UN Sustainability Program – Ceusters leads the way in real estate
Ceusters is very proud to be the only Belgian real estate broker currently following UN Global Compact, the UN sustainability program. To find out what this program is about, we asked Dr. Nawal Aït-Hocine, Founder & CEO of Positive Impact Sarl. She is a recognised Sustainability, Legal and Compliance Executive with 25 years’ shaping industry best practice in the professional services sectors.
First of all, tell us about your organisation Positive Impact.
Nawal Aït-Hocine: Positive Impact is a Swiss mission-driven company offering advisory and consulting services which focus on pioneering new business models, driving transformation, creating long term positive impact in the value chains and contributing to the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Our 25 years of cross-sectorial sustainability, compliance and legal experience offers clients unparalleled expertise and insight. I would add that we are very proud to have been chosen by Ceuster and its CEO Ingrid Ceusters to accompany the organisation in its sustainability journey and the development of their first sustainability report.
Please give a general explanation about the UN sustainability program.
Nawal Aït-Hocine: The UN Global Compact is the world’s largest global corporate sustainability initiative, it provides a framework to guide all businesses regardless of size, complexity or location. This program encourages companies to create a culture of integrity from strategy to operations. More than 16,000 participating companies and 3,800 non-business participants have already embraced the commitments of the UN Global Compact. On 1 January 2016, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into force. These goals universally apply to all, not only to countries which are expected to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.
What are its objectives?
Nawal Aït-Hocine: Where objectives are concerned, signatories to the United Nations Global Compact commit to a number of principles including in particular:
· making the UN Global Compact and its principles an integral part of business strategy, day-to-day operations and organizational culture;
· meeting fundamental responsibilities in four areas: human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption;
· incorporating the UN Global Compact and its principles in decision-making processes at the highest levels, pushing sustainability deep into the company’s DNA;
· engaging in partnerships that advance the UN Global Compact’s principles and support broader UN goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
· advancing the UN Global Compact and the case for responsible business practices through advocacy and outreach to peers, partners, clients, consumers and the public at large;
· taking action that support the society around them;
· being accountable and reporting annually on their efforts.
Companies can also help to advance the SDGs by operating responsibly in alignment with universal principles and finding opportunities to innovate to address societal challenges. Through a commitment to the UN Global Compact, companies are taking the first step to contribute to achieving the SDGs and have access to a range of tools to scale up their efforts.
How important is it for the real estate industry to be committed to these objectives?
Nawal Aït-Hocine: With climate change, income inequality and social justice in the headlines, sustainable strategies and solutions are all the rage. This trend is also evident within the real estate industry. The discussion about sustainable construction and green buildings is not new. What is new is the acceleration of debate around the topic of sustainability over the past few years. The construction and operation of buildings is one of the major CO2 emitters.
Accordingly, the public, investors and policymakers are calling for changes in real estate companies’ business models. There is indeed significant pressure on real estate players to take environmental, social and governance criteria into consideration.
Do you think the real estate industry is taking all of this on board?
Nawal Aït-Hocine: There is no question that sustainability is now a fundamental commercial concern for the real-estate sector, affecting long-term value generation and short-term profitability as investors are more and more using nonfinancial measures to determine the true long-term value of real-estate companies. This trend poses significant challenges for the industry: implementing the rapidly developing regulatory requirements at EU and national levels, integrating sustainability into all corporate activities, data collection and management, etc. integrating climate change and energy transition into strategy.
In concrete terms, what can the real estate industry do?
Nawal Aït-Hocine Action can include reducing carbon emissions from buildings, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, shifting to cleaner energy sources, setting carbon reduction goals with an eye to becoming as carbon-neutral as possible, looking at water conservation and waste management, increasing recycling of building materials and use of recycled materials, integrating circularity into the equation / taking more steps towards a circular economy. Real-estate companies that consider the potential sustainability impacts and risks and implement solutions to reduce the risks and negative impact, will be better placed tomorrow.
Ceusters is the only Belgian real estate broker currently following this program. What exactly are they doing?
Nawal Aït-Hocine: In August 2021 Ceusters became a signatory to the UNGC. Ceusters will thus support the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. This was an important step for Ceusters, a statement about their values, and how they want to transform the company so that it benefits society and contributes to the company’s long-term success through principled business. Ceusters is deeply committed to making the UN Global Compact and its principles an integral part of its strategy, culture and day-to-day operations, and to engaging in collaborative projects which advance the broader sustainable development goals of the United Nations.
Ceusters is committed to integrating ethical, human rights, social and environmental considerations into its daily operations, business planning activities and decision-making processes. Ceusters has over the years implemented many actions on social and environmental topics. These range from organizing job fairs in shopping centres, to managing its carbon impact and resource consumption with green energy contracts, through relighting projects, to integrating recycling and circularity into the way it does business with the circular wall project, and by assisting clients in obtaining BREEAM certification. These actions , and many more, will be detailed in the first Sustainability Report that Ceusters will publish in the coming months.