Australian companies lead the global property pack, with Lendlease named most sustainable commercial office fund in the 2017 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), and Mirvac named most sustainable real estate company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI).
The global real estate sector has been steadily increasing its sustainability performance, according to the 2017 GRESB results, with the average score 63 out of 100, up three points from 2016. The number of participating companies was up too, with 850 entities reporting (up 12 per cent), representing AU$4.6 billion in total gross asset value. All up, 77,000 assets were covered in the assessment, spanning 62 countries.
There were 66 Australian companies reporting with a combined total value of $205 billion. While last year Australia led the pack with an average score of 74, this year regional results are being delayed for a further week, and will be released on 13 September. It is widely expected the region will top the charts again for the eighth consecutive time.
Already Lendlease has announced it was named global leader for commercial property, with its Australian Prime Property Fund Commercial ranked number one for the third time (it topped the charts in 2014 and 2015). Its Australian Prime Property Fund Retail ranked number two in the Oceania region.
“Being recognised as the world’s best for the third time reinforces our leadership position in responsible property investment globally,” Josh McHutchison, managing director of Lendlease’s Australian Investment Management business, said.
The GRESB survey is a voluntary environmental, social and corporate governance exercise that typically assesses the performance of top-performing property companies.
The GRESB results were closely followed by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which typically is released a week later.
The DJSI named Mirvac its global industry leader in real estate, taking the crown from Stockland.
“In line with the company’s commitment to enriching communities and shaping the future of place, performance with respect to social integration and regeneration remained strong this year particularly due to Mirvac’s efforts to create connections, via infrastructure and building strong community ties,” a DJSI report statement said.
“We are very proud to have our long-standing commitment to sustainability recognised by the DJSI RobecoSAM assessment,” Mirvac chief executive and managing director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said. “We’re striving to make a real and measurable difference as a leading Australian company.”
Australia was also represented as a leader in banking, with Westpac named most sustainable bank for the 10th time, and third time in a row, despite much negative media attention earlier this year over an unwillingness to distance itself from the Adani mine. An updated policy released in April effectively blocked new funding for coal, however.
“In the last 12 months we’ve renewed and extended many of these commitments – with our updated Climate Change Action Plan and Reconciliation Action Plan, and our world-first Financial Inclusion Action Plan each setting ambitious targets in areas where we feel we can have a meaningful impact,” Westpac Group chief executive Brian Hartzer said.
“Receiving external validation for the strength of our sustainability practices shows that we are on the right path.”
The DJSI index is designed to give investors information to compare companies on a range of metrics, including corporate governance, risk management, climate change strategy, environmental management, human capital development and stakeholder engagement.
The index deals with the sustainability of business processes and operations, rather than the environmental and social sustainability of end products or services, which may explain why British American Tobacco was added back into the DJSI fold this year.