Real estate investors working for the climate

Many financial sector companies are major real estate investors. We have a substantial impact – and therefore substantial responsibility – with the choices we make as real estate developers and buyers. Which energy solutions we prefer, which property services we purchase, and how we promote circular economy can really make a difference.

My employer Ilmarinen aims for a carbon neutral investment portfolio by the year 2035. This is an ambitious target requiring changes to all asset classes, including real estate. We believe that the big players should set an example to the smaller companies in the efforts to mitigate climate change. Once we have planted the desire for change, we are motivated to make climate action a natural part of everyday life.

In construction, responsibility is the foundation from which we push upwards. Responsibility means sustainable quality and long service life. Houses built by Ilmarinen have a required service life of 100 years for frame structures and 50 years for replaceable facades. Unfortunately, this is not the norm in the rest of the construction industry today.

Energy production in transition

Much of the climate impact of housing is generated by heating and energy, both of which are currently undergoing a transition. Ilmarinen is strongly involved in this process. Most of our properties get heat and electricity from hybrid energy sources. We have a number of solar power plants in both office and residential buildings, and we utilise geothermal heating and cooling whenever possible. The recovery of waste heat now allows it to be circulated as well.

Responsible property owners also pay attention to maintenance, serviceability and replaceability of elements. This benefits the climate and inhabitants alike. Each and every one of our buildings should be healthy and safe to stay in, whether it’s a construction site, office, shopping mall or a private home.

Responsibility is a criterion

You don’t have to be a great visionary to know that responsibility is one of the most important criteria for selecting products and service providers, now and in the future. In major decisions like choosing a home or the location for a company, the importance of responsibility is obvious.

Climate certificates are one way for property owners to demonstrate responsibility. Ilmarinen was the first party in Finland to commit tenants to the LEED volume program certification. The LEED program works in close cooperation with the users of the property and gives visibility to responsible actions taken during the property’s lifetime. To hotel operators, for example, the certificate has been a very important selection criterion. The certification makes the property more attractive and comparable with international standards. In new construction and renovation, environmental certification has already been in use for several years.

Circular economy is an opportunity

Recycling has become part of everyday life at home and at work. Many sectors are going through extensive transformations regarding circular economy. Those who see the transformation as an opportunity will be the winners.

Circular economy has a substantial effect also in the carbon footprint of construction. Earlier this year, Ilmarinen and two other actors committed to a green deal of deconstruction, aiming for better reuse and recycling of construction materials. Soon after signing the deal we got the chance to implement it in our own head office when the glass roof reached the end of its life. Approximately 84 tonnes of glass was sent to be recycled into insulation materials.

I strongly believe that in the modern world, irresponsible business is no longer an option. I hope that everyone works to turn their words about responsibility into concrete actions. We are facing massive initiatives and permanent solutions in the work against climate change, and we need the effort of everyone. Let’s get to it together, shall we?

This column is part of a series where Finance Finland member companies talk about responsibility in the financial sector.