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Sustainability has long been associated with green choices and environmental commitments. But the term is evolving as global businesses identify a need for broader corporate and social responsibility in the new world economy.
In a fast-moving world, what constitutes business as usual is changing, and businesses are stepping up to the challenge of sustainability leadership. There’s a growing awareness that changing opportunities and risks are compelling businesses to pay attention to global trends for transparency, and the need to lead rather than simply respond to the trends of increasing environmental and social challenges.
At Charter Hall, sustainability is embedded across both our properties and our people, with commitments including large-scale property developments, staff volunteering, and community connection through site management.
The evolution of sustainability
Research shows that global businesses have shifted their approach in sustainability, to incorporate elements formerly pigeonholed as corporate social responsibility.
Margot Black, our Head of Sustainability and Community at Charter Hall, says while the company has always taken a broad approach to sustainability, the last three years have seen a shift to hands-on initiatives, not just philanthropic support:
“We commenced our community engagement in 2012, but it was focused on giving money to help causes. The line has blurred between traditional sustainability and a holistic focus on people, places and social wellbeing. Now we focus on what else we can give, and how we can make a difference to our staff, our clients and the tenants of our buildings.”
At Charter Hall, our sustainability approach reflects global trends by focusing on:
While sustainability evolves, environmental outcomes remain a key part of our strategy.
“We’re investing in a range of smart solutions to create a positive environmental impact for our customers and tenants; we’re on a pathway to reducing our emissions for the 820 properties we own or manage across the country,” says Margot.
“Aligning our investment in energy efficiency programs with third-party certification helps evaluate our initiatives and create benchmarks to better year on year. We have the largest Green Star footprint in Australia (over 3.5 million sqm), and use the NABERS 6-star scale to measure energy efficiency. These frameworks inform increased investment in high performing sustainable buildings and developments, and identifies areas for improvement.”
“Climate change will continue to have an impact, so it stands to reason that climate change adaption planning is crucial to resilience of our assets and tenant communities into the future.”
Social exclusion is a big issue across Australia, and we are prioritising philanthropic approaches that go beyond pledging money. Donations made through our Charter Hall Investment Fund facilitates community partnerships and employee initiatives, but our commitment to Pledge 1% really embodies our holistic approach to sustainability.
“Our commitment to the Pledge 1% program is putting our money – and time – where our mouth is,” says Margot.
Pledge 1% is a global movement encouraging individuals and companies to Pledge 1% of equity, profit, product, and/or employee time to their communities. We are one of thousands of companies globally who have taken the pledge, and for us, volunteering is the cornerstone of their commitment.
“In 2017, 81 per cent of our staff volunteered in the community. That commitment almost doubled from 167 days in 2017 to 331 days in 2018,” Margot says.
Charter Hall Finance Team - Vivid Sydney 2018
“We’re proud to be creating a culture to support our compassionate and community-minded staff to take time out for what matters. Our staff volunteer with a range of community partners including the Red Cross, mentoring with the Foundation for Young Australians, and supporting the domestic violence organisation Two Good.
We believe in utilising our business for good, so Charter Hall also offers our vacant spaces in shopping centres and building foyers to community groups and social enterprises to support raising awareness, campaigns and services these valuable organisations offer.
Throughout the supply chain, we at Charter Hall recognise the importance of supporting wellbeing at work for their staff and within their tenant communities. Ensuring wellbeing for every person who plays a part in our business is a responsibility that takes on big issues. In a global sense, Charter Hall is a signatory to the UN Global Compact and aligns with UN Sustainable Development Goals, which take on supply chain issues including modern slavery and human rights.
Physical and mental wellbeing is front and centre for us to boost health, productivity and minimise environmental impacts for all Charter Hall staff and tenant communities.
“When it comes to our buildings, there are measurable objectives based on building health across elements like air quality and lighting. But on an everyday level, we take our responsibility beyond the asset itself to support happy and healthy people; staff, tenants and communities,” says Margot.
Access to wellbeing apps and programs is key to encouraging health and wellbeing for the whole person, starting with a wellbeing assessment that encourages customised actions across mindfulness, nutrition, activity and sleep, to reach personal goals.
“Internally, we’re a competitive bunch! So, we set up a series of health challenges that linked to charitable donations – if you achieved your personal challenge of 10,000 steps a day, or 8 hours of sleep, Charter Hall donated to our charity partners,” she says.
“It’s a fun way to encourage wellbeing and develop a culture where your health is valued as part of who you are, not just to do your part on the balance sheet.”
Our staff get a chance to nominate their own activities when they take a paid ‘wellbeing day’.
“It can be about simply taking a break to recharge, going for a skin check, a yoga retreat… whatever keeps you feeling well.”
In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, organisations are recognising that sustainability goes beyond the environmental and must take on a social and people perspective. Holistic sustainability is shaking off a label of a soft business planning and reporting metric – and here at Charter Hall we are proud to be leading the way.