On July 23, 2020, the real estate SRI label was published in the Official Journal after three years of development within the group led by the ASPIM and bringing together representatives of savers, investors and public authorities. The label will be effective on 23 October 2020 and real estate funds will finally have the chance to receive the label.

Offering an initial common reference for responsible real estate funds, this state label responds to an urgent need to formalize good investment and management practices.

The label helps providing transparency to investors regarding the quality of the applied non-financial actions. Indeed, responsible approaches are multiplying. According to the OID, 81% of reports from unlisted funds, SCPI and OPCI “grand public” funds, mentioned ESG criteria in 2018. Collectively defining the principles of a more sober, resilient and inclusive real estate industry is urging.

A necessary paradigm shift to address the climate emergency

As the first energy consumer and the second largest CO2-emitting sector in the French economy, real estate contributes significantly to the production of waste, water consumption and the disappearance of biodiversity. The label offers the opportunity to go further in the integration of environmental, social and governance criteria. The social role of buildings is at stake. The time spent in enclosed spaces each day exceeds 21 hours. It is essential to acknowledge criteria related to health, comfort and well-being, as well as proximity to mobility. Buildings must be welcoming and better integrated into its environment, but also encouraging communication, information and knowledge sharing while remote working becomes widespread.

Using savings as a driver for change

At the end of 2019, assets under management with the Socially Responsible Investment label weighted more than 121 billion euros, a continuous growth since the release in 2016. This strong performance reflects the dynamism of SRI-labelled products, even if they only concerned securities funds until now. Demand for responsible savings products is strong and encouraged by the Pacte law (“Loi Pacte”), which implies that life insurance contracts must include an SRI-labelled vehicle starting from the end of 2020, and Greenfin and Solidaire starting from the end of 2021.

French and European regulatory pressure, both the development of extra-financial reporting (Article 173) and the reduction of energy consumption (Décret Tertiaire), has had an impact on ESG criteria integration for investors and the development of responsible funds.

The label now offers the opportunity to benefit from this regulatory compliance to translate this constraint into opportunities.

Financing the transformation of the real estate industry

With a renewal rate of 1% for office stock, efforts have to be made on improving the existing stock. The label requires the ESG assessment of 90% of the fund.

The energy and environmental performances have to be integrated in the ESG evaluation grid for the Environmental pilar. The grid must also include a criterion related to mobility or well being for the Social pilar and related to the supply chain management for the Governance pilar. Performance monitoring is expected and must be steered from the definition of two groups:

the Best In Class: these are the properties that obtain an E+S+G rating above the threshold rating defined by the asset manager. The rating must be maintained;

the Best In Progress: these are the properties that obtain an E+S+G score below this threshold. An improvement plan must be elaborated in order to improve the group score by 20 points in three years.

The label is rigorous and also requires the development of an annual reporting for ESG indicators, the ESG commitments of key stakeholders and the communication of the ESG strategy and its results to investors.

The label is obtained for three years and asset managers will have to report annually on the progress of the process and maintain their efforts to keep the label.

 

The Real Estate SRI labelling process allows to go beyond the necessary regulatory compliance. Understanding the changes of the sector offers opportunities for value creation with more resilient investment and management strategies. SRI investments help collecting additional funds and financing a more sustainable and responsible economy.

Written by Hugues-François COURTOIS.