Social value and ESG permeated virtually every talk, roundtable and conversation at Mipim this year. The growing momentum around these themes and their link with the built environment and our urban centres is not new, but this year’s Mipim felt different.

Suzanne Benson

Suzanne Benson

The climate crisis is, of course, front and centre of these discussions, particularly as real estate has such an enormous impact. But the pandemic has, not surprisingly, brought health, wellbeing and social exclusion to the top of the agenda that is driving a growing alignment between profit and the achievement of social outcomes for our industry.

Investing in social value is the theme of a recent paper we have published, the product of our collaboration with the Social Market Foundation. The latest in a string of reports on the topic, the paper brings together views from investors and other leaders across real estate, highlighting how social value is rising up the agenda; yet it remains harder to plan for and demonstrate than environmental measures.

As was demonstrated by the prominence of ESG at Mipim, investors are conscious of the brand and reputational value to be achieved by demonstrating the value schemes can deliver. There is no one driver behind this shift, and the pressure seems to be coming as much from staff within organisations who are motivated to be involved in something that has a greater positive impact within communities.

Long-term stewardship and the responsibility for it were at the heart of the discussions at the roundtable I chaired at Mipim, discussing some of the key themes of the paper. We talked about how the build-to-rent operator’s business model creates a reason for the long-term interest in the quality of public realm and the challenges of maintaining that in build-to-sell developments.

We also discussed how community ownership of spaces, often naturally organic and hard to create, can be enormously successful, where there is a collaboration between public, private and community to maintain public realm.

From a governance perspective, how we embed social outcomes from inception and throughout the lifetime of the scheme has the greatest potential to drive change and the results to benefit us all.

The next phase of our work with the Social Market Foundation will focus on policy recommendations. If you are interested in being involved, please get in touch.

Suzanne Benson is partner and head of the Manchester office at Trowers