This piece originally appeared in the Globe and Mail.
“Sustainability has changed in the corporate world from being a duty to being a competitive advantage,” said Margaret Knowles, Senior Vice-President of Development at Morguard Investments.
Morguard, a real estate company using green energy to help its buildings achieve LEED status, is one of many businesses making renewable energy part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy.
But why are major real estate firms directing resources toward renewable energy in addition to focusing on infrastructure projects, such as HVAC upgrades and lighting retrofits?
An informal survey of real estate and property management companies supporting renewable energy reveals that in addition to core environmental benefits, another factor stands out: reputation.
Alto Rentals, a new residential rental building in Toronto’s Little Portugal, positions its commitment to renewable energy as a differentiator in a competitive rental market. It is the first rental building to include one year’s worth of Bullfrog Power’s green electricity for all tenant suites.
“Feedback from residents has been very positive. Our renters have said they like how Alto incorporates sustainability, offers modern features and is integrated with the existing community,” said Scott Bigford, Senior Vice-President, Operations, Realstar.
Ottawa-based KRP Properties, which chooses green energy for its public and common areas, also sees green energy as a competitive advantage, albeit in the commercial rental market.
In an effort to address the typically large carbon footprints of commercial properties, KRP developed a green plan that positions environmental sustainability as a hallmark of a higher standard of care for its tenants.
“We wouldn’t be successful in achieving our sustainability goals if it wasn’t for the co-operation of our tenants, customers and clients. They are truly the cornerstone to our program,” said Karli Deter, Marketing and Communications, KRP Properties.
For larger firms, renewable energy can be an important part of their sustainability strategy. Ivanhoe Cambridge, a global real estate company for example, uses its position as one of Canada’s most prominent supporters of renewable energy with Bullfrog Power as a proof point to its multiple stakeholders of its commitment to sustainability.
Supporting green energy is one way Munich Reinsurance achieved carbon neutrality globally in 2015.
As Gary Gray, senior vice-president and CFO, Munich Reinsurance Company of Canada, explains, “Corporate responsibility is an essential part of our company’s strategy. Our partnership with Crown Property Management in Toronto and the sustainable design of our Vancouver office have facilitated making the best choices for environmental practices.”
In Canada, working with Crown Property Management, Munich Re is choosing Bullfrog Power for the entire building where the company’s head office is located: the Munich Re Centre at 390 Bay Street, Toronto. Additionally, Munich Re is choosing Bullfrog Power for its regional office in Vancouver.
As the examples of these organizations suggest, renewable energy is an increasingly important reputational tool for sustainably minded property management.