As I write, Westminster Council have published their plan to enable outdoor dining in certain parts of London’s West End so hopefully that will give enough time for businesses to be ready to open from 4 July and to some enjoy summer trade.
We may even see some innovative ideas to encourage custom. One of my favourite sights was the Paris café street scene complete with life size teddy bears occupying seats at tables blocked out to comply with social distancing. It looked so much better than being surrounded by empty tables. And of course our native Paddington bears could perform the London role admirably! As we are gradually released from lockdown, it remains to be seen whether we will recover quickly from our period of enforced captivity or whether, by virtue of some form of COVID-induced Stockholm Syndrome, we have come to like our captivity. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to all those random social encounters that form an intrinsic part of the real estate sector.
B Corp is a word I believe we are going to hear a lot more about in the real estate sector. It came up a few weeks ago in the excellent Property Week Climate Crisis Challenge Event when Basil Demeroutis of FORE Group confirmed that the company were going for B Corp accreditation.
If you are unfamiliar with the term, certified B Corporations (or B Corps) are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. They constitute a community of leaders using business as a force for good and give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns. In the UK, certification is assessed by the not-for-profit B Lab UK. Although B Corps have been around in the US since 2007, with well-known brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia achieving certification, it was only in 2015 that the initiative launched in the UK and there are now circa 320 UK B Corps.
This week Mishcon de Reya hosted a digital event entitled ‘B Corps - A Framework for Better Business’, in which my colleagues Nadim Meer and Alex Rhodes were in conversation with Chris Turner, the Executive Director of B Lab UK, the non-profit organisation behind UK B Corp movement. Mishcon de Reya is celebrating its fifth year of partnership with B Lab UK, supporting purpose driven companies seeking B Corp certification. Mishcon has so far advised over 40 companies on amending their constitutional documents to satisfy the B Corp legal test which requires B Corps to undertake to operate for the benefit of all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
Hopefully we will see more UK real estate companies seek accreditation. Igloo Regeneration are already listed and watch this space for others.
Meanwhile, in California, Fifth Wall VC Fund the largest venture capital firm focused on innovation for the global real estate industry, is once again leading the way by announcing its recent B Corp certification. Earlier this year, Fifth Wall announced its intention to launch a Carbon Impact Fund to help build a consortium of climate-forward real estate companies meet growing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and invest in sustainability technologies and they see B Corp accreditation as ‘a natural step towards this’.
On the subject of carbon emissions and climate change, my latest podcast interview is with Raefer Wallis of GIGA who works at the intersection of healthy buildings and cloud technology. It was Fifth Wall who alerted me to Wallis who had been described as the ‘guiding light’ in the pursuit of healthier buildings, even before Covid-19! He shared some amazing insights into the impact and measuring of air quality in buildings and how landlords and tenants are going to need to collaborate going forward in order to ensure that buildings are able to provide a safe haven.
On average we spend 90% of our time indoors so the buildings we spend time in could have more of an impact on our health than our doctors do. Wallis is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic must be seen as a wake-up call for climate change and all that will entail. He has somehow managed to reassure me about the air filtration systems on planes to the extent that an overseas summer holiday is not now totally out of the question. This interview will be coming shortly and is one to listen out for.
During lockdown, many of us will have been unintentionally catapulted into becoming experts on digital panels and presentations. So Women Talk Real Estate’s timely webinar on digital presenting was very well received. Unsurprisingly, concern around technical problems is the key issue for most of us. Presenter Andrea Carpenter led by example. She appeared completely unphased at losing her internet connection, and moved her laptop from one floor to another to achieve a better signal whilst still presenting and she didn’t miss a beat. The message is to remain calm and persevere whatever adversity is thrown your way.
This ties in with a book that has just been recommended to me. ‘Grit the Power of Passion and Perseverance’ by psychologist Angela Ducksworth whose main message is that talent is not necessarily a guarantee of success and that other factors such as identifying your passions and doggedly following through can be more important in the long run.
Susan Freeman is a partner at Mishcon de Reya