News Article conference development ESG Living Investment Forum 2022 Poland report residential sustainability
by Michał Poręcki | Report

Residential developers in Poland are aware of the importance of ESG but they feel that their customers are often still focused on the price only. The participants of the ESG panel of Living Investment Forum 2022, held by Property Forum in Warsaw recently, agreed that the legal and financial pressure put on the construction industry may not be enough and there is still a lot to be done in terms of education.

As Monika Dębska-Pastakia FRICS, Managing Partner of PADMO Group and moderator of the panel stated at the beginning, ESG issues in the residential market are not as often discussed, as in the commercial one. That state of affairs is about to change soon, as major legislation changes are on the horizon. The EU is working on the new Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which should finally make ESG-related efforts comparable. But even without the legal pressure, ESG awareness is becoming more and more common among the major residential market players. „The changes we observed during the last two years are huge. We started two years ago with ocasional ESG diligence on transactions; now, there is virtually no transaction without ESG or carbon due diligence. We see a lot of our clients getting credit for reporting under the standards that will be implemented by the CSRD directive. There are a lot of changes going on at the product level. In Poland, there is a lot of movement in PRS investments - we already checking some transactions for foreign funds. They want us to screen those properties through the ESG criteria and operational carbon, as this says something to them. Because the best pressure is always legal and financial, the legal one is coming very soon – every company with more than 250 employees and over a €20 million turnover will have to report under the CSRD rules”, said Joanna Plaisant, Strategic Partnership and Sustainability Associate Director at Arcadis.

Skanska Residential Development Poland and Echo Investment are in the vanguard of these changes. „I have the privilege to represent a company that has had its ESG strategy developed for many years. Since 2016, we have been certifying all our B2C investments using the BREEAM scheme. This changes the way we design every investment and also forces us to make the extra mile in terms of making investments more aligned with ESG, more human-focused and less environmentally affecting. When designing new projects from scratch, we only go for ones that need less energy than required by local legislation”, said Artur Łeszczyński, Business Development Manager, Skanska Residential Development Poland.

„Our way of thinking is focused on the customer. For several years, we have been thinking about how to prepare our apartments and the area around the buildings to make life easier, more flexible and more prepared for environmental challenges. One of the examples I can share is the new project that we are building now in Łódź. It's called Zenit and it will provide customers not only with energy created on the rooftops with solar panels but a new solution called EchoShare. We will offer our residents electric scooters, bikes, cargo bikes, electric cars and vans for their exclusive use. All our residents will be able to book these vehicles online and use them freely. All electric vehicles will be charged from the electricity generated on the roof of the building, so this will make the life of our customers easier without generating additional carbon footprint”, said Kazimierz Monkiewicz, CSR & CSV Manager, Echo Investment

Monika Dębska-Pastakia also reminded that according to the EU legislation, 70% of construction waste should be reused, upcycled and refurbished. Is the market prepared for that shift? „Before we started to certify all our investments, the share of recycling of all waste produced on construction sites was around 65-70%. Right now, the share of recycled waste on our construction sites is around 97%”, claimed Artur Łeszczyński of Skanska Residential.

However, panellists were unanimous that legal pressure on the developers is not enough and the biggest challenge for the coming years is to change the way of thinking of the majority of society. „We are already using twice as many resources as the Earth can produce. So we are living at the expense of our children and grandchildren, so no wonder that people like Greta Thunberg are upset with us. Because whatever we do or do not today, future generations will not be able to undo it, so thinking about circularity, especially in real estate is super important”, said Joanna Plaisant of Arcadis.  Her opinion was shared by Kazimierz Monkiewicz of Echo Investment: „We definitely should change our mind, on ESG issues, the climate and the footprint that we are leaving. It's not only the strategy that comes up to the very end of some conferences - we have to change our lives, and start doing it immediately because we are literally eating our planet. And we are also changing the temperature. So we have to do our very best in everyday life, and every one of us has to react. This also has to be in line with our way of thinking, what is best for our customers, and how we can prepare the apartments to give our customers the best way of living. That`s because many people are still not very well aware of how it may influence our lives in the very near future”.