Over the preceding decades, ESG has morphed from a niche add-on to a core part of any sensible investing strategy. Indeed, Standard Chartered estimates that $1 in every $4 is now invested in ESG. As ESG increasingly factors into investment decisions across the market, the case for real estate debt to consider ESG risk grows.
And it is easy to see why. ESG risks consistently feature in the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risk Reports. For 2021, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage were among both the highest likelihood and highest impact risks of the next decade.
It is widely accepted that the next 10 years are crucial for tackling the climate crisis. Despite a temporary drop in GHG emissions resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, overall trends are that they continue to rise. With the race to net zero carbon one of the major global challenges facing the built environment, and one which is being targeted by corporates and governments alike, paying attention to ESG issues in real estate investing strategies has never been so critical.
The possibility of being left with stranded assets due to investment strategies being out of sync with emissions trajectories is fast becoming a reality. As we see regulations tighten, for example, minimum energy efficiency criteria for buildings, the reality is that these types of risks must be taken into consideration. Securing financing against an asset that could be unlettable in just a few years is not an attractive offer. As such, across the commercial real estate financial market, there is increasing pressure to disclose and mitigate ESG risk. And this extends to real estate debt.
Globally, green bonds and loans along with other types of sustainable debt rose to $465 billion in 2019 – an increase of 78% from 2018 (data compiled by BloombergNEF). These figures demonstrate that ESG is fast becoming a material consideration in debt financing. At EVORA we see this trend continuing, with the pandemic only heightening tenant and consumer expectations that the spaces they occupy positively impact on social and environmental considerations.
Sustainable real estate debt financing has grown rapidly over the last decade as alternative lending is increasingly sought. We see the momentum in this space continuing, and as the opportunities in this area continue to grow, early and effective ESG integration will be key.