Investment management company AMP Capital has said that it is working to incorporate social equality and human rights into its sustainability agenda.

Speaking to The Fifth Estate, Emlyn Keane, head of property management and sustainable performance at AMP, said that the decision was taken to focus on human rights and fair wages as there had been “too many stories around cleaning companies collapsing without superannuation being paid” and underpaying their employees.

“We’re trying to work with the union, the Cleaning Accountability Framework and the Property Council to ensure that what we’re paying for is getting passed on.

“It’s about ensuring that people are being treated fairly and equitably, which is not only a moral responsibility for us, but also helps boost pride in our assets, which means people will stay longer, and can reduce security and safety issues.”

The move has been welcomed by cleaners’ union United Voice, with its national secretary Jo-anne Schofield telling The Fifth Estate: “It’s great to see industry role models like AMP Capital leading the way on corporate accountability and responsibility.

“In the cleaning industry there is widespread non-compliance with workplace legislation and regulation. Cleaners are exploited and ripped off.

“Responsible stakeholders like AMP Capital are engaging with ESG and supply chain issues. They recognise that a failure to do so exposes them to potential risk to their reputation and brand, and ability to attract capital.”

She added that the union will be working with key industry stakeholders through the Cleaning Accountability Framework to further drive ethical supply chains.

“The result is decent working conditions for cleaners and a sustainable standard of property maintenance”, she said.

As well as working with cleaners, Mr Keane said that AMP is also connecting the tenants and landlords of its asset through the Building Connections program, so that there is a “proactive rather than reactive” relationship between the two.

He added that ensuring tenants are given a voice is important to the company, both in terms of ethics and business.

“A lot of the time, landlords only have contact with tenants when something has gone wrong, but for the last two years we’ve been bringing tenants together and getting them to have a hand in what we’re doing to the asset.

“Tenants control about 50 per cent of the energy consumption of a building, and they’re the ones that produce the waste stream, so getting everyone together to talk about collective outcomes is important, as one can only get so far without the other. The landlord will be restricted if the tenant is not engaged in sustainability and vice versa.”

AMP has been particularly focused on sustainability in recent months, especially since its power shift earlier this year.

•      See our article AMP Capital’s power shift could be good for sustainability

Mr Keane explained: “When we look at any new asset, we have an environmental, social and governance checklist that we apply. For example, we send over our acquisition checklist to the agents that we have working on our behalf to understand where the asset is at in terms of sustainability, which allows us to work out what it will take to get it to where we want it to be.”

The checklist incorporates a range of topics, including energy usage, water and waste efficiency, embodied carbon, greenhouse gas emissions, healthy and safety, and community impact.

He added that AMP wants all assets to have an average of 4.5 star NABERS rating, as “strong NABERS performance has become an expectation for attracting a tenant”.

“We work on the basis that having a low NABERS rating, although it won’t win you a deal, it certainly will lose you a deal,” he said. “So, any asset we are thinking of taking on, we need to know how much it will cost and how long it will take to get it up to the level where we think we lose any lease deal because of that factor.

“What we strive for in our portfolio is a minimum NABERS standard for energy, waste and water, and we have 75 per cent landfill diversion targets, healthy environment targets, and we try to use sustainable materials and minimise volatile organic compound use.”

Touching on the latest AMP acquisition (Sydney’s ATP, which was sold to a Mirvac-led consortium including AMP earlier this month), Mr Keane said that he expected that the site would also showcase sustainability.

“We worked with Mirvac as a partner on 200 George Street and we implemented some fantastic green initiatives there, so I would anticipate that that would be a similar thing.

“You don’t develop a precinct like that and not avail of the sustainability opportunities.”

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