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How the real estate sector can promote ecosystem collaboration

This article is part of the World Green Building Week 2021 editorial series highlighting the role sustainable buildings play in #BuildingResilience to climate change and for people and economies.

Provided by Esther An, Chief Sustainability Officer at City Developments Limited (CDL) and Vice Chair of the World Green Building Council Corporate Advisory Board (CAB)

The annual World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2021 has reinforced the fact that climate risks are business and investment risks, with five long-term risks being environment related. A “code red for humanity”, the recent IPCC 6th Assessment Report warns of unprecedented and extreme weather changes and the threat of exceeding a key temperature limit. The global Race to Zero is fast growing as the largest climate alliance, involving stakeholders including countries, cities and businesses that represent 50% of the world’s GDP, collectively holding real power to drive climate action.

Cities account for more than 70% of global energy-related carbon emissions with buildings responsible for almost 40%; and 50% of extracted materials. By 2050, almost 70% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas.

The real estate sector can promote ecosystem collaboration to drive change towards a more sustainable future. For over two decades, green building has been a top priority in the way CDL designs, builds and manages our properties. Guided by our ethos of “Conserving as we Construct since 1995”, CDL has fully integrated Economic, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues into our core business, continuously pushing the envelope with climate-focused strategies.

Integrating ESG into our business strategy has laid the foundation for CDL’s operational resilience and agility, paving the way towards a low-carbon future and greener economy. Anchored on four key pillars—Integration, Innovation, Investment, and Impact, which translate to three deliverables, Decarbonisation, Digitalisation & Innovation, and Disclosure & Communication, our value creation business model provides us with a solid foundation to mitigate and adapt to unprecedented climate and health threats.

To meet global decarbonisation targets, CDL became the first real estate conglomerate in Southeast Asia to sign the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. With a clear goal and pathway, we are committed to achieving net zero operational carbon for buildings under our direct management by 2030 and advocate for all buildings to be net zero operational carbon by 2050. We hope to encourage more businesses to do so in ASEAN, which is the world’s third most populous economy experiencing rapid urbanisation.

Setting science-based targets is key to building resilience against climate risks. CDL is glad to be the first Singapore real estate company to set SBTI-validated carbon reduction targets in 2018. This commitment has propelled us to scout for technology and innovation to raise operational efficiency. It raised our carbon emissions intensity reduction target to 59%, from the previous 38%, across our Singapore operations by 2030 from base-year 2007.

As the demand for green financing grows in the acceleration towards climate action, companies with strong ESG performance will likely gain easier access to ESG investment funds, and sustainable finance. We believe what gets measured gets managed — robust goal setting and tracking of impact have helped many companies improve their ESG strategy and performance. Our 2-decade journey of integrating sustainability has helped us identify gaps and improve our ESG performance, allowing us to attract fast-growing ESG funds. This has helped CDL to maintain leading positions in 13 prominent global ESG ratings, rankings, and indices.

Since issuing our first green bond in 2017, we have amassed and mobilised more than S$3 billion of sustainable finance in various green loans, green revolving credit facility, and a sustainability-linked loan. In September 2019, CDL became the first Singapore entity to achieve a discount on a sustainability-linked loan through the successful development of an innovation that supports the UN SDGs. This SDG Innovation Loan complements CDL’s strategy in mitigating and adapting to climate, health, and social risks through innovation.

Net zero CO2 emissions require fundamental changes in the way we produce and use energy. To decarbonise the built environment, we need to design, construct, and manage spaces with low carbon as the priority. Building users need to reset the way we live, work and play. As a developer and asset owner, CDL will further advance our green building strategy and application of technology and innovation towards achieving net zero operational carbon by 2030. Urgent and collective action along the value chain is key to winning the race to zero.


What is World Green Building Week?

World Green Building Week is the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere. Organised by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), it is led by our global network of 70 Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members.

Join us from the 20th–24th of September 2021 to find out how our network is accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals towards an inclusive and resilient net zero built environment.