Property Australia

Shouting out the S-word

Karen Jamal Karen Jamal May 18, 2021

Two new projects will make it easier for the industry to put the S in ESG. We checked in with chair of the Property Council’s Social Sustainability Roundtable, Ro Coroneos, to learn more.

Social sustainability has been on the Australian real estate radar for some time. A common language for social sustainability, launched by the Property Council in 2018, sparked a new industry conversation about the S in environmental, social and governance.

But after a year of tumultuous change, human rights are in the headlights. In response, the Roundtable is leading two transformational projects: a collective social impact framework and a social procurement guide.

190521 - Story 2 - Ro Coroneos“Social sustainability has been somewhat misunderstood because it’s so hard to measure,” Coroneos, Lendlease’s senior manager for supply chain risk, explains.

Social sustainability encompasses everything from human rights to health, reconciliation to responsible procurement, work-life balance to wellness, gender equality to universal design. While social impact is not always easy to quantify, it is easy to identify.

A common language for social sustainability outlined a range of fascinating projects, from Mirvac’s profit-for-purpose cafe to The GPT Group’s Sensitive Santa, and from Charter Hall’s co-working and childcare combo to Stockland’s seniors’ sport programs.

But the new collective social impact framework will attempt to measure the value of projects like these. “We want to establish an industry-wide view of how we report on our social impact and value on an annual basis,” Coroneos says.

Measuring social impact is increasingly important for an industry navigating a “shifting landscape,” Coroneos adds.

“Companies that traditionally considered themselves islands now see themselves as part of a socio-economic ecosystem. Social sustainability is not about self-interested enlightenment. We are all shaped by the communities we serve, and our success or failure is determined by community sentiment and trust. Businesses must embrace social sustainability to survive.”

Social sustainability is more than simply a social license to operate. “It is about delivering positive social change – something that is increasingly important if you want to attract the next generation workforce.” According to Deloitte's 2020 Millennial Survey, 69 per cent of Millennials and 70 per cent of Gen Z employees are looking for jobs that “have a positive impact on communities”.

As the collective social impact framework takes shape, the Property Council’s Roundtable is also developing a guide for social procurement to broaden the property industry’s supplier base.

“The Australian business landscape is by and large small business. There is so much innovation and entrepreneurship happening and we have a huge opportunity to support this because of the scale of what we do.”

An important element of the guide will be tips for establishing partnerships. “We’re property people not social service providers, so knowing what to look for in a partner and how to create a shared vision is key.”

Coroneos, who has chaired the Roundtable for the last four years, has spent most of her career making a difference to people and planet, but she says one of her “career highlights” was helping to establish Lendlease’s Barangaroo Skills Exchange.

Lendlease teamed up with TAFE NSW to offer a pop-up college on site. Nearly 9,000 site workers attended training over three years, and 40 per cent of those accessed accredited training for the first time in their careers.

“We saw that some fundamental societal problems could be addressed on the job by helping people to upskill, improve their employability and ultimately their income,” Coroneos explains. Training spanned apprentice mentoring and safety training, upskilling mature aged workers literacy and numeracy classes.

Lendlease has since quantified the benefits of the program, finding that the Barangaroo Skills Exchange generated $78.5 million in value in just three years. For every dollar invested, $11.76 of net social and economic value was generated.

It’s a great example of how the property industry can bring social sustainability to life – and then to quantify the benefits. Coroneos says the Roundtable wants to share more success stories. “If you’ve got a great story, we want to hear about it.”

To share your project or find out more about the Social Sustainability Roundtable’s work, contact Property Council Policy Manager Tim Wheeler.