PRUPIM is a UK real estate investment management firm, part of the M&G Group of Companies which belongs to Prudential plc. Prupim manages over £15 billion of real estate assets in over 800 properties with approximately 4,500 property occupiers worldwide. Prupim provides expertise in fund management, asset management and property management. You don’t have to work too hard to find out what’s material for this Company, in this, their sixth annual Sustainability Report. In two core business areas, Development & Refurbishment and Property Development, the key material issues are headlined, whilst in the third, Fund and Asset Management, Prupim admits to not having worked materiality considerations through to clear conclusions and is currently participating in international working groups for the purpose of establishing the link between sustainability and investment performance. In each business segment described in the report, Prupim provides a description of the Company’s specific sustainability strategy for that segment, a list of main achievements to date, key indicators and just about the right balance of illustrative case studies, more of which can be found on the Prupim website. A trip to the Hilton Hotel in Reading, UK, for example, should leave you impressed with the building’s energy efficiency and ventilation systems, newly added in 2008.
With Green Building having become rather a prominent buzzphrase in the sustainability arena, because, as Prupim explains, “the built environment counts for around 40% of all carbon emissions”, it will be no surprise to find that Energy and Climate is a key area of focus, and Prupim is addressing this in ways such as reducing impacts of shopping centre travel, progressing Tenant Energy Reviews, developing renewable energy usage, and reducing overall carbon emissions against a 2008 baseline. Others subjects highlighted include Waste (“the built environment accounts for 30-40% of solid waste”), Water (“Prupim properties consume the equivalent of 262 Olympic sized swimming pools every year”), Biodiversity/Land Use and Communities/ Stakeholders. For each of these impact areas, Prupim lists the primary stakeholder or environmental issues, the possible solutions and the commitments Prupim has made to address these.
One of the nice touches of this report is the section on challenges, headed up by a description of the difficulties in engaging the occupiers of Prupim’s properties to adopt environmentally sound practices – the Company’s ability to exert indirect influence. This is a ‘good’ dilemma to have, as it demonstrates advanced thinking beyond limited direct impacts towards the Company’s overall influence in society, which most Companies achieve after reaching a certain stage of maturity in their sustainability programs. Environmental change, after all, results from behavioural changes by people.
The main downside of this report is its minimal coverage of core business practices beyond the way it develops sustainable business lines. There is almost nothing of significance about employment practices and barely half a page on community involvement. 81% of employees participating in a Prupim survey (what percentage of Prupim’s total 300 direct employees?) indicate that Prupim is a good place to work. There is a plan for 2009 to create greater employee engagement in sustainability initiatives. But I miss some deeper discussion of the responsible workplace practices that make Prupim a good place to work. Gender equality, for example. With a 7-member all-male Executive Board, I wonder if women can do anything right at Prupim!
There are some other gaps, I feel. There is no report of Prupim’s responses to tenants’ needs such as accessibility in shopping centres or other buildings. Prudential, Prupim’s mother company, is Prupim’s single largest client. I wonder what proportion of Prupim’s business is in-house, and how this affects Prupim’s flexibility to operate. Biodiversity is mentioned but not discussed. And there is a lack of hard data reported. GHG emissions are covered well, but very few other indicators are quantified and presented.
This report is well written and well presented. It follows a flow based on the Company’s business lines, with information neatly parcelled into the relevant sections. Clearly targeting a business audience, this report does the job in reflecting non-financial value to investors. There is no index of any sort, and a minimal contents list, which makes navigation difficult, though the order in which information is presented is logical and clearly segmented. A pleasant but business-like design, this report utilizes each page of the report to the full, pretty much, I expect, in the same way an architect might plan building utilization. You won’t find many empty spots. It’s a compact summary report of only 28 pages, but each page carries weight.
Despite adhering to no accepted framework (GRI, AccountAbility, Global Compact or other), the Prupim report is a clear and smartly written document, which projects a serious approach to sustainability. A pleasing development in 2008 was the hosting of a first stakeholder panel with 30 external representatives from different interest groups. This apparently provided Prupim with new insights, and though we are not privileged to know what they were, the process sounds positive. Despite being less transparent than I might have hoped, this report remains impressive. Prupim’s Sustainability Consultants include an Advisor’s statement, which is presented as just that, with no aspiration to be considered as an assurance statement. The statement is a frank assessment of how Prupim has progressed, with pointers towards addressing future challenges, professionally and credibly done. I felt this added value to the report. I cannot help but admit that this report, even though property investment may not be the most exciting of topics in the field of sustainability, is one of those which I have most enjoyed reading over the past year due to its sheer professionalism, its coverage of material issues and the balance between declarative commitments and focus on results and outcomes. The report covers all bases well and evidently rests on solid sustainability foundations.
1. Expand the employee section
2. Gradually build data transparency
3. Build on this strong foundation for future reports
elaine cohen is the Joint CEO of BeyondBusiness Ltd, www.b-yond.biz/en , a leading CSR reporting and consulting firm, specializing in a wide range of consulting services for the development of social and environmental responsibility of businesses.