Crombie REIT, one of the country’s leading owners, operators and developers of real estate in Canada, is incorporating sustainability considerations into all aspects of its business to meet key stakeholder and community objectives.
In its latest Sustainability Report 2021, the REIT, with a portfolio which primarily includes grocery-anchored retail, retail-related industrial, and mixed-use residential properties in Canada’s top urban and suburban markets, said it has improved its ability to measure its sustainability performance and impact on the environment.
It has also developed policies and procedures that will enable it to set targets and implement actionable processes necessary to achieve its short- and long-term sustainability goals. And the company said it has formalized and published Crombie’s Sustainable Development Policy, which commits the company to incorporating sustainability considerations into all aspects of Crombie’s development process.
“In order for Crombie to successfully deliver on our sustainability commitments, we need to bring our stakeholders along with us on this journey and we need to convince each one of them that the trip is worth the cost,” said Glenn Hynes, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer.
“We are partnering with our tenants to introduce smart technology that helps reduce our collective energy, water and waste impacts and ultimately, our costs. We are partnering with governments to leverage sustainability incentive programs, and with industry to drive green building certification standards. Most importantly, we are partnering with our employees to help us build a better tomorrow.”
In the report, Don Clow, President & Chief Executive Officer of Crombie, said the company’s goal is to create value by developing and operating properties in a way that enhances local communities and protects the environment.
“We are guided in our work by a strong set of values and business ethics, which help shape and strengthen our sustainability commitments. In 2021, we brought new focus and energy to our sustainability program and advanced a number of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities,” he said.
“We have enhanced our environmental leadership structure, welcoming Dan Bourque, as Vice President of Sustainability, to our leadership team. Formerly our Director of Operations – and having served as the President of BOMA Nova Scotia over the past four years, and a current member of BOMA Canada’s Board of Directors – Dan knows our business inside and out and is leading a team dedicated to lowering our environmental impact and reducing our carbon footprint. Together, we will identify opportunities where we can make a difference and set credible targets for sustainability improvements across our portfolio.”
That portfolio includes 270 open-air centres with a total space of 13.68 million square feet, five office properties at 954,000 square feet, five enclosed malls at 1.372 million square feet, 11 joint ventures and properties under development at 530,000 square feet and four retail-related industrial properties at 1.855 million square feet.
Empire owns 41.5 per cent of the REIT, which has $5.4 billion in fair value including properties held in joint ventures. It also has a $5.3-$7.5 billion development pipeline in future investment potential. And 96.2 per cent of the portfolio has committed occupancy.
“Going forward, we want to certify more space with trusted certification bodies, identify opportunities to introduce more renewable energy into our portfolio, and continue to enhance the health and well-being of our teams, as well as those who spend time in our spaces,” said Clow.
“We will continuously increase the transparency and accountability of our ESG and climate-related financial disclosures. The last few years have brought into focus the real-time threats of climate change, social unrest, and the impact of global pandemics. While we can never predict the future, we can prepare for it. At Crombie, we understand that climate concerns are accelerating and we must own and operate resilient and sustainable real estate assets that will stand the test of time. It is the passion, determination and ingenuity of our employees that allowed us to support our tenants and communities during another challenging year.”
Hynes said that in the company’s open air centres about 80 per cent of the carbon footprint is actually controlled by its tenants.
“We control the common areas. The parking lots, the lighting, etc. The consumption of water, electricity, waste, etc. for the tenant spaces is controlled by our tenants. So for that reason, a key part of Dan’s job as VP of Sustainability is going to be working with our tenant community to find ways that we in partnership can work through those 270 properties to reduce our carbon footprint over time,” said Hynes.
“Since we only control 20 per cent we can only do so much. But we know we’ve got great tenants like Sobeys and lots of other great tenants in our portfolio that will be positive.”
Bourque said the focus is to operate with the least amount of environmental impact on the communities where Crombie’s properties exist.
“We’re trying to develop as sustainably as possible as we build new buildings and bring them online as well as operating and managing the sites we have. It’s becoming such a key. Our clients are asking for it. Our customers will be asking for it. It’s just that expectation that we really want to lead by example here in this space,” he said.
“It does make good business sense,” added Hynes. “But at the end of the day it is about the planet. We want to bring this down to every one of our 350 employees because at the end of the day, we can develop properties sustainably, we can operate properties, but it’s also what every one of us do in our daily lives . . . There’s so many little things that we can do and in the same way that our planet got to where we got to by lots of incremental little steps that were maybe not productive, now it’s the opposite.
“Now we want to get all of our team thinking about what their correction of the action can be to create a more sustainable future for our company and our planet. It is good business. Some of it is more expensive. We know that to build a green building today it’s going to be more expensive, but it’s the right thing to do.
“But there could be benefits. If we build better buildings, more green buildings, I expect our operating costs will be lower because they’re going to be better for energy consumption. We think we’ll be able to finance some of them cheaper. There’s some incentives out there to have better financing for greener buildings.”
Crombie has implemented an industry-leading ESG software platform – Measurabl – built exclusively for the global commercial real estate sector – to better track, measure, and report on its performance. It also has systems in place to track and report on metrics related to its occupational health and safety performance, employee volunteer commitments, the diversity of its workforce, and other core programs.
Its new Sustainable Development policy is the lens through which all development decisions will be made at Crombie with a commitment to reducing energy consumption and related GHG emissions, and to advancing carbon-neutral design in all new projects.
Crombie has several interesting initiatives in place.
For example, Bourque said the company installed its first two hives this past Spring, including at Scotia Square Complex in Halifax.
Scotia Square is celebrating 10 years of award-winning sustainability achievements and certifications. Over the last 10 years, the Scotia Square complex – which consists of seven buildings covering over 14.5 acres – has reduced energy consumption by over 33 per cent, or almost 18 million kWh, said the Crombie report.
It has reduced water consumption by over 33 per cent, or over 19 million gallons. With the installation of motion sensor lighting in the office tower stairwells it now saves almost 300,000 kWh/year. It recycles an average of 235,000 pounds of cardboard and 260,000 pounds of paper products every year. A complete lighting retrofit in the CIBC Building saves almost 400,000 kWh/year. Its Bike Room has earned the title of Most CyclingFriendly Landlord from the Halifax Cycling Coalition. The parkade features car charging stations, dedicated carpool parking, and is bullfrog powered with 100 per cent green energy. A lighting retrofit in the parkade saves over 1,000,000 kWh/year. Additionally, since the 2019 installation of Ecopilot®, an AI system used to predict the current and future requirement for heating and cooling in a building, Scotia Square has achieved HVAC energy savings of 19 per cent, HVAC cost savings of 17 per cent and a CO2 reduction of 1,215 metric tonnes.
In 2020, Crombie completed the $111 million redevelopment of the Avalon Mall, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, which covers 53 acres of land. From the outset, it designed and rebuilt this retail mall with sustainability in mind. It introduced a number of energy efficiency measures, including lighting and mechanical upgrades, in order to reduce overall consumption.
Crombie is preparing a BOMA BEST submission for Avalon Mall.
Crombie undertook a number of sustainability initiatives for Avalon including: an LED retrofit and installed occupancy sensors in service corridors; the purchase of efficient HVAC units for new tenants; the installation of touch-free elevator access for health, safety and inclusion; the addition of green space and bicycle racks as part of the redevelopment program; the improvement of overall site accessibility and signalization, and the addition of a new 800+ vehicle parking structure to simplify vehicle flow; the diversion of waste through a clothing drive, collecting and returning refundable bottles and donating the deposit return to various community groups.