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Colliers sustainability report shows progress on green strategy

Real estate company saw 24.8 per cent reduction in Scope 1, 2 emissions per square foot from 2021 baseline

The cover of Colliers' 2023 Global Sustainability Report. (Courtesy Colliers)
The cover of Colliers' 2023 Global Sustainability Report. (Courtesy Colliers)

Colliers is making progress in its commitment to building a more sustainable future, according to its 2023 Global Sustainability Report which identifies several key areas of improvement across the ESG spectrum.

Released last week, the report underscores how Colliers is fulfilling both its own internal sustainability goals as well as providing the critical management and advisory support services enabling its clients to achieve similar results.

One of the world's leading real estate services and investment management firms, Toronto-headquartered Colliers announced in December it had signed the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.

Pursuant to this, the company has set a near-term goal of halving its global building emissions by 2030 and a long-term target of achieving the total decarbonization of buildings in operation no later than 2050.

Key points of the sustainability report

Reflecting this overall commitment to decarbonizing the built environment, the report listed six notable achievements:

  • A 24.8 per cent reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions per square foot from a 2021 baseline;
  • validation of Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions targets by the Science Based Targets initiative;
  • women now occupy 33.5 per cent of company-wide management roles, up 1.8 per cent since 2021;
  • achieving a WELL Health-Safety rating in 35 per cent of its offices larger than 2,500 sq. ft., up from 10 per cent in 2022;
  • tripling the number of electric vehicles in its fleet to over 100; and
  • Colliers professionals contributed 5,819 days towards volunteering efforts.

Elevating the built environment

Sean Drygas, global head of sustainability at Colliers. (Courtesy Colliers)
Sean Drygas, global head of sustainability at Colliers. (Courtesy Colliers)

In an interview with Sustainable Biz Canada, Sean Drygas, global head of sustainability at Colliers, offered an upbeat assessment of its mission to "elevate the built environment" and the positive momentum he said the company is gaining in its path to net-zero.

"The key takeaways from the report are that we're ahead of our targets on six out of our eight major commitments," Drygas said.

He also expressed disappointment that the company was unable to meet its two diversity equity targets owing to unfavourable economic conditions. 

"Moving to procure renewable electricity in our offices lying in places like China, India and Poland that have very carbon-intensive grids has accounted for much of the 25 per cent carbon reduction we've obtained. And whenever we're moving into new offices, that's an opportunity to find a space that has lower energy intensity."

Report cites need to ramp up retrofitting 

In his remarks contained in the report, Drygas explained that Colliers is looking to play a leading role in helping the global property sector "pick up the pace" in paving the way for a low-carbon future.

He noted only one per cent of commercial buildings are being retrofitted to reduce carbon emissions and become more energy efficient. This number needs to be tripled if the world is to limit global warming to well below the 2C threshold stipulated in the Paris Agreement. 

"While this is a great business opportunity for Colliers, this work is also critical for clients to protect the value of their assets. Decarbonizing quickly and effectively is important for the future of all cities and countries and their citizens."

Colliers is on track to achieve its in-house emissions goals with respect to the three million square feet of office space it occupies. However, the two billion square feet of property it manages on behalf of clients provides the company with vastly more room to improve sustainability performance.

"That's where we see the real potential. Literally 99 per cent of our decarbonization opportunity is the assistance we can provide to clients who are the owners of these buildings and tend to be institutional investors," Drygas said. 

"Owner operators like the REITs have their own people managing their properties, but the major property owners like pension plans and insurance companies are not real estate people and this is (our opportunity)."

Colliers is intent on convincing its clients to implement the kinds of advanced HVAC, smart building systems and other technologies that will help them comply with increasingly stringent building performance standards, particularly in Europe.

"We advise these clients to let us chart out a decarbonization path laying out the things they need to do in order to achieve that Energy Performance Certificate rating (in the case of Europe) and keep this asset feasible."

Companies are rethinking their ESG goals 

"In talking to capital markets managers, we are seeing transactions reflecting how property owners are doing ESG due diligence on their assets. If they know a building is not going to be compliant, that will start driving discounts and in fact has already been driving discounts.

"We don't make the investment decisions, but we're in a position where we can approach building owners and advise them that 'they should do this' although we can't force them to do so.

"We need to make a compelling enough business case that makes them want to carry out these (sustainable measures) and that there's a payback in store."

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