The European Sustainable Real Estate Initiative – ESREI – has been publishing studies and articles linked to European buildings’ regulations and current events for two years now. This work is oriented and supported by sponsors who guide the programme, from the inside, towards key problematics for the sector at a continental level. Following ESREI’s two years anniversary Clara Lepri, Sustainable Development Manager at Advenis, Juliette Lefébure-Wirth, Deputy Head of Responsible Investment Real Estate at AXA Investment Managers, and Bertrand Absolut, managing European ESG efforts at Ivanhoé Cambridge, shared with us their feelings and ambitions for ESREI. Here is their feedback.
Europe: the right scale
First of all, the ESREI programme answers a need underlined by all: our look can no longer be limited to national borders and this for two main reasons.
The first one is the activity scope of real estate companies. Most of them have broaden their territorial boundaries and build, promote, invest in European countries. In this perspective their teams are in need for generic information regarding the different positions and regulations applying in European countries. For instance, Clara Lepri says that “country fact sheets for the countries in which [they] invest are shared with the investment teams. They answer many of their questions on regulatory requirements for on-site energy production, electric vehicles charging stations, etc”.
On the other hand, a large share of applying or upcoming regulatory requirements concerning the building sector are issued at European scale: “today regulation is no longer local” states Juliette Lefébure-Wirth. The European Taxonomy, the NZEB standards for new buildings, the EPC regulations: all are subjects treated by the EU, which has a regulatory lead in this matter. Bertrand Absolut stresses out the key role of the EU in this regard: “Europe is a front-runner setting standards in the area of carbon regulation and is seen as a laboratory for ESG ideas and standards, and actors are in need of research work to achieve a deeper understanding of these European subjects such as the European Taxonomy”.
ESREI, a two-face initiative
On this European scope, the diversity of information whether it is linked to regulation, political news announcements, common targets, voluntary initiatives, implementation monitoring, is quite dense. It results into a cloud of knowledge which actors sometimes struggle to master. ESREI helps them to “formalize a certain number of things that teams know only partially, and informally, and which are difficult to circulate”, as Juliette Lefébure-Wirth puts it. The first face of the initiative is the research and production work which aims at helping actors to reach a better understanding of a dense and diverse European context. Clara Lepri highlights its well: “[We use ESREI publications] to better understand the potential difficulties of accessing data: certain countries have predilections for mobility, energy production, water savings, etc… to understand the level of requirement and detail of their laws enables us to anticipate the type of data that will be easily accessible.”
The initiative is also based on a high level of cooperation between the sponsoring organisations. This is a satisfaction for the people that are close supports to the programme. Bertrand Absolut underlines the importance of this aspect: “the challenge is to be able to compare ourselves with our peers, to consolidate our positions on specific subjects, and to join forces on this issue.” It is even more important since as Juliette Lefébure-Wirth underlines: “ESG positions have evolved a great deal over the last few years, gaining in responsibility and solidarity is key; to be collectively more efficient and a little more transparent.”
The importance of the partners
The partners and sponsors play a key role in the visibility of the programme. They are the last redactors and the first relays of ESREI’s work in their own organization and further. Bertrand Absolut reminds us that he is “always the relay point towards ESREI publication” for his coworkers. At Advenis the “ESG team is in charge of forwarding ESREI resources to those who could be interested” says Clara Lepri.
Moreover, the orientation given by the partners during the steering committee is key. Without it the programme could fear a disconnection form the practical challenges faced by the sector.
After a first round of two years, ESREI is launching a new cycle for its activities, and the possibilities are vast. The programme is currently considering various options for its upcoming studies but ambitions also to broaden its network. “It is important not to work alone in our corner”, says Bertrand Absolut “we need to find partners abroad in order to achieve a higher legitimacy of ESREI work”. This pan European ambition started to take shape recently as ESREI joined at an event organized by the Franco-German office for energetic transition (OFATE), and stands as new objective for our initiative.
We thank Juliette Lefébure-Wirth, Clara Lepri and Bertrand Absolut for their time and all ESREI sponsors for their support. The programme is currently open to new sponsors application who would be interested in this cooperation effort and we would be happy to talk about it with you if you are interested. You can join us at the following addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.