“Our company has reduced our emissions by 20%!” The frequency of carbon disclosure headlines such as this is only increasing as the real estate industry steps up its environmental initiatives. [Read more…]
Sitting at a desk all day, staring at a computer screen, eyes strained and shoulders slumped —sound like you?
Health Impacts of the Office
The typical American spends nearly a quarter of their week at work. Most of us, however, don’t think about the toll that work takes on our health. Many people neglect their own well-being—sleeping less, eating unhealthy foods, neglecting relationships with friends and family—to get ahead at work.
Everything from how we sit to the indoor air quality in our office can impact how we feel, both physically and mentally. What’s more, prolonged stress and a sedentary job can result in weight gain, headaches, high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack. Studies have also shown that people who work more than 11 hours a day have an increased risk of depression as compared to people who work seven or eight hours a day.
Simple Steps to Improving your Health at the Office
Luckily, there are four simple ways to improve your health at work:
- Take a break: Studies have shown that standing or walking for 5 minutes every hour during the work day can have positives impacts on our health, including increased focus and attention, reduced hunger and an improved mood. Consider hosting a standing meeting or taking a conference call from your cell phone while walking around the block.
- Climb the stairs: Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator is a great way to improve your fitness. Studies have shown that walking up stairs for just a few minutes every day can stop the average middle age weight gain and can half the heart attack risk over 10 years. If your office doesn’t have stairwell access, talk to building management about opening the stairs between floors.
- Eat healthy: Eating healthy foods can decrease the risk of heart disease, strokes, obesity and diabetes. Instead of grabbing a mid-afternoon bag of chips, go for something healthier like an apple or a granola bar.
- Sit up straight: Slouching all day can have a dramatic effect on your physical well-being. Sitting up straight, keeping your computer monitor 20-30 inches away from your eyes and typing with your arms parallel to the floor, can reduce your risk of back and shoulder pain and carpel tunnel injuries.
Wellness in the Workplace
Many employers and building owners/operators are seeing an increase in awareness about wellness in the workplace and are making health and well-being amenities a priority. It is becoming common to test indoor air quality, install standing desks, offer healthy snacks and provide employees with fitness memberships.
Many office spaces are also going after rigorous third-party wellness certifications, including WELL, Fitwel and RESET. WELL and Fitwel take holistic approaches to wellness in the workplace, focusing on prerequisites and optional credits ranging from noise reduction, access to fitness, healthy food guidelines and health and well-being education. RESET certification focuses on the quality of indoor air with requirements including continual indoor air quality tracking and monitoring and providing real-time results to building occupants. By achieving a wellness certification, building owners and operators are signaling to existing and prospective tenants that extra thought was put into the design and operation of their office space, with a focus on health and well-being.
Creating a healthier workplace doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, and making simple changes can have dramatic results. Employers and building owners/operators have reported an increase in employee retention and productivity and employees have reported feeling healthier and more satisfied in their new office space, demonstrating the benefits of building and certifying healthy office spaces. It is important to take care of your physical and mental well-being at work — use this as your reminder to take a deep breath, stretch and stand up!
Impact Investing 101
Providing access to energy for remote, underserved communities. Repairing infrastructure and buildings to improve resilience against climate-related shocks. Developing skills-based trainings and creating new job opportunities. These are just some of the initiatives that governments, NGOs, non-profits, and philanthropic foundations help finance around the globe each year. But who is to say that initiatives that address social and environmental issues should be the sole responsibility of governments and NGOs? Why is that the accepted status quo? Enter impact investing.
Impact investing is an emerging investment market that is changing how social and environmental issues are being addressed. Rather than leaving the responsibility solely to governments and NGOs, impact investing, a subset of socially responsible investing, pursues investments that generate social and/or environmental benefits in addition to positive financial returns. Broadly speaking, impact investing has gained traction in recent years because it allows investors to invest in funds that align with their own social and environmental goals and priorities while maintaining competitive financial returns.
Since this market has been unlocked, investors have noticed favorable financial returns with rates that appeal to a variety of investors, leading to market growth.
Trends in Practice
The impact investing market is bigger than you might think and is growing rapidly. The Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) Annual Impact Investor Survey, which provides an overview of the impact investing market, featured 229 investor participants in 2018 representing $228 billion in impact investing assets under management. This number, according to Amit Bouri, CEO of GIIN, is largely seen as the floor and has continued to grow since the first survey was released close to a decade ago. What’s more, the impact investing community is attracting more mainstream investors. According to the GIIN Survey, a third of respondents are “established in the ‘conventional’ investing markets”, enhancing the integrity of impact investing while also opening opportunities to increase the flow of capital. Finally, impact investors are largely happy with their investments, and according to the survey, the majority of these investors have met their impact and financial expectations.
As with all good things, it is critical not to overlook potential red flags. Industry growth should be measured and sustainable and continue to refine the metrics and standards by which it defines and evaluates success. By becoming more mainstream, impact investing has brought certain challenges. These challenges include “impact washing”, whereby investments assert nonexistent or exaggerated positive environmental or social impacts. One proactive way to fix this issue, according to GIIN Survey respondents, is through “greater transparency from impact investors on their impact strategy and results”. With new tools, such as the Principles for Responsible Investment’s Impact Investing Market Map and IRIS, an initiative of the GIIN focused on developing a catalogue of impact investing performance metrics, making more informed and action-oriented decisions has become more accessible than ever.
Connecting the Dots
For the real estate industry at large, impact investing could translate into more funds pursuing investments that align with top-down social and environmental goals and help mitigate risks. These can include requiring new acquisitions to meet specific energy performance criteria, ensuring that the acquisition due diligence process includes conducting climate-related risk and resiliency assessments, supplying more affordable housing, or mandating that a minimum number of new jobs created by a project pay a livable wage.
For GRESB, it comes down to increasing transparency and continuing to produce more quantifiable, comparable, and transferable metrics. With close to 70 investor members, GRESB Real Estate provides a platform to proactively evaluate performance and help to influence decision making while advancing the performance of the over 900 real estate respondents. Continuing to enhance the compatibility of GRESB metrics with other rating schemes and impact measurement tools will further strengthen the impact investing market and help quell potential concerns of “impact washing”.
Real estate professionals have been issued a challenge: zero out the net greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage of the built environment. [Read more…]
Our world continues to become increasingly urban. From the 19th century growth of European and North American cities, to the explosive population increase during the 1950s in cities like Tokyo and Mexico City, to the current expansion of cities in China and Sub-Saharan Africa, cities have been –and continue to be– global engines for innovation and economic development. Cities occupy about two percent of the world’s landmass. Their impact however, is colossal; cities consume over two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. [Read more…]