Sustainability and Real Estate – Thoughts from the I-Global Conference 3-26-24

We had the pleasure or participating in the I-Global LP and GP Conference yesterday in New York City.  In a fast moving, lots of ground covered panel headlined by Andrea Pinabell – RE Tech, Uma Moriarity – Center Square, John Forester – RMR Group, Hyon Rah – DWS and Randy Hoff – PWC which I had the honor of moderating, the discussion focused on Sustainability, ESG and Real Estate investment.

The panel covered how each of their organizations have set goals and targets for sustainability including some setting net zero 2024 goals (wow), operational efficiency and energy usage reduction goals, water and recycling goals, return on investment goals and how sustainability is used as part of the various lenses to evaluate and determine which assets to purchase and invest in and how resiliency and weather impacts like hurricanes, floods, and wild fires are relevant to decisions being made by investment committees on where to invest and where to divest assets.

We touched on the advent of Energy Star, the free tool from the EPA that has been around for decades and keeps getting better with more in depth features and analysis tools, and how it can be used to measure building performance within a market segment as well as across various market segments given that the data within the tool is normalized for weather and temperature.

The panel defined and discussed Scope 1 (the energy one consumes and the greenhouse gas (“ghg”) impact of it on site), Scope 2 (the energy one brings on site and the ghg impact from a utility) and Scope 3 (the ghg impact from one’s supply chain and one’s own travel) and why it is important to be measuring and monitoring these items, even though the final SEC Rules on Climate Disclosure did not include Scope 3 reporting, noting that the California Climate bills that were passed in 2023, do indeed include Scope 3 measuring and reporting.

We touched on the challenge of data integrity and data management when multiple geographies and product types are owned and operated but that these challenges can be met and how their organizations were indeed including sustainability features within their due diligence processes in purchasing properties and in developing them let alone operating them within their various portfolios.

Building performance on energy, water and waste within the 48 cities, 3 states and 2 counties requiring such monitoring, measuring and reporting was also reviewed as was the new Local Law 97 type mandates requiring greenhouse gas measuring and reporting and a fining regime for non-compliance in various cities like Boston, New York, Washington DC, Denver, San Francisco, etc. were continuing to appear and evolve and how such trends are being tracked by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) on line with an easy to see tool and map.

Lastly, we spoke of the various changes to the final rules in the SEC’s Rules on Climate Disclosure which are now the law, but which have been granted a temporary stay by the 5th Circuit, delaying their implementation but not impacting various public companies from complying anyway given the likelihood that the rules will be required at some point in the near future.

We also learned that the panelists were currently enjoying Columbia University’s Energy podcast, Monday Morning Quarterback, All In, How I Built This and the Energy Gang as their guilty pleasure ESG or other podcasts.

Green Spouts: The picture that was painted by the panelists, despite news headlines in certain business publications to the contrary, is that sustainability, weather incidents, resiliency and risk mitigation are topics that are agnostic to politics and political winds and that very large real estate companies are continuing to focus on and expand their ambit of goal setting, measuring, monitoring and acting on various energy, water, waste and social and governance issues where they believe they can obtain an appropriate return or where they are otherwise being required by law to report their results.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on your Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives. For more information, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, David Amerikaner, Joseph West, Sharon Caffrey, Sheila Rafferty-Wiggins, Alice Shanahan, Jeff Hamera, Nanette Heide, Joel Ephross, Jolie-Anne Ansley, Robert Montejo or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

Proudly powered by WordPress