Jakob Lange, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).
What’s the best way to get the real estate industry
to help save the planet? Show them the money.
By Deena Pantalone and Joanna Creed, Venturon Ltd. (www.venturon.com)
What’s good for the environment doesn’t have to be bad for business.
We are Deena Pantalone, Venturon Founder, and Joanna Creed, Venturon Director of Operations and General Counsel. We recently had the honor of being invited to participate at the inaugural CREtech Climate Global Leadership Summit in Copenhagen held in May 2022 and led by Michael Beckerman, CEO of CREtech, the largest global consulting, media, and conference company devoted to technological innovation in the real estate sector.
Deena and Joanna visiting Copenhill and exploring the ski slope, rock climbing wall and tree lined hiking trails at the CREtech Climate Summit.
The Global Summit brought together leaders in climate change and sustainability with the mission to galvanize the real estate industry to reduce its carbon footprint throughout the entire Built World. This is a goal that speaks to the heart of our business philosophy. Our company, Venturon Ltd., is a venture capital group that invests in, and mentors North American companies developing innovative technologies, products and services for the construction and real estate industry.
Sustainability is the defining issue of our generation, and real estate has a significant exposure due to climate risk, particularly in the Sunbelt, coastal cities and the pacific northwest. We believe that it is also a major business opportunity for those companies and individuals who develop the right answers in the march towards a more sustainable future.
There was a consistent messaging at the Summit that even though there is a moral imperative to act to prevent climate disaster, the most effective way of getting the real estate sector on board will be to demonstrate financial rewards.
“The best way to get momentum moving is to make it clear that tackling climate change is the biggest commercial opportunity of our lifetime,” said Mikkel Bülow-Lehnsby, chairman and co-founder of NREP, a leading Northern European vertically integrated real estate investor. “In the long term, those companies that solve the problems have a major competitive advantage. Thinking any other way has always been baffling to me.”
“The message has to be about a return on investment,” said Mazyar Mortazavi, CEO and President at TAS Impact. “Preaching won’t get us anywhere. Showing the results will. We need an industry mindset shift and most of the real estate industry will not shift in the absence of financial returns.”
Copenhill: Designed by BIG, a waste-to-energy facility converting 440,000 tonnes of waste into clean energy annually.
A second theme from the CREtech Climate Global Leadership Summit was that it is time to start working together. Solving the greatest problem of our generation calls for collaboration, especially with the short time we have to avert climate catastrophe. We need to share insight on tech integration, new building materials and other climate strategies to broaden the knowledge base and learn from the success and failures in our industry. The benefits of getting it right through strategic cooperation are worth the hypothetical risk of “losing” a competitive advantage. All failing the same way doesn’t move the needle towards decarbonization.
Underpinning the entire effort is access to accurate data. We can’t define success unless we have specific KPI’s to benchmark against. Roxana Isaiu, Chief Product Officer at GRESB, reminded us of the importance of measurement when it comes to energy and carbon emissions. She emphasized that if buildings aren’t measured properly and companies are dishonest with their data then those misleading figures can jeopardise our mission to decarbonize the industry. It’s too important an issue not to be honest and accurate.
And finally, in the incisive and insightful words of Gensler’s Juliette Morgan, addressed to a room full of real estate executives, asset managers, and venture capitalists, “We need to stop doing stupid s---.” To illustrate her point she gave the example of importing sand from Germany to build a tower in Dubai, a place that has an abundance of that material. So, yes, sometimes we do need to get our heads out of the sand.
The CREtech Climate Global Leadership Summit was an important step for the industry and a timely addition to the knowledge of our team at Venturon. Currently, we are putting together a report on thought leaders, real estate professionals, venture capitalists and start-up companies that are working to solve this problem right here in Canada. Look out for it in Summer 2022 or reach out to us to learn more (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
Founder & Managing Partner
Director of Operations & General Counsel
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