The Sustainable Real Estate agenda is coming out of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland. With the climate emergency climbing up the business agenda, many countries and companies are turning their attention to implementing Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) principles into their practices, including real estate companies across Asia. Because of this trend, ‘green careers’ in sustainable real estate are a huge growth area and provide lots of opportunities for career development.
“The growing importance of sustainable buildings, utilities maximisation, and carbon footprint reduction will drive demand for employees who not only design and build but also consider the impact on the environment of real estate while adhering closely to new government initiatives in this domain,” says Gough Recruitment Managing Director in Asia Juan Dorfling.
Buildings account for some 40% of energy-related emissions and consume around 40% of the world’s energy, reports Schroders, so there’s lots to be done. It’s an area that looks set for long-term expansion. For instance, retrofitting building could see 25 million new jobs created globally by 2030, according to the IFC.
Read on for Gough’s lowdown on the hottest ESG careers in sustainable real estate in Asia.
What is ESG?
The ESG concept emerged in the 1960s as a set of investment principles, whereby investors started screening out companies from their portfolios that do not align with their responsible investing criteria. For example, investors exclude companies engaged in the tobacco business or the arms trade. Over the ensuing 60 years the concept has expanded and been applied to various areas, including real estate, and now refers to business practices that contribute to sustainable development.
Last year’s CBRE Global Investor Intentions Survey found that 60% of respondents follow ESG criteria in their real estate investment approach. Not only that, but ESG principles are now being applied to the whole of the real estate lifecycle, including leasing, asset management, and acquisitions, and the full range of built environment components such as logistics facilities, life sciences R&D centres, manufacturing sites, data centres, and office spaces.
One area of particularly rapid growth in the sustainable real estate space is proptech, which refers to the digital transformation of the real estate sector. It encompasses the use of technology to take over tasks that were completed by humans. These functions include property management, commercial lending services and smart home tech.
Proptech is increasingly being used to manage real estate firms’ ESG responsibilities. It is most prevalent in terms of the environmental aspects of real estate business, especially with regard to energy efficiency, through smart tech that tracks information on water quality and waste management, for example.
This technology helps companies stay compliant with environmental standards, identifies inefficiencies and makes adjusts automatically through building management systems.
Proptech is also being expanded in terms of the S and the G of ESG. It’s being used to track and quantify business aspects like employee wellbeing through monitoring air quality via the Internet of Things sensors. In terms of corporate governance, proptech provides data on how a company is governed, information that is available to stakeholders and shareholders alike, which boosts transparency and accountability.
With ESG seen as a value driver in real estate, demand is spiking for qualified and experienced proptech candidates.
Also coming under the proptech umbrella is contech, which encompasses advanced construction technology, a field that’s seeing many startups contribute to revolutionising the way we build our urban spaces. Drones, virtual and augmented reality, robotics and digital twins are being applied to the construction industry, and hold the promise of being able to help decarbonise the construction sector as well as increase productivity. CEMEX Ventures published a list of the top-50 most promising contech startups, many of which, like industrial monitoring applications company Ackcio and construction analytics business Geometrid, hail from Asia.
Green Careers in Sustainable Real Estate
As companies are moving to build out more robust ESG functions, there’s a shortage of appropriately qualified and experienced middle management staff that have come up through the ranks. Many companies rely on outsourced consultants, whereas others are creating whole internal sustainability teams.
Types of Roles in Sustainable Real Estate
There is a huge diversity of roles related to ESG practices in real estate. Though the types of jobs in this relatively nascent field are still emerging, here’s a selection of some of the most in-demand roles.
Covers a wide range of environmental issues, such as pollution, impact assessments, waste recycling, emissions and renewable energy. The remit is to provide expert advice on minimising environmental impact. Often employed by a consultancy or government agencies.
Environmental Data Officer
Gather, maintain and manage high-quality data on energy and environmental factors, and provide information and report to stakeholders including suppliers, contractors and building managers and staff.
As well as the environment, this role covers social responsibility, advising on sustainable solutions and evaluating a business’ impact, and then devising methods to reduce it. These roles are found across real estate, from the planning stage through building and the restoration of existing property.
Real estate ESG analyst
Works with ESG data, collating, managing and reporting performance across ESG parameters to inform the investment management process. Are sometimes handed responsibility for financial modelling and running asset management strategies.
Top tip for landing an ESG role – get qualified!
Though it is not necessary to have an ESG-focused degree, building a solid foundation in the subject area is the way to go. As ESG functions are relatively new, companies are looking for staff that can articulate the ESG narrative to internal and external stakeholders and have a good grasp of the science. There are lots of courses on specific ESG skills out there, like the CFA’s Certificate in ESG Investing and GRESB’s online training platform. These are particularly useful for people who wish to segue sideways into an ESG-related role.
At Gough Recruitment, we work with a significant number of sustainable real estate companies across Asia, sourcing ESG professionals for their teams. So if you are interested in this area, make sure you reach out and talk with our consultants in Hong Kong or Singapore. We are always happy to discuss both candidates’ career opportunities, and clients’ hiring needs – all with the subject matter knowledge and confidentiality!