A new survey has found nearly 70% of commercial real estate professionals had a heightened focus on environmental, social and corporate-governance (ESG) strategies in 2022.  

The CBRE survey, which surveyed 500 CRE professionals globally, found that companies were favouring ESG factors more heavily in their decisions on which buildings to lease or buy, with many prioritising green-building certifications and features that reduce energy consumption or generate renewable energy. 

The sentiment was more prevalent among investors, although occupiers planned to meet net-zero targets sooner and under a more robust set of principles. 

More than two thirds of respondents said their companies’ focus on ESG intensified in 2022 and that their primary ESG consideration for their real estate is to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. 

“While both landlords and occupiers are focused on emission reduction, the latter also have a growing emphasis on wellness and social inclusion,” said Sameer Chopra, CBRE’s Head of Research, Pacific and ESG Asia Pacific.    

“In fact, almost the majority of occupiers appear to be willing to pay premium rents for wellness attributes. On emissions specifically, we expect new developments and new builds are likely to be all-electric from the outset.” 

As companies face rising energy costs and government regulations, respondents said they were willing to pay a premium for spaces with features like on-site renewable energy generation (58%) or smart technology to monitor and adjust energy use (53%) to help reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.  

In fact, 84% of respondents said they specifically looked for energy-reducing features – and almost half would either seek a discount or walk away from a deal if a building lacked these.  

Another big ESG influence was green-building certification.  

Some 45% of respondents would pay a premium to lease or buy a certified building, and a third would either seek a discount from or outright reject a building that lacked certification. 

“Reducing emissions is at the forefront for our clients, and they see ESG goals impacting all aspects of real estate decision making,” said Matt Werner, CBRE’s Global President of Client Care. 

“That can include providing spaces that improve employee health and well-being, reducing resource use in building operations, or investing in renewables or efficiency. We anticipate the most highly sought-after real estate will help companies in achieving their stated environmental and social goals.” 

Su-Fern Tan, CBRE’s Pacific Head of ESG, said it was also encouraging to see from the survey results that the net zero movement was gaining traction, with emissions reduction becoming a top global priority in real estate and most respondents having net zero goals. 

“The results also confirm that while investors and regulation are driving change, consumers and occupiers are demonstrating a strong demand for sustainable products and investments, with 47% demanding more sustainable options,” Tan said.  

“A company’s brand is also very much linked to who they associate with, so it is revealing to see that more than half of investors are reducing associations with socially controversial companies.”