GPT’s Michael Cameron

9 September 2013 — The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark report for 2013 has been released, and Australia is leading the way.

The report is based on sustainability data gathered from more than 500 property companies and funds, providing information on 49,000 properties globally. It covers 46 countries in six continents and is the largest source of portfolio level sustainability data, representing US $1.6 trillion.

“Australia continues to demonstrate global leadership in sustainability performance as the top-performing region in the GRESB Survey,” a GRESB statement said.

“It is the only region that achieves, on average, Green Star status.”

GPT led the field, with the GPT Wholesale Office Fund being named the 2013 Global Leader for Sustainability Performance. The GPT Wholesale Shopping Centre Fund was also recognised as best in the global retail peer group, and in the top 10 overall.

“Sustainability is embedded in the GPT culture and it is pleasing to see our two funds gain this globally recognised distinction,” said GPT chief executive and managing director Michael Cameron. “This achievement proves that sustainability returns don’t have to come at the cost of commercial returns. Both funds were the top two performing funds in the core wholesale sector over one year, delivering the highest returns amongst their peer group.”

Commonwealth Property Office Fund (CPA) was listed as the best Real Estate Investment Fund globally.

“The reason we take sustainability so seriously is because we know it makes good business sense,” said CPA fund manager Charles Moore. “CPA’s cumulative avoided costs alone since FY07 stand at $13 million. Our portfolio of office assets across Australia has an average 4.5 star NABERS energy rating (without buying GreenPower) and an average 3.7 star NABERS water rating.

“In addition, we focus on enhancing the tenant experience, creating vertical communities, providing end of trip facilities and concierge services in select properties, and we outperform our peers in tenant satisfaction surveys.”

Overall, the real estate sector was reducing its environmental impacts, with energy consumption decreasing 4.8 per cent over the 2011-12 period. Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2.5 per cent, while water consumption decreased 1.2 per cent.

Surprisingly, Europe lagged behind other regions, with just a 0.7 per cent reduction in energy used, while North America led with a 6.6 per cent decrease in energy and a 4.8 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

Green building certification schemes were also becoming more common, with 55 per cent of participants having certified office assets and 34 per cent having certified retail shopping malls. LEED certification was the most widely adopted building scheme.

“The GRESB Report demonstrates a clear and upward trend in sustainability performance of the global real estate industry,” a GRESB statement said. “In 2013, 119 property companies and funds achieved the ‘Green Star’ status – recognition for outstanding management and implementation of key sustainability issues.”

“Sustainability is increasingly integrated into day-to-day business decision-making, with over 80 per cent of participants involving senior management in the reviewing and monitoring of sustainability processes.

“The adoption of risk management strategies related to sustainability is widespread: all participants now perform sustainability risk assessments, both for standing investments and for new acquisitions. This sharply contrasts with results for 2012, when only 60 per cent of participants performed sustainability risk assessments.”