What CRE Pros Need to Know About the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the intention of ending all forms of poverty, inequalities, and negative climate impacts. To this end, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established as a powerful framework to guide structured investments towards long-term financial value and social and environmental impact. 

At first glance, it may not be immediately clear how a United Nations effort is relevant to commercial real estate. But stay tuned. While the SDGs are predominantly focused on government entities, many commercial real estate firms have chosen to recognize their value and are promoting and aligning their operations with these goals. Sophisticated ESG strategies use the SDGs to give operational impacts a global context. In the table below, we’ve broken down each of the 17 goals to help you understand how your portfolio ESG objectives could potentially align with the SDGs.

SDGESG FactorPotential CRE Portfolio Goal
GOAL 1: No Poverty
End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SocialContribute team volunteerday donations per year at eachmanaged property
GOAL 2: Zero HungerEnd hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agricultureSocialContribute team volunteerdays to
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all agesSocialConduct annual indoor air quality testing
GOAL 4: Quality Education Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for allSocialEnsure employees have equal access to sustainable operations education for at each property
GOAL 5: Gender Equality Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girlsGovernanceEnsure employees have equal pay for equal work
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for allEnvironmentReduce water use by 20% from [base year] levels by [target year]
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for allEnvironmentIncorporate renewable clean energy for 75% of the portfolio by [target year]
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthPromote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for allGovernanceEnsure all contracted service providers at each asset meet the sustainable guidelines set forth in the contract
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovationEnvironmentTrack utility data with an analytics platform for 100% of themanaged assets and label alleligible assets annually
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality Reduce inequality within and among countries
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainableEnvironmentCreate resiliency plans for each property
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production Ensure sustainable consumption and production patternsEnvironmentRelieve the environmental impact of municipal waste management through achieving a 75% diversion rate by [target year] of overall waste generated from [base year]
GOAL 13: Climate ActionTake urgent action to combat climate change and its impactsEnvironmentReduce scope 1 and 2 GHGemissions by 20% by [target year] and 50% by [target year] from a [base year]
GOAL 14: Life Below Water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
EnvironmentWork with tenants toeliminate single-use plastics
GOAL 15: Life on Land
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
EnvironmentAll new landscape projectsinclude at least 50% native orpollinator-friendly vegetation
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levelsGovernanceSubstantially reduce corruptionand bribery in all their forms and promote and enforce non- discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development across the portfolio value chain
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable developmentSocialParticipate in local and globalpartnerships for sustainabledevelopment

When considering any new framework, it is important to remember that setting measurable goals is necessary to transform your ESG commitments into concrete and actionable tasks against which you can measure progress. If you are looking to deepen your impact and expand your commitments, aligning your existing goals, targets, and programs with the Sustainable Development Goals just might be a good way to start.