Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How ESG is becoming a business priority

Corporates like the Embassy REIT reiterate the importance of "Reimagine, Recreate, Restore"

Published: Jun 4, 2021 01:58:58 PM IST
Updated: Jun 5, 2021 12:45:20 AM IST

How ESG is becoming a business priority

Each year, World Environment Day serves as a reminder that critical and immediate changes are needed to nurse Earth back to health. This year, the UN theme ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ urges us to revive, conserve and protect ecosystems that are under threat.

Businesses and their stakeholders worldwide have become increasingly aware of the critical role they can play in enabling effective, impactful and timely interventions. Institutional investors are pushing corporations globally and in India to demonstrate comprehensive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies

Embassy REIT leads the way

Among those leading the charge is Embassy REIT, India’s first publicly listed Real Estate Investment Trust. The REIT owns and operates a portfolio of eight infrastructure-like office parks and four city‐centre office buildings across India, with leading global and Indian corporations as tenants. As a leader in the office parks space, the company has set the tone for redefining best practices in real estate, with  focus on high-quality environmentally sustainable practices and wellness projects.
Michael Holland, CEO Embassy REIT, believes companies have a responsibility to grow without compromising resources for future generations. “We must all focus on a more sustainable model, for business, for the individual and our society. The challenge facing the corporate world is to deliver increased productivity and bottom lines and yet contribute to a greener and more sustainable ecosystem,” he says.

The company has  subscribed to the WELL Portfolio programme by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) to create healthier office buildings and business ecosystems in the country, and supports a number of initiatives, including water conservation, clean energy, waste management and disposal, and urban afforestation.

Reviving a river, saving precious water

Among the projects Embassy REIT funds is the Mithi River Clean-up Project in Mumbai. One of the city’s four rivers, Mithi has been reduced to a large sewer choked by solid waste. The project is being implemented by MMRDA, along with a host of global partners, including Earth5R and Riverrecycle Oy, a river cleaning solutions company from Finland that uses innovative technology to collect and recycle waste floating in rivers. Embassy REIT is providing the equipment required for waste segregation.

In Bengaluru, the company is supporting ecological restoration in the area around it’s property, Manyata Tech Park. Heavy rainfall puts immense pressure on the city’s stormwater drain network. Embassy REIT has put its might behind finding a solution for the problems arising from inadequate drainage and waste disposal systems.

Building a greener future with solar power  

REIT powers over 75% of its properties in Bengaluru from its 100MW solar plant offsetting 158 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It is taking this further with rooftop solar panels at eight of its campuses. This will be equivalent to planting more than 10 lakh teak wood trees, mitigating another 7.25 lakh tonnes of carbon dioxide. A tree plantation drive in the Pune and Noida offices has commenced for this year, with more than 1,000 trees that are expected to produce 70 tonnes of oxygen per year.

Beyond its own properties, Embassy REIT is delivering clean solar energy to 10 government schools, and on World Environment Day the company will be presenting solar streetlights to a school for differently abled children in Marunji, Pune.

How ESG is becoming a business priority

Waste management – another challenge for urban India

The EcoGram Project, North Bengaluru, by The Anonymous Indian Charitable Trust (TAICT), is another urban initiative backed by Embassy REIT. The project created a model Gram Panchayat by building processes and infrastructure for sustainable decentralised waste management, soil quality, and water conservation. Myriam Shankar, Managing Trustee of TAICT says, “When we started solid waste management five years ago, the surroundings were littered, road sides laced with garbage, and open burning was used to minimise the waste. Today, we have transformed this Panchayat into an EcoGram. Villages are free from garbage, and disease among children, senior citizens and animals has come down drastically.” Embassy REIT will also provide a Waste Processing Centre that will enable TAICT  to expand their operations beyond the Panchayat boundaries.

Committed to transparency

Embassy REIT is among the few real estate companies in the country to report its ESG practices. The commitment to transparency is reflected through support of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD), which aims to develop guidelines for voluntary climate-centred financial disclosures across industries. It is under assessment by the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark GRESB, the global standard for portfolio-level ESG reporting in the real estate sector and the FTSE4Good Index Series under FTSE Russell, designed to benchmark and publish the performance of companies demonstrating strong ESG.

Embassy REIT is an example of a corporate that has environment, sustainability and governance as a clear business priority. As health and wellness attract an increasing focus in a post Covid-19 world, more corporates—and the world at large—are taking substantial measures to slow and reverse years of damage to the environment and build a world that’s long-term sustainable.

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