Name: Esther An
Title: Chief Sustainability Officer
Organization: City Developments Limited
ESG Topics of Interest:
- Climate resilience
- Energy efficiency and adoption of renewables
- Innovation, stakeholder impact, and partnerships
What motivated you to join the GRESB Foundation Board?
My motivation for joining the GRESB Foundation Board was to connect the good work of key real estate organizations and work together to accelerate a green and low-carbon built environment to tackle climate risks.
As Chief Sustainability Officer, my role is to drive the sustainable development agenda and embed sustainability in CDL’s business strategy and operational decision-making. In addition to being a member of the GRESB Foundation, I am also honored to be sitting on boards or advisory platforms of several international organizations that help accelerate green buildings and sustainable development, including World Green Building Council, Global Reporting Initiative, Asia Pacific Real Assets Association, and UN PRI Real Estate Advisory Committee.
Playing a key role in these networks and committees has provided me with a bird’s eye view of the evolving developments in the business landscape, real estate sector, and built environment. My duties on these boards and committees have placed me in a prime position to help push the agenda on climate reporting and ESG disclosure. With more investors increasingly looking at how companies set targets and disclose emission pathways, this is key for businesses if they wish to achieve long-term growth and resilience.
How does your organization view ESG and what is your organization’s approach to responsible investing?
For over two decades, green building has been a top priority in the way CDL designs, builds, and manages its properties. Guided by our ethos of “Conserving as we Construct” since 1995, CDL has fully integrated ESG considerations into its core business, continuously pushing the envelope with climate-focused strategies and paving the road towards the Singapore Green Plan.
CDL is committed to achieving three deliverables: Decarbonization, Digitalization & Innovation, and Disclosure and Communication. Our value creation business model, anchored on four key pillars — Integration, Innovation, Investment, and Impact — provides the firm with a solid foundation to mitigate and adapt to unprecedented threats and challenges.
The CDL Future Value 2030 sustainability blueprint, implemented in 2017, maps out our strategic goals and ESG targets. Target setting, tracking, and reporting has helped identify gaps, take strategic action to improve and future-proof our business, and raise operational performance.
As an extension of CDL’s commitment towards sustainable investments, the CDL Sustainable Investment Principles (SIP) was established in January 2022 to steward responsible capital allocation and investment decision-making. The SIP aligns with the Glasgow Climate Pact, UN SDGs, and several other global best practices and frameworks such as UN PRI, TCFD, and UNEP FI.
How does your organization use GRESB and its data?
CDL leverages GRESB to measure, track, and monitor the ESG performance of its assets, as well as to identify new opportunities. Understanding where CDL stands on a global scale gives us the confidence to promote our products and services globally and helps us realize new possibilities such as exploring the widening of our scope of disclosure within our asset portfolio to expand investor reach.
Building on the GRESB framework, CDL set up internal systems and formulas that enable us to go beyond annual disclosures and publicly disclose the quarterly performance of our interim targets under our Future Value 2030 goals. In addition, CDL’s GRESB score complements our net-zero commitment made in 2021. As the first real estate developer in Singapore and the first conglomerate in Southeast Asia to sign the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, we pledged to achieve net zero whole-life carbon by 2030.
CDL’s strong ESG track record and listing on global sustainability benchmarks such as GRESB has also helped the company and its joint venture partners gain access to sustainable finance, including various green loans, a green bond, and a sustainability-linked loan.
What is next for ESG and what role will organizations like GRESB play going forward?
As the world is taking collective action to tackle the climate emergency, the business case for greening the built environment is stronger than ever. The cost of inaction is on the rise with both tangible and intangible impact on businesses. There is an urgent need for companies to engage their supply chain and develop an ESG-centric business strategy that can meet the changing expectations of stakeholders and the challenges of a changing business landscape.
Investors are increasingly showing greater preference for low- or zero-emission-producing real estate assets, or assets with a credible transition path. Companies that integrate sustainability can purposefully achieve a triple bottom line impact, benefiting people, planet, and profits, and even outperform their peers.
Organizations like GRESB have a clear role to play in the corporate transition to a net-zero economy. With investors placing increasing value on the sustainability of real estate assets, GRESB is becoming a critical tool for remaining competitive. By measuring and reporting ESG data in a way that is transparent and consistent, investors can better manage and account for risks. The ESG performance of individual companies will also improve because, ultimately, what gets measured gets managed.