Rising awareness of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) concerns, and the expectations of businesses to address them and take meaningful action, became stronger than ever during the past year. According to PwC’s 2021 Consumer Intelligence Series survey on ESG, 83% of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practices, and 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.1
Businesses are responding with the creation of comprehensive ESG plans that outline both their current and forward-looking strategies regarding various ESG factors. These can include carbon emissions reduction, staff-led social/charitable initiatives, diversity and inclusion, customer influence and outreach, and many more.
Using 2021 as a launchpad for ESG planning
Some companies have been consistently recognized for their ESG efforts long before the term “ESG” took the spotlight. Many of these companies are using the current environment as an opportunity to further enhance their positive impact and align their ESG strategy with widely recognized frameworks such as the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Skyline Group of Companies is one such entity. Its first environmental plan, coined “Recognizing Our Responsibility,” was launched in 2006. Since then, and up until 2021, Skyline had been integrating various additional ESG initiatives within its operations each year, but without any overarching formal strategy. That changed in 2021 when Skyline launched its inaugural Sustainability Plan, defining its key objectives within each ESG category.
“We used 2021 as a launchpad to officially set our standards and benchmarks for sustainability—a term we use at Skyline to encompass environmental, social, and governance,” said R. Jason Ashdown, Co-Founder & Chief Sustainability Officer, Skyline Group of Companies.
“We’re holding ourselves accountable to measure our progress and report on our success at year-end, so we can hit the ground running for 2022 and beyond.”
Effecting positive change at properties across Canada
With more than $6.4 billion in assets under management, and a presence in more than 150 Canadian communities, Skyline acquires, manages, and develops real estate properties across apartment, industrial commercial, and retail asset classes.
“We have a responsibility to enrich each of the communities in which we operate,” said Ashdown.
“We do this through creating environmental efficiencies at the properties, and also by investing in these communities and partnering with community organizations. As a result, we’re making a positive difference not only for our residential and commercial-retail tenants, but for those who live in the broader community.”
A year of environmental, social, and governance initiatives
In 2021, Skyline launched, or continued to facilitate, a wide range of ESG practices at its properties across Canada. These include:
– Donating 13,000 square feet of retail space to be used as a Community Hub for non-profit organizations that provide mental health services to youth and families
– Donating $1 million in land for the development of Permanent Supportive Housing that will provide homes and support services to 32 people
– Installing more than 60 EV Charging stations and being awarded a grant to install an additional 852 EV charging stations at its residential properties in 2022
– Installing 55 solar energy-producing rooftop systems at its properties
– Launching an e-waste recycling project across the residential portfolio (completion Q2 2022), allowing tenants to ethically dispose of their e-waste and metals and properly divert them from landfills, free of charge
– Launching a pilot project to install smart heat-regulation technology at its residential properties
– Participating in an innovative pilot to divert organic waste cost-effectively from residential properties
– Assisting residential tenants through an in-house program, R.I.S.E. (Reach, Impact, Support, Elevate), accessible to any tenant who has fallen on hard times and needs help with resource outreach or financial support to get back on their feet
– Enacting a multi-year plan for the installation of additional rooftop beehives and community gardens at its properties
A positive influence on company customers and stakeholders
In its 2021 Sustainability plan, Skyline defined its “sustainability partners”—all of the different audiences that interact with the business: staff, tenants, investors, business partners, and the greater community. In fact, as part of planning its 2021 Sustainability efforts, Skyline conducted a materiality assessment with its trustees, business partners, community partners, staff, and tenants, to understand what ESG initiatives were most important to them.
Skyline aims to empower its sustainability partners by inviting them to participate in multiple social and environmental initiatives throughout the year. For example:
– In April 2021, Skyline asked its 34,000+ residential tenants to participate in an Earth Hour Challenge that encouraged each tenant to join as a community and turn off all power.
– Skyline’s Annual Charity Golf Classic event invited staff, investors, Trustees, and business partners to come together and raise funds for five organizations fighting homelessness and mental health challenges across Canada. Skyline also launched a “Driving Positive Change” video campaign, comprising professionally produced videos focusing on each of these charities. Between the event and the video campaign, Skyline and its sustainability partners raised $175,000.
– In Fall 2021, Skyline partnered with Tree Canada, resulting in an initial investment of $30,000 and four fall tree-planting events for staff. This resulted in 665 tree seedlings being planted across Canada.
“We tap into our human resources as much as our dollars,” added Ashdown.
“We have a bounty of talented people and resources ranging from IT, to HR, to Construction, to Legal, and so many more. If a non-profit or community organization needs advice or service, and we have the capabilities, we enthusiastically lend our expertise.”
Rewards of ESG practices: beyond just recognition
Skyline was recently the proud recipient of two prestigious awards for 2021 from the Federation of Rental Housing Providers of Ontario: Environmental Excellence (awarded to Skyline Group of Companies) and Impact (awarded to Skyline Living for its R.I.S.E. program).
Although industry recognition provides Skyline and its staff with incredible validation for their ESG efforts, the benefits of integrating ESG practices into Skyline’s business model extend far beyond accolades alone.
“ESG is important to our Trustees, staff, investors, tenants, and business partners,” said Ashdown.
“It is now a major factor in determining whether someone wants to work for us, invest with us, rent with us, or do business with us. It’s our job to ensure sustainability is integrated across all facets of Skyline, and that we are setting the benchmark in our industry for taking the most meaningful measures possible.”
About Skyline Group of Companies
Skyline Group of Companies is a fully integrated asset acquisition, management, development, and investment entity.
It is comprised of companies that provide services in real estate management and development, as well as clean energy management and development.
As at November 30, 2021, Skyline manages more than $6.4 billion across its real estate and clean energy platforms.
With more than 1,000 employees across Canada, Skyline works to provide safe, clean, and comfortable places for tenants to call home, great places to do business, sustainable solutions for a greener future, and an engaging experience for its investors.
View Skyline’s 20th Anniversary celebration video to see how Skyline is grounded in real estate, powered by people, and growing for the future.
For more information about Skyline Group of Companies, please visit skylinegroupofcompanies.ca