Creating Resilience

3 Tips for Marketing ESG in Commercial Real Estate

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ESG in Property Marketing

There is perhaps no concept in commercial real estate as nebulous as Environmental Social Governance (or ESG). Whether or not you’re familiar with the intricacies of the subject, there’s a good chance you’ve heard it associated with commercial real estate. ESG represents an organization’s corporate and financial focus on sustainability and ethics—and how they speak about it. Unlike other passing phases in the real estate zeitgeist, it’s clear that ESG is not only here to stay but will become a priority, with a recent survey from CBRE revealing that 70% of global real estate investors and occupiers heightened their focus on ESG in 2022. 

So how can commercial real estate support these initiatives, and how do you market ESG value propositions to tenants? As both investors and occupiers develop their strategy and deepen their sophistication around this topic, marketing naturally needs to respond, providing better narratives around the ESG initiatives and benefits at a property or project. So you can not only join, but lead the conversation, here are three tips on addressing ESG within your property marketing efforts:

3 Tips for Marketing ESG

  1. Learn the Basics

    Understand the fundamentals and vocabulary of ESG
  2. Identity Overlaps

    Find out how ESG fits into your audiences’ goals
  3. Keep it Simple

    Distill your message and keep it focused
esg-learn-the-basics

Even as our collective understanding of ESG grows, it’s important to first learn the basics. Understanding of each of the three components of ESG; Environmental, Social and Governance; will be fundamental to representing these pillars in your project. Reading the latest articles, connecting with experts, and following industry leaders in the space can build and refine a holistic understanding of the topic. We’ve included some resources to get you started at the end of this article.
 
Once you start learning about ESG you’ll see how quickly the intricacies and differing goals can become overwhelming, so we’ll focus on high level principles to keep things in perspective. For occupiers, ESG can span from hiring to supply chain to manufacturing and real estate. For investors, ESG is typically addressed on two levels: the business and the project. At the project level, considerations like vendor diversity, carbon reduction, and risk management are at the forefront.


esg-identity-overlaps

As we noted above, both investor and occupier ESG strategies cover the entire business practice. Just as every client is unique, so their strategies will be too. Understanding the ESG goals of your client and target tenants will uncover which considerations should be prioritized in marketing efforts. Let’s explore the overlap between occupier and investor ESG strategies from the perspective of a property, by exploring common interests for each pillar. 

Environmental is the most tangible pillar, as resource and energy conservation have long been part of marketing a property. Certifications like LEED, Net Zero Energy or Zero Carbon are important features to highlight as 79% of survey respondents from a recent CBRE survey said that green building certifications have an impact on real estate decisions. Both investor and occupier strategies may include clear targets around certifications, often going beyond what is required by local code, or may speak to resource conservation or Green House Gas (GHG) emission reductions. While certification is one component, other affordances like water recycling or renewable energy will be increasingly favored as rising resource costs drive the need for resilient design systems. 

Human health and wellness are perhaps the easiest way to connect the Social pillar of ESG to a project. Certifications like WELL or FitWel are a straightforward way to show how a building addresses physical and mental health, but other factors such as proximity to public transportation, DE&I programming, and inclusive building design can also be opportunities to share your Social impact. On the occupier side, the Social pillar speaks to employee diversity programs and resources as well as supporting the community through special programs. For a mixed-use project, this pillar could also speak to affordable housing opportunities and programming such as Farmer’s Markets. 

Finally, Governance. From a real estate perspective, this pillar isn’t as linear as the Environmental and Social pillars. In real estate, this pillar speaks to accountability and ethical processes that adhere both to internal and external standards, such as local ordinances or national oversight. Programs such as diverse vendor supplier programs, risk management processes and standards review can all be included as part of this pillar.

Now that we’ve outlined how ESG strategy applies to commerical real estate, you must tailor your message to your audience. Depending on the context, you may need to keep it high level or go into detail. Clearly understanding the overlap between occupier and investor strategies will help clarify the level of detail required to best represent your ESG considerations.


esg-keep-it-simple
Now that you know what you’re saying and who you’re working to convince, it’s time for the hard part. You need to refine all you learned into a pithy, clear, and honest message. This is where the science of marketing ends and the art begins. There are a few good rules of thumb for distilling the value of a project. Cut out jargon. Avoid technical language and explain concepts in familiar terms. Use analogies. Remember that ESG is about making meaningful change for people and the planet. Keep that at the heart of your messaging strategy, ensuring that everything you say reinforces those goals.

It’s easier said than done, so let’s give a few examples. Adding ESG to your property marketing might be as simple as adding a slide to a presentation deck or page to a brochure that outlines your project’s ESG efforts. This can be bullet pointing certification targets or outlining vendor diversity considerations. Keep it to a few key points. To speak to an occupier’s ESG strategy, you might include information in your materials about access to diverse talent or on-site spaces that tenants could use for their community programs. You can also express the project’s ESG efforts visually. Create site plans or building diagrams that outline the positive impact of your project. You might leverage these proof points to develop email or social ad campaigns, explaining how your project will deliver a conscious impact with short form video or engaging illustrations. As you can see, marketing ESG can cumulatively build awareness about the value your project delivers.

Steer the Conversation

ESG strives toward a more conscious, inclusive, and empathetic future, so your ESG property marketing strategy should follow the same principles. Listen to and understand the goals, establish a shared vision among the parties involved, and communicate that vision with clarity to a wider audience. As the concept of ESG evolves, every conversation around it will expand, shape, and define what it truly means. Clearly voicing your take on ESG is an opportunity to establish your organization as a leading voice in the field and increase your chances of connecting with leading occupiers who seek to do the same.

Resources

Let’s reimagine property marketing together.

Calibre Creative Group’s in-house team of industry leaders delivers award-winning, full-spectrum strategies that open new horizons in commercial real estate marketing.