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Dream Group aims for 2035 net-zero milestone

Dream has announced a 2035 net-zero goal for its owned properties and issued $850 million in green bonds in 2021. (Courtesy Dream)

Real estate company Dream believes “going green is good business." The Toronto-based firm is seeking to live up to this statement via a commitment to achieve net-zero for its owned properties by 2035 and issuing $850 million in green bonds.

Dream has $17 billion in assets under management across asset types including office, family, industrial and mixed-use in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. It is a parent company for Dream Unlimited Corp., Dream Impact Trust, Dream Office Real Estate Investment Trust, Dream Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust and Dream Residential Real Estate Investment Trust.

Dream Group published its sustainability update report in November, highlighting efforts to build a low-carbon portfolio and a diverse workplace.

“Our focus on sustainability has opened us up to significant incentives from utilities and government to promote sustainability and energy savings as well as decarbonization of our assets," said Lee Hodgkinson, head of sustainability and technical services for Dream.

"It’s also helped us work with financial partners to identify beneficial terms to also help achieve our goals as well as their goals, whether that’s on the affordable housing side or on the decarbonization side. Furthermore, we see that going green is good business — reducing operational costs, reducing exposure to climate change-related risks. These are important to us.” 

Dream’s emissions in 2021

Emissions data were divided among each of Dream's entities, with the exception of Dream Residential REIT.

In 2021, Dream Unlimited emitted: 2,625 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e) of Scope 1 emissions; 1,677 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions; and 303 tCO2e of Scope 3 emissions. Dream Unlimited emitted around 5.2 per cent more combined emissions in 2021 compared to 2020.

In 2021, Dream Impact Trust emitted 1,774 tCO2e of Scope 1 emissions and 389 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions. It saw 55 per cent and 18 per cent increases in combined emissions in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019, respectively.

The increase was attributed to Dream Impact Trust purchasing buildings with less efficiency and of a different asset type than its 2020 and 2019 portfolio. Hodgkinson said Dream will work to decarbonize those buildings.

In 2021, Dream Office REIT emitted 9,969 tCO2e of Scope 1 emissions and 10,853 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions. Dream Office REIT made a two per cent decrease in combined emissions from 2020 to 2021 and a 20 per cent decrease from 2019 to 2021.

Dream Industrial REIT only offered 2021 figures, which were 852 tCO2e of Scope 1 emissions and 2,461 tCO2e of Scope 2 emissions.

Hodgkinson said in most cases, Dream's divisions did not have Scope 3 emissions because they lack historical data. Dream is seeking to patch the holes with utilities and greenhouse gas emissions data coverage.

He also said Scope 3 emissions are, by nature, beyond Dream’s control: “Therefore, we don’t typically have access to that information unless we make a very concerted effort to get it," which requires a significant amount of time to collect and verify the data.

How it plans to reduce emissions

Dream Group has divided its net-zero planning between its wholly owned assets and other assets within its operational control. For its wholly owned assets, Dream Group is aiming for net-zero by 2035. For assets within its operational control, it is planning for 2050.

"We want to demonstrate to our peers and the world that we don't all have to wait for 2050, we can be early," Hodgkinson stated.

It is holding itself accountable to these goals by being a member of the Principles for Responsible Investors and the Net Zero Assets Managers Initiative.

The company set milestones in its Net Zero by 2035 Action Plan, including a 20 per cent reduction in carbon intensity of its eligible portfolio by 2025 and halving the carbon intensity of its eligible portfolio by 2030.

The net-zero action plan includes reducing embodied carbon and building retrofits, engaging with tenants and monitoring performance in real-time, and energy efficiency upgrades like LED lighting and high-performance building envelopes.

To source clean energy, there are plans to acquire renewable sources like wind and solar and purchase low-carbon fuel systems like heat pumps and waste heat recovery. It also intends to buy carbon offsets for 10 per cent of its baseline emissions.

“We believe we can play a leadership role and show people that this is good business. This reduces the risks of an investment,” said Hodgkinson.

Dream committed to allocating $850 million in green bonds toward energy efficiency, renewables and green buildings by 2025. It was well received by the market, Hodgkinson said, as it helps the industry move toward a low-carbon and energy efficient footprint.

Other achievements and highlights

  • Dream has over $6 billion in net-zero communities within its development pipeline, including the Quayside site in Toronto and LeBreton Flats in Ottawa;
  • Dream Industrial Real Estate Investment Trust invested $295 million towards eligible green projects;
  • Dream Unlimited launched Dream Impact Fund, which Dream Group says is "one of the world’s first private open-ended funds dedicated exclusively to impact investing;"
  • Dream Office Real Estate Investment Trust achieved a 5-Star GRESB rating;
  • and Dream Impact Trust completed or has under development 1,577 affordable housing units.

Read the report here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was updated after publishing to clarify Dream Impact Trust's increased emissions in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019.

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