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Crown's leading GRESB result caps ESG progress in 2022

Toronto real estate investor, manager's core fund earns 5-star rating from global benchmarker

Crown's 901 King Street W. property, where it is seeking an ActiveScore certification in 2024. (Courtesy Crown Realty Partners)

A leading position in the 2023 GRESB real estate assessment is a catalyst for further improvements in Crown Realty Partners’ environmental performance, according to Emily Hanna, managing partner of investments at the Toronto-based real estate investment and management firm.

Crown's core fund placed first out of 10 submissions in the Canada office corporate core category, and second out of 80 entrants in the Americas non-listed/core/closed-end categories. For the fifth consecutive year, Crown received a five-star rating from the Dutch ESG benchmarking organization.

GRESB recognized Crown’s efforts to green its building portfolio, as seen through initiatives to address greenhouse gas emissions, energy intensity, water consumption and other metrics.

“Just like last time, we hope to use the recognition to motivate our teams to foster a culture of continuous improvement,” Hanna said in an email exchange with Sustainable Biz Canada.

Crown’s portfolio under management stands at over 10 million square feet in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Ottawa.

Crown’s ESG progress

Hanna said Crown is interested in creating more sustainable buildings because “our role is to reposition assets to best-in-class,” which includes improving energy efficient and fostering healthier workplaces.

“Because we are value-add focused, we are acquiring buildings at the opportune time in their life-cycle to make intelligent decisions around ESG retrofits,” she continued. “These investments result in energy savings and improvements in other performance indicators including GHG (greenhouse gas) reductions. Investing in these upgrades not only reduces asset risk, but it also creates meaningful value.”

Crown had progressively introduced data tracking, key performance indicators, operational efficiencies and upgrades for waste, water, energy use and carbon dioxide emissions at its properties, Hanna said.

“We are very pleased that this kind of progress is recognized in the GRESB assessment.”

An example of its work is 101 McNabb Street, a property it manages in Markham, just northeast of Toronto. Crown replaced two of the four boilers with more efficient models, so one boiler can now sustain a comfortable environment in the building during the summer months, Crown’s 2022 ESG report states.

It also partnered with Bullfrog Power to power Crown Management’s GTA offices with renewable energy. Crown purchased 245 megawatt-hours of clean electricity and 1,344 gigajoules of green natural gas, cutting its carbon dioxide emissions by 97.5 tonnes in 2022.

Crown took additional steps in 2022 such as completing decarbonization plans for its core fund, enlisting consultants to develop decarbonization planning for 12 assets totalling 2.4 million square feet across its fund portfolio, and enrolling 1.5 million square feet of its Ottawa portfolio in the city’s Better Buildings Ottawa program.

The company surpassed some 2023 environmental targets set in its inaugural ESG report, published in 2020. Crown achieved:

  • a 24 per cent reduction in energy-use intensity, compared to a 15 per cent reduction goal;
  • a 23 per cent cut in its greenhouse gas emissions, against a 15 per cent reduction target; and
  • lowering water-use intensity by 51 per cent, compared to a 15 per cent reduction ambition by 2023.

Its entire fund portfolio has been sustainably certified under programs including BOMA BEST, Fitwel, Energy Star and LEED, beating its goal to have sustainable certifications for over 90 per cent of the portfolio.

The one interim environmental goal it is still working toward is its reduction for nonhazardous waste. In 2022, Crown reported a 66 per cent reduction; the goal is an 80 per cent cut by the end of 2023.

Going further on ESG

The GRESB success was met with a cheer by Crown, according to Hanna, who said the achievement rewards a team effort within the company that encompassed being financially, strategically and operationally sound.

Crown does not plan to rest on its laurels. The GRESB results, Hanna hopes, will motivate Crown teams to foster a culture of continuous improvement.

“Knowing that GRESB is moving in the same direction as Crown gives us added confidence in our long-term strategy and planning. Plus, our investors are excited to entrust their capital to leaders in the field.”

Crown’s climate change commitment is planned for release by the end of 2023.

It plans to address Crown's corporate operations with a target for near-zero carbon by 2040. It also plans to expand training for ESG and climate governance to all team members and utilize decarbonization studies across its fund portfolio and operations.

Crown's next steps involve partnerships with owners of district energy systems and buildings, partnerships with energy companies, and exploring new technologies. 

“I’m excited to see our team take these decarbonization plans and continue to move them forward,” Hanna said.

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