Oxford Properties made 2022 a crucial year for its ESG practice by focusing on data collection and education to integrate its initiatives across the company, which it considers key to its future activities.
The Toronto-based global real estate investor, developer and asset manager manages $87 billion in assets totalling 162 million square feet. It is owned by Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS).
In its 2023 Global Sustainability Report, Oxford highlighted efforts made in 2022, including:
- a 20 per cent reduction in its absolute carbon footprint since 2019;
- an interim operational carbon intensity target;
- the launch of its Green Financing Framework; and tracking green space coverage across its "direct-drive" (owned and managed by Oxford) and third-party managed assets.
Hala El Akl, Oxford’s senior director of ESG, emphasized the critical steps taken last year in an interview with SustainableBiz.
“This latest report is the first time we’ve talked about our evolved framework which has three priorities and they are linked to decarbonization. The first one is around integrating ESG consideration throughout all of our business activities. The second one is around solidifying the data foundation, and the third one is around decarbonization.”
Collecting ESG data
Data is key to Oxford’s long-term ESG strategy to reach net-zero by 2050, increase its renewable energy generation or procurement, reduce embodied carbon and make a 50 per cent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030.
El Akl said defining net-zero was crucial, so Oxford leveraged a tool called Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) which analyzes the pathways for sectors and regions to align with the Paris Agreement. This helps to identify the highest portfolio emitters so managers can work to reduce climate impact.
Oxford rolled out a platform to store ESG data and make it accessible across the company.
“We want to have confidence in the data we disclose and use to make investment and asset management decisions,” El Akl said.
For its data goals in 2023, Oxford has committed to:
- complete a desktop assessment of portfolio carbon risk using the CRREM tool for global direct-drive and third-party managed portfolios;
- and perform high-level desktop physical climate risk screen across the direct-drive and third-party managed portfolio.
Oxford saw ESG data was becoming more important for investments, asset management and development decisions. In response it made a series of changes across its investment, development, asset management and operations, and external manager business functions. For example, it assesses customers’ ESG objectives and requirements at the asset management and operations level.
Comparing its greenhouse gas emissions
In 2022, Oxford’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions were reported to be 203,181 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2e). That's a reduction from 211,019 tCOe2 in 2021, 212,448 tCO2e in 2020 and 253,988 tCO2e in 2019.
Its carbon emissions intensity sank in 2022 to 3.7 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per square foot (kgCO2e/SF), compared to 3.8 kgCO2e/SF in 2021 and 2020 and 4.6 kgCO2e/SF in 2019.
Oxford reported its Scope 3 emissions for the first time in 2022, finding 28,845 tCOe2. El Akl said Scope 3 emissions represent a large portion of the industry's emissions as a whole, and Oxford embarked on reporting the figure because it is a best practice in the industry.
However, its reporting on Scope 3 emissions was limited to “energy consumption from tenant activities within buildings that Oxford does not have operational control.” Oxford cannot yet provide an estimate for its complete Scope 3 emissions.
To acquire a clearer picture of its Scope 3 emissions, El Akl said Oxford will be using mechanisms like green leases and tenant engagement through education and awareness.
Green leases facilitate data transparency which aids in Oxford’s alignment with its customers’ ESG goals. Thirty-five per cent of Oxford’s direct-drive and third-party assets have green leases in place, according to the report.
How it reduced its emissions
Emissions reductions were achieved through energy-saving measures like electrification or insulation improvements and heat pumps, with renewables and carbon offsets as a last resort. Tenant engagement also played a role by raising awareness of the climate impact of building usage.
An example of its effort is The Stack, a 37-storey commercial office tower in downtown Vancouver that is the first high-rise office tower to achieve the Canada Green Building Council Zero Carbon Building - Design standard certification. Set to open this year, it features rooftop solar panels, smart building technology to optimize building performance and enhanced air tightness.
Oxford took steps to reduce embodied carbon by 40 per cent at London’s St James’ Market Phase II by using low-carbon material and design features like increasing recycled steel content. It also plans for an all-electric re-design.
Other climate and environmental actions
- Utilizing ESG assessment procedures that consider climate risk for its new acquisitions and development decisions.
- Over 25 million square feet of Oxford’s real estate has green lease coverage, with 100 per cent of its Canadian industrial and retail real estate certified by BOMA BEST, 80 per cent of its Canadian residential real estate certified by LEED, CRBP or the Toronto Green Standard and 92 per cent of its North American real estate certified by LEED (a four per cent decline from 2021).
- Completed asset-level energy audits and customized net zero pathways for select assets and portfolios.
- Initiated a three-year plan to accelerate portfolio-wide decarbonization and develop how it tracks progress toward its interim goals.