Sander Paul van Tongeren, senior sustainability specialist for global real estate and infrastructure with APG Asset Management, joined REIT.com for a video interview at REITWorld 2012: NAREIT's Annual Convention for All Things REIT at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego.
He was asked to discuss some of the most significant changes in corporate sustainability policies in recent years. He noted that the industry has made use of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards at the property level. There has also been a major development on the portfolio level as well.
"We now have a leading scheme focused on the investment portfolio level, the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), which is backed by leading real estate associations such as NAREIT. It's fully backed by 35 institutional investors. I think that's a fairly strong signal to the market," van Tongeren said.
Van Tongeren also offered his perspective on the differences between regions around the global in terms of sustainability practices.
"We do see big differences in terms of regions. What we tend to see is that a lot of listed property companies in the U.S. are very keen on energy efficiency, carbon emissions," he said. "But it is hard for them to understand sustainability from a European perspective is sometimes beyond energy efficiency. The other thing is we see a lot of large, listed property companies really focusing on sustainability. It's on the radar screen. Nevertheless, the smaller and medium-sized companies still need to be convinced or need a little bit more education."
Van Tongeren discussed the effect of programs such as GRESB and NAREIT's Leader in the Light in pushing the commercial real estate industry to adopt better sustainability practices.
"I think it's very promising now that NAREIT fully endorses the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark and that it is really integrated in the Leader in the Light program," he said. I think it sends a strong signal to the market that it is really about enhancing and protecting shareholder value. It's not about doing 'green stuff' or being the most sustainable company. It's really to improve from an operational point of view and really optimize your buildings in a way that creates shareholder value."