CPN-RICS Survey: Sustainability Driven by Bottom Line

Throughout the commercial property industry, the shift toward green development and sustainability has proven resilient even as the industry has been laid low by the global economic slump. Indeed, it is increasingly the economic benefits of sustainability, rather than environmental concerns, that is behind the drive to green, according to a just-released survey conducted jointly by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and CPN.The study, conducted as a supplement to RICS’s quarterly Global Commercial Property Survey, canvassed an international slate of real estate professionals about the most important sustainability issue among their client and their own firms. The results indicated that the most pressing sustainability issue worldwide was energy supply, which 29 percent of respondents listed as their clients’ main concern regarding sustainability. Energy was followed by transport issues, with 19 percent of respondents tabbing that as the most crucial factor. Occupying the third spot was waste management, with 12 percent of respondents listing that as the most pressing issue. Interestingly, these bottom-line factors beat out environmental concerns among respondents. The mitigation of air and water pollution was named by only 11 percent as the most important issue for clients. Natural resource conservation, land contamination and habitat/biodiversity loss were also much less likely to be at the forefront of client firms’ minds. Likewise, among prime reasons driving clients’ sustainability efforts, respondents overwhelmingly listed business bottom line first, while ethical/moral reasons and responsibility to protect the natural environment were listed least often as the primary driver. Respondents in Australia, though, placed responsibility to protect the environment second after client demand (with business bottom line a distant third). In Japan, competitive advantage was the standout driver, while only respondents in Germany, the United States, India and Canada saw marketing purposes as the main driver.As for the respondent firms themselves, the bottom line was also listed as the main driver of their sustainable effort. Thirty-two percent of respondent firms fingered business bottom line as the main driver in efforts toward sustainability. Legal compliance was the next most popular reason, with 19 percent of respondents. Competitive advantage was also cited by a number of respondents. In an industry that has seen two of its most high-profile properties—the Empire State Building and Sears Tower—announce sweeping sustainability programs within the past months despite the industry-wide downturn, the economic benefits of greening are becoming ever-more evident. It’s clear that in today’s market, going green makes sense–and also makes dollars.