Build to rent a flagbearer for ESG

How is the build-to-rent sector approaching ESG issues? Are residents willing to pay more for a high ESG spec?

With an ingrained focus on community, connectivity and sustainability, the build to rent (BTR) sector is helping to transform modern living habits in the UK.

With the total number of BTR homes completed, under construction or in planning at Q2 2022 up 13% from 2021 to 237,000, and with regional cities growing at double the pace of London, the sector has a huge opportunity to act as a flagbearer for the ESG agenda.

For Watkin Jones plc, a real estate developer specialising in BTR and purpose-built student accommodation, the need to provide ESG-focused residential solutions has long been an integral component of its strategy.

We recently sat down with Sarah Sergeant, CFO, and Kerry Watson, Group Company Secretary, to discuss the opportunity that ESG presents for the ongoing growth of the BTR sector.

Embedding ESG

For ESG to become embedded in an organisation’s practices, it needs a wholehearted commitment from all stakeholders. Thankfully for Sergeant, this was the case when she joined Watkin Jones in October 2021 when she quickly recognised that ESG was nothing new to the organisation.

“ESG is really just a label for harnessing everything that was already being done in the business before I joined,” said Sergeant. “Within the first few weeks, we went into launching a new strategy and it became apparent straight away that ESG was already built into our operations. There was nothing new, it had just always been there, but now it was given a name and a strategy.

“I previously worked in a much larger organisation with more employees and more units, and the management of ESG was very much top down. With Watkin Jones plc, as a smaller business, we can do it more organically. That's probably the most exciting thing for me.”

Watson stresses that it's not straightforward: “If you lump ESG in with other initiatives, it's not easy to tick the compliance box. You can't just say that, if we do these things, we're a sustainable company – it requires a lot more thought and a lot more attention. What works for one company might not necessarily be right for
another. It requires innovation and depth of thought to get there.”

The attitudes of the younger generations are changing – they want community living, cinemas, gyms, social space – it's tapping into a social need.”

What are the two or three really important initiatives that we can get behind as an industry that will make a big difference?”


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



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