Lisette van Doorn
Chief Executive Officer
Urban Land Institute, Europe
Social value is a rising priority across real estate, yet the fragmentation of the industry may be limiting its delivery. On 15 March, ULI held a webinar to launch the report ‘Zooming in on the “S” ESG: A road map for social value in real estate’; discussing the growing engagement, measurement in social dimensions of sustainable development, market and the key concept of social value.
Report researchers and authors Sarah Forster, CEO of The Good Economy Partnership and Eime Tobari, a social value strategist and Director at COCREATIF, outlined the overall aim of the research project: to develop a shared and better understanding of how we define and measure social value and provide conceptual thinking in order to reach lasting outcomes. Sarah also explained ULI’s six-point road map of how social value can be created, pointing out that in order to drive change, there needs to be a bigger shift towards a common social objective across the real estate industry.
Sarah and Eime explained the effectiveness of ULI’s report in highlighting where there are gaps within organisations and across the value chain that can hopefully be addressed using the road map. She also made a critical point that real estate reporting currently focusses too much on output rather than outcomes, causing a detachment from the initial purpose of creating social value in the industry.
Moderator Lisette Van Doorn, CEO of ULI Europe, opened up the discussion to the panel around how we create and maintain social value. Margarethe Theseira, Head of Economics and Business Advisory at Jacobs, complimented the report on its clear demonstration of where the real estate industry currently is compared to others, as well as the challenges in implementing good social practice. Margarethe emphasised the importance of identifying the total value created through an investment initiative to result in future innovation.
Damo Holt, Director at Rebel, echoed Margarethe’s praise for the report, in particular the number of methods offered in measuring and defining social impact. He also offered his thoughts on how government collaboration is key to ensure social impact is met.
Lisette then explored the importance of how social impact is measured. Sasha Njagulj, Global Head of ESG at CBRE Investors, reinforced Eime’s point on the need to focus on outcome as well as output, by suggesting we consider how an initiative can improve lives. Sasha pointed out that for a while now, the ‘Environment’ in ESG (environmental, social, and governance) has come much further than the ‘Social’ element, blaming this in part on the time it takes to realise and prove how social value has been achieved.
To close the webinar, each of the panellists summarised their thoughts on how we can achieve an alignment between the public and private sector in achieving social value. Margarethe suggested that a clear identification of social value through strong engagement with the local population is needed, in order to ease proposals through the planning system. She also considered how social value can be delivered across all investments at all stages of development. Damo offered an idea of how we can develop ‘social impact bonds’ in terms of real estate development, and Sasha proposed we continue to look at how we can create social value through the buildings which already exist.
ULI UK and urban design and planning practice Prior + Partners, have today launched ‘21st Century New Communities: Raising the Ambition'.