Most People Don’t Know What ESG Really Means - Key Takeaways from 15 Real Estate Events in 2022

9 minutes read

2022 has been an eventful year so far. The more industry events returned to the conference halls, the more business cards and interview notes got sandwiched in our diaries at Spaceflow. 

Having pin-pointed 15 European real estate events to attend in the first half of 2022, barely catching flights from London to Vienna, Luxembourg to Copenhagen and everywhere else in between, we got pumped with nothing but a huge excitement about the words the industry events are finally buzzing with: community, digital transformation, customer experience, and ESG. 

As we took the summer time to bring those diaries to sunlight, reflect and learn from the findings from many, many panel discussions, networking sessions and one-to-ones; in this article we highlight the key takeaways from: 

  1. UKAA Build to Rent Expo - London, UK 
  2. The CEE Summit - Warsaw, PL 
  3. Prague Property Forum - Prague, CZ 
  4. PropTech Symposium - Copenhagen, DK 
  5. PropTech Vienna - Vienna, AT 
  6. Baker Street Property Meet - London, UK 
  7. Digitization of Rental Housing - Prague, CZ 
  8. Bisnow Build to Rent Annual Conference - London, UK 
  9. UN World Urban Forum - Katowice, PL 
  10. RE-Smart - Luxembourg, LU 
  11. PlaceTech 22x22 - London, UK 
  12. Provada - Amsterdam, NL 
  13. The Class Foundation Regional Forum - Amsterdam, NL 
  14. Coliving Awards - Katowice, PL 
  15. EG Tech Awards - London, UK
Event photo
Event photo

We were almost confident that the industry left behind the times of assuming that the acronym ESG stood for ''earnings, stock, growth'', as events and media dedicated more than half of their agendas to ESG content this year, and especially to the environmental aspect. 

Then we visited several events across Europe, and saw that the reality was different. 

In an ESG-focused event, when a panel speaker asked the audience what ESG meant, only two out of a hundred hands were raised in Vienna. On the other side of Europe, in Copenhagen, speakers shared concrete results and lessons-learned from their ESG implementations – and referred to all three letters. In Berlin, some property operators reported they had never heard of ESG. 

Why is there such a big difference, we asked.  

''Not all property companies have the same level of expertise and adoption of ESG practices due to the general progressiveness of the companies or countries. It will take some more time for the industry to educate itself. The nature of ESG talks in 2022 is mostly about the necessity of making buildings more environmentally friendly; still somewhat far from including S and G to the context, or concrete actions in E as well,'' answered Werner Summerer, Head of Digital Transformation at Value One, a real estate developer and operator company. 

''We need the shift in the mentality and the EU Taxonomy to push the decision-makers to catch up with ESG practices. At the same time, it is undeniable that reaching ESG goals won't be possible without tech integrations, especially when the majority of goals are reached with data and analytics. There will be a lot of space for start-ups to help real estate at that point,'' Summerer remarked. 

Proptech Vienna
Class Foundation

Mikael Da Silva, Head of Marketing from RoomMate, a property management solution adds to Summerer's point: "The transformation is definitely happening, but some property owners don't see or understand the benefits of it yet. It is mindblowing to see that there are great solutions to ease building operations in the market, and some operators still work on Excel sheets or on paper!".

''On the other side of the coin, still, the task for technology professionals is to be mindful about the real estate's needs – if they are not ready to digitise, there is no need to insist on it and promise unrealistic timelines. Show them the way, the problem, and the solution – but do not be pushy. This only causes the property owner to integrate plenty of softwares that is not integratable. Their staff then gets lost in using these solutions, and here comes the operational inefficiency,'' adds Da Silva. 

Connecting the dots, Jason Eggleton, co-founder of Adjani adds to the conversation: ''The digital strategy of a real estate company should be simplistic and address challenges with an integrated approach to provide the most efficient and user-friendly interface to your space users. It should include an ESG component and other enabling services such as wireless entry, single-payment platform, reservation of goods and services, feedback and newsfeed features to bring a social-media-like aspect, you name it. Integrating all of these in one solution is not a difficult task in today's technologies, and it does create real change,''. 

Lukas Balik at offline event

Observing the good practices and case studies to get inspired by those already started collecting the fruits of their ESG roadmap; we have seen that property owners who merged their environmental, social and governmental agendas rather than focusing on only one aspect reported successful results with tenant loyalty, customer satisfaction, competitive advantage, and operational efficiency. 

How, we asked, to several professionals from coliving, a residential asset class where holistic ESG implementations are always in the forefront. 

''Shared living enables holistic ESG implementations. Coliving's biggest struggle has been with the governmental layer – getting real estate and public institutions to understand what coliving is, how it works, getting operation permissions granted and so on. When we show that a more efficient use of space means higher energy efficiency; and the fact that we support community activities with sustainable practices and nurture the tenants' sustainability goals, it is easier to get things done,'' says Tim Buffing, Head of Operations NL at Habyt Coliving. 

Ondrej Vodnansky at Provada

''Environmental and social practices always go side-by-side. Paying attention to generating communities that add value to tenants' lives as a whole, letting a link grow between them and the space, making sustainability a part of community events, activities, and space design makes the tenant experience unforgettable. Sustainability practices go in line with creating a community synergy in the building, a way to empower the community with a common purpose," adds Juan José Guillén Martínez, WeToGet's co-founder. 

Touching on the relationship between tenant loyalty and community building, Chris Robert Lange, COMENTS Student Coliving's founder reports: ''Today's building occupiers are looking for a place where they feel a sense of belonging and purposeful community – be it an office, a student accommodation, or coliving space. Sustainable activities are a good way to bring communities together. When this is not provided, they tend to leave for another space provider,''. 

Brian Welsh, Head of Student at Round Hill Capital, rounds up the conversation from a holistic perspective. "Incorporate communal spaces, amenities and activities, 'chill-out' areas for socialising, and also a range of smart technologies to track data on carbon footprint, energy efficiency, water quality and usage, waste management. This gives you a rounded view on how a building is performing and areas where improvements can be made. Operators should be committed to invest in community and environment at the same time, and empower it with digital solutions if they want to see tangible results,''. 

15. September 2022
9 minutes read


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