04/01/2013 | by
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Commercial Real Estate Sustainability Progressing in the U.S., Kok Says

Nils Kok, co-founder and director of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2013 Leader in the Light Working Forum in La Quinta, Calif.

The mission of GRESB is to enhance and protect shareholder value by evaluating and improving sustainability best practices in the global real estate sector
Kok discussed the results of the latest global sustainability survey and the differences in sustainability efforts in the United States and in other countries.

“In the United States, there has been a vision that Europe and Australia are ahead of them in terms of goals and prioritizing sustainability initiatives in the real estate sector. What we're seeing more and more is that the U.S. is catching up,” he said. “The U.S. is very much focused on a pragmatic approach to integrating sustainability, very data-driven, action-driven and opportunity-driven.” 

Kok said the U.S. is more focused on a “bottom-up” approach relative to Europe and Australia. Attitudes towards sustainability vary from region to region, he said.

“I will say that whereas European and Australian investors were quite early when it came to sustainability integration and investment decisions, we see it happening more and more in the U.S. and in Asia,” Kok said.

He also discussed a shift in opinion on the topic of the benefits of sustainability, as well as a possible misperception.

“I think we have really seen a shift in green as an opportunity to drive higher returns to green as an opportunity to protect returns. So, we’re more moving towards the downside risks of not being sustainable and efficient,” he said.

Kok added that one of the “elephants in the room” pertains to the impact of green building on productivity and sales. He said that there needs to be better metrics to prove that sustainability is directly related to performance.