Monday, March 16, 2009

PRI Encourages Investors to Take More Active Ownership Role

March 06, 2009
by Robert Kropp

Principles for Responsible Investment publishes eight-point plan to help institutional investors avoid the pitfalls that contributed to current economic crisis. -- As owners of the financial institutions whose practices led to the economic crisis, institutional investors must accept a share of responsibility, according to the Board of the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), which released an eight-point plan for institutional investors to respond to the crisis.

According to the PRI Board statement on financial crisis, investors must take responsibility for protecting their investments and ensuring that their agents act in their best interests.

The Board of the PRI asserted that the Principles provide a robust framework for assisting investors in their response to the crisis, and called on institutional investors to work together to improve risk management practices and create a culture of active ownership.

The eight-point plan espoused by the Board calls on institutional investors to see responsible investment as an important response to the current economic crisis and to increase their investment in activities that enhance understanding of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues. Investors should become signatories to the PRI as well, said the Board.

Institutional investors should provide agents such as fund managers with concrete incentives to help them better understand ESG issues, and invest in active ownership by monitoring their investments and engaging as activist shareowners in their portfolio companies.

The plan also calls on institutional investors to engage with regulatory agencies to ensure that consideration of ESG issues is part of the solution to the crisis, and to publicly disclose their responsible investment activities.

Donald MacDonald, Chair of the PRI Initiative, said, "We believe this current crisis could have a catalytic effect of shifting the mainstream investment sector towards more responsible investment practices. Institutional investors can make a positive contribution to rebuilding trust and confidence by taking action in support of our eight-point plan."


Thursday, March 12, 2009

IDB Announces Energy Innovation Contest

03 March 2009

IDB Announces Energy Innovation Contest 27 February 2009: The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced a contest to finance proposals for promoting energy efficiency and access to renewable energy in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The contest will award up to US$200,000 for projects that propose novel solutions to the region’s energy shortages, particularly in rural and low-income areas. The contest is funded by the IDB, GVEP International, GTZ and the Government of the Republic of Korea. It will award between US$4-6 million over the next three years.

The criteria for evaluation include degree of innovation, developmental impact (economic, social, and environmental), scalability, replicability, financial sustainability, institutional capability and the quality of the proposal, implementation strategy and projected risks. Proposals must be submitted by 15 May 2009, and the winners will be announced in August. [IDB Press Release]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Green Building Investment: Energetic and Evolving

By Leanne Tobias, March 9, 2009

Last week brought me to San Francisco to speak at Infocast's Green Building Finance and Investment Forum. Lead sponsors of the event included Galley EcoCapital, Miller Canfield and Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. I feel fortunate to have helped create this conference in early 2008, and my company, Malachite LLC, continues to co-sponsor this energetic series. The March 2009 conference was our third, and I'm surprised how far green finance and investment has come in a year's time.

In the February 2008 conference, our first, we spent a fair amount of time documenting the value proposition associated with green real estate investment. This year, that presentation was no longer needed-conference attendees have seen repeatedly that green features can be delivered cost-effectively to the market and that sustainability leads to faster leasing, higher tenant retention and stronger-although, in this market, not necessarily premium-rental rates.

Are sustainable buildings immune from the economic downturn? Of course not. But conference participants -- including such multi-billion investors as TIAA-CREF, the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust and the Multi-Employer Property Trust (three investors who continue to put money into the property market) -- find green properties better positioned to weather the storm than conventional properties. Why? Lower water and energy costs are valuable tenant commodities in times of economic distress, and tenants appreciate the superior amenities found in green buildings-among them, more comfortable temperatures, cleaner finishes and more natural light. And as the real estate market slackens and tenants have wider choice in spending their real estate dollars, many will be taking advantage of market rental rate declines to secure better space. That favors higher green building occupancies.

Especially striking over the last year has been the rapid refinement of financing, contractual, leasing and management protocols to guide the development and operation of green buildings. Among them:

No-downpayment financing mechanisms to support energy-efficient retrofits. The energy-savings performance contract (ESPC), which effectively leases green upgrades to the property owner under a long-term contract, was pioneered in the federal government sector, but has been extended to private sector use. Hannon Armstrong, a leader in this market, now provides such financing for privately-owned buildings. Hannon Armstrong has revised the ESPC structure to reflect commercial real estate needs, says John Christmas, senior vice president for energy efficiency financing. Christmas and his team underwrite potential ESPC properties for cash flow and appraised value, and require investment grade contractors to install improvements.

Performance contracting in the construction and renovation of green buildings. The use of performance contracting is growing more important with respect to the functionality of green features and the attainment of green certification, according to a panel of green attorneys, including Greenberg Traurig's Doug White, Hanson Bridgett's Howard Ashcroft, and Daniel Slone of McGuire Woods. Developers and investors are being increasingly advised to make a property's LEED certification a performance specification. As well, financial penalties and incentives are increasingly being linked to the attainment of a green building rating.

New leasing and management protocols. At the property level, new leasing and management practices are being adopted to guide sustainable building operation. In the current soft market, landlords and tenants frequently supplant confrontational lease language with cooperative provisions, says Marc Winters of McNaul Ebel. Under this lease model, pioneered in Canada, enhanced sustainability performance is a goal shared by owners and tenants. Another key aspect to green leases are pass-through definitions, reports Cushman and Wakefield's Steven Ring. Owners, tenants, management companies and their attorneys continue to tackle this question as 2009 begins. Among the questions: should LEED consulting costs be passed through to tenants? How about revenues and costs associated with the sale of renewable energy credits?

Growing use of environmental performance as a screening feature in space decisions. In marked contrast to prior years, commercial leasing brokers are becoming increasingly conscious of sustainability issues, and environmental requirements are being added increasingly to standard property RFPs (requests for space proposals), reports David Pogue of C.B. Richard Ellis.

The verdict? Green building investment continues to hold its own and evolve, even in the biggest economic slump in close to a century. That's one of the few things to cheer about in 2009.

Leanne Tobias is founder and principal of Malachite LLC, an advisory firm that specializes in the development, leasing, management, financing and certification of sustainable or green real estate on a global basis. Comment online, or write to Leanne about your green real estate thoughts and experiences at She'll share the best of reader feedback in future posts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Marriott reducing cost by recycling

March 2, 2009

Hotel Reduces Costs by Recycling

By reducing its trash and recycling more, a Marriott Hotels location is generating savings.By reducing its trash and recycling more, a Marriott Hotels location is generating savings.

After starting a recycling and composting program in February 2008, the University of Maryland University College Inn and Conference Center by Marriott has achieved significant savings, according to this press release.

Here is a comparison of 2008 versus 2007.

  • In 2008, about 28 tons of trash left the hotel per month, or about 336 tons a year
  • In 2007, the hotel generated about 37 tons of trash per month, or about 444 tons a year.

Of the 336 tons generated in 2008, 10 percent was recycled (glass, metal, paper, cardboard), 32 percent was composted (food scraps, plant materials), and 52 percent was trash that ended up in landfills. The recycling and composting resulted in annual savings of $6,000.

The hotel started a “green team” last year and hired as its compost vendor Envirelation Inc., according to the release. In addition to training employees on what can be recycled and how to separate it, the team examined other areas in the hotel that could be reevaluated, including the restaurant and kitchen.

Recently, Marriott began giving its customers the opportunity to “green” their hotel stay for an additional dollar per day.