Editor: As the property industry embraces ever more ambitious sustainability targets, we are right to be cautious about the rising threat of ‘greenwashing’ (‘Greenwashing is a threat we should all seek to challenge’). One area where that threat is most acute for the real estate industry is talent attraction and retention.


As recruitment specialists for the industry, the team at Totum Partners has seen first hand that property industry professionals themselves have come to place a high premium on the sustainability credentials of their employers and are now increasingly aware of ESG rhetoric that could be seen as greenwashing.

A major contributor to this firming of attitudes is the fact that, for the first time, the UK workforce is now majority millennial – a demographic group within which 40% have chosen a job because the company performed better on sustainability.

But a commitment to sustainability is not just about attracting talent, it’s also about retaining it, with 70% of millennials saying they would stay with a company with a robust sustainability plan.

With 2018 figures indicating an already relatively high turnover level of 8% in UK real estate compared with other industries, the sector cannot afford to treat sustainability as a box-ticking exercise.

Firms need to act now to approach sustainability in an authentic and transparent way and rather than focusing simply on financial and regulatory imperatives, ESG must be guided by a genuine and realisable commitment towards social and environmental good.

For this effort to be effective and valued by current and future employees, firms must ensure that their staff are part of the conversation around environmental commitments.

Indeed, if sustainability is to become truly embedded within organisational values, the cultural shift must be felt and driven by all levels of a business.

It is no longer enough to talk about ESG without tangible action – to do so will increasingly risk industry professionals voting with their feet.

Deborah Gray, director, Totum Partners