modifying, implementing, and promoting the IREM Certified Sustainable Property (CSP) certification program. Since its launch in late 2015, the CSP program has grown to include more than 1,800 certified office, medical office, multifamily, industrial, retail, senior housing, and self-storage properties.

Owners, IREM members, and other real estate managers earn the IREM CSP for their properties as a framework to implement best practices for sustainable operations, set performance goals, and enhance ESG reporting. The CSP program is meant to be more approachable than other programs like LEED and Green Globes and excels at facilitating staff and service provider engagement around sustainability priorities.

In addition to advising on the CSP program, the ESG Advisory Council supports the development of resources on ESG, including educational content and research, to help IREM members tackle this growing priority in real estate management.

2023 accomplishments

In 2023, representatives of the ESG Advisory Council joined professionals from the self-storage sector to advise on developing a new CSP program for this property type. After several meetings to discuss the attributes of self-storage properties, the adoption of sustainable operations in the sector, and other factors, the work group drafted, debated, and finalized the program requirements. IREM certified the first self-storage properties that met the requirements later in 2023.

The ESG Advisory Council supported the development of the IREM Skill Badge: Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), participating in the workgroup and serving as instructors. The IREM Skill Badge: ESG covers:

  • The goals and benefits of ESG
  • Trends and opportunities related to ESG in real estate
  • How to create an integrated ESG platform
  • Ways to put ESG into action
  • ESG data reporting and transparency
  • Best practices in a case study

The Skill Badge is a deep dive into ESG, but it’s approachable and addressed to real estate managers and their teams. Upskilling entire management teams will be essential as ESG grows in importance, and the course is perfect for this purpose. It’s available at irem.org/courses/skill-badges.

The Advisory Council also supported the development of other IREM educational content, including ESG-related episodes of IREM’s From the Front Lines podcast, JPM articles, and webinars. IREM has built an excellent selection of Skills On-demand courses on sustainability and ESG best practices and trends. Topics include deep dives into ESG, renewable energy, sustainable capital improvements, energy resilience, energy and water conservation strategies, and energy efficiency as a service (EEaaS).

2024 goals

The goals of the ESG Advisory Council in 2024 include supporting the 2024 IREM ESG Survey, launching the week of Earth Day, April 22, and advising on the development of the next version of the IREM CSP.

First deployed in 2022, the IREM ESG Survey assesses respondents’ practices and perceptions around ESG. This data will be critical as IREM further develops a response to the growing importance of ESG and helps prepare IREM members and the real estate management industry for ESG’s impacts. The survey asks respondents about formal ESG strategies, adoption of different ESG initiatives, and familiarity with ESG concepts. Results can help real estate managers benchmark their practices and IREM identify where education and resources are most needed.

Sustainability and ESG have evolved since the IREM CSP program launched and underwent a minor update in 2018. This year, representatives of the ESG Advisory Council and a selection of CSP participants are working to develop a new version of the CSP, which IREM will launch in early 2025. The work will build off the 2023 ESG Advisory Council’s initial discussions on a new version.

The Advisory Council in 2024 will also support the development of educational content on ESG. This includes several episodes of From the Front Lines, JPM articles and columns, and webinars. These options allow us to inform IREM members about rapidly developing issues and trends in ESG, such as the changing regulatory landscape.

Looking ahead

ESG in real estate management will continue to evolve with the growing impacts of climate change, new regulations on the horizon, and emerging technologies to support efficiency. The ESG Advisory Council is positioned to help IREM keep pace with these changes. We’ll continue to support the development of programs and resources that help real estate managers develop meaningful and effective ESG strategies.

ESG’s growing impact
> In 2023, participation in the GRESB Real Estate Assessment grew to over 2,000 property companies, REITs, funds, and developers with USD 7.2 trillion in assets participating, covering 170,000+ assets across 75 countries.
> According to research by the Governance & Accountability Institute, 98% of companies in the S&P 500 published sustainability reports or disclosures in 2022, up from only 20% in 2011. 90% of companies in the Russell 1000 published reports in 2022, compared to 60% in 2018.
> The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that ESG initiatives are considered important to 41% of U.S. workers. ESG is especially important to younger workers, with 46% of Generation Z and 55% of millennials saying ESG is important.

Journal of Property Management

Jesse Anderson, LEED AP O+M, Fitwel Ambassador, LFA, provides sustainability leadership for Blanton Turner, AMO®, and its portfolio of properties as its director of sustainability. His expertise is born out of a M.S. in sustainable development from Uppsala University in Sweden. Jesse is the 2024 ESG Advisory Council chair and has served as a member of the group since 2015.

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