Environmental, Social and Governance—known in the industry as ESG—practices aren't new. Over the last decade, commercial real estate players have increasingly considered the environment and sustainability when underwriting investments and operating properties, but the pandemic has catalyzed rapid growth in ESG adoption. In 2020, public funds, private equity firms, high net worth investors and nonprofit companies aggressively increased ESG commitments, and many are acknowledging the critical role that ESG practices will play in the future of real estate investment.

Companies Increase ESG Goals in 2020

The pandemic pushed ESG policy and practices into the spotlight. According to research from JLL, mutual funds and EFTs invested $288 billion globally in sustainable assets from January through November 2020, a 96% increase over 2019. The UN also noted that corporate net-zero pledges increased three-fold year-over-year.

"We have absolutely seen an increase in commitments over the course of 2020. The number of corporations that committed to science-based-targets, for example, equaled the previous five years combined and the fund flows into US ESG funds, according to Morningstar eclipsed $50 billion, up from $21 billion in 2019," says Lori Mabardi, senior director of ESGR research at JLL. "The global conversation around the need and urgency to shift from a shareholder economy to a stakeholder economy has been underway for some years but reached a new apex in 2020."

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.