Article by Chris Beales
Real estate is crucial in creating positive sustainability outcomes for a local community, here are three ways an in-use asset can enhance its social value delivery.
1 – Understand local need
Understanding local needs help activities and interventions that generate social value to go the furthest. Building a ‘place-based strategy’ through local needs research centres around addressing people’s key priorities and allows social value to be delivered with the appropriate community partners.
There is typically a wealth of knowledge in the public domain on how to target social value delivery. From using hyper-local data such as the Indices of Multiple Deprivation to understanding council priorities through local policy to identifying local community groups and charities that are working within the community; various sources can help inform how an asset can target its social value delivery to create the greatest benefit to society.
Asset owners can target local needs through their operations in a number of ways. Ensuring that there is a direct link between the local council’s social value priorities and the social value strategy (?)at each particular asset can align delivery with the local authority. Looking to partner or offer space to community groups can be a valuable resource in unlocking social value in the community. Targeting specific social value activities in areas with deprivation, for example, job-related social value in areas with high employment deprivation can serve to deliver the social value that will matter most to that area. Asset owners can provide mission statements on the social value goals of an asset, tailored to the asset’s location to increase the transparency around how the community is being served by its real estate.
Understanding and embedding the needs of the asset’s surroundings into an asset-level ‘ESG’ or social value approach – as well as periodically reviewing how the needs of the local area change over time – is crucial to delivering the value that is most needed.
2 – Pull in the same direction
A range of people and stakeholder groups are involved in social value creation at an asset. Activities carried out by the property management team, the suppliers and the occupiers create the picture of an assets social value delivery. If the property management team is responsible for diverting waste from landfill, if the cleaning team employ local people or the maintenance team employs apprentices, or if the occupiers of the asset donate equipment, spend time visiting local schools or have mental health initiatives in place, all this activity will be delivering social value and forming the asset’s impact on society.
The important consideration here is that these stakeholders intertwine and should be working together. Property managers can target suppliers on certain areas of social value delivery, and the management teams can run initiatives at the asset to help get the occupier base involved in delivering social value. Asset owners that provide guidance and support to the property management teams in what it means to deliver social value can increase the asset’s impact.
3 – Measure, report and improve
If all this activity is not tracked and monitored, there will be no consistent outcomes. Processes must be in place for the asset owner to track data around the initiatives that are taking place at an asset, whether that’s volunteering hours, resources being donated, people receiving jobs or simply money being spent. Not only does collecting consistent data provide the means for communicating sustainability performance to any interested investors and other stakeholders, but it also allows for target setting and improvement plans to be created.
Periodically evaluating an asset’s social value performance against targeted metrics and activities will lead to better social outcomes and build a clear picture of all the good being delivered in a particular location.
Asset owners should consider these three recommendations when implementing a sustainability or ESG strategy for their real estate portfolio. As investor demand and industry regulation create a need for robust and improved ESG policies, implementing processes that lead to clear and impactful social value delivery can elevate an investment strategy’s approach to responsibility.
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