Welcome to the show notes for the 4th episode of Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement!
In this episode, join co-hosts Naima Ritter Figueres and Matt Lesniak for an insightful conversation with Amber Westerborg, who is the Director of Sustainability & Impact at The Social Hub, formally known as The Student Hotel, one of the largest shared living and hospitality brands in Europe. You will learn all about how ESG is transforming investment and development in the shared living sector. Key points we cover in the episode include:
- What’s behind a role like Amber’s
- How ESG criteria are now a condition for much of the financing in real estate
- The Social Hub’s current impact strategy and related KPIs and certifications
- Some of the ways The Social Hub is putting circular economy principles into practice
(And, make sure to watch the “How to embed ESG & social value in shared living” Webinar here to go deeper).
Listen to Episode 4
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Key Resources mentioned in Episode 4 (Season 1)
- Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”. The SDGs were set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by 2030.
- ESG(Environmental, social, and corporate governance): ESG refers to corporate strategies that have strong environmental, social and governance focuses in place. ESG reporting or disclosure can be understood as a way of communicating how the company is managing issues around social and environmental impact.
- BREEAM: The world’s longest established method of assessing, rating, and certifying the sustainability of buildings, first published by the Building Research Establishment in 1990.
- Doughnut Economics: Book by Kate Raworth. The Doughnut, or Doughnut economics, is a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut or lifebelt – combining the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries.
- Venn 2021 Impact report: What drives real connection for renters? And what do they want from their neighbors and neighborhoods? Venn conducted a research study of more than 500 renters in major cities across the U.S. to find out.
- Urban Campus 2022 Coliving Impact Report: This report provides a complete overview of the coliving sector in Spain and Europe and draws conclusions about this residential model based on a survey completed by Urban Campus residents.
- The WELL Building Standard™ version 2 (WELL v2™): A vehicle for buildings and organizations to deliver more thoughtful and intentional spaces that enhance human health and well-being. WELL v2 includes a set of strategies—backed by the latest scientific research—that aim to advance human health through design interventions and operational protocols and policies and foster a culture of health and well-being.
- GRESB Real Estate Assessment: An investor-driven global ESG benchmark and reporting framework for listed property companies, private property funds, developers and investors that invest directly in real estate.
- LEED: A point-based system in which building projects earn LEED points for satisfying specific green building criteria. Within each of the seven LEED credit categories, projects must satisfy particular prerequisites and earn points.
- Science Based Targets: These provide a clearly-defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and future-proof business growth.
- Coliving Impact Framework: Overview of what an impact framework is and why you should have one for your shared living businesses. Conscious Coliving is developing an open-source impact framework with indicators pulled from existing frameworks and research.
- UKGBC’s Guide for Delivering Social Value on Built Environment Projects: This guide seeks to respond to this challenge by offering a step-by-step process for delivering social value that can be flexibly applied to any built environment project of any scale – from a single built asset to an entire town regeneration project.
About Coliving Conversations
The first season of Coliving Conversations will kick off with new podcasts aired every two weeks and can be listened to on many platforms including Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast and at ConsciousColiving.com/Podcast. This show asks the question – how is shared living already tackling some of the biggest challenges that we face today AND how can we scale it in the way that the world needs?
You will gain insight into the latest trends shaping the industry and hear loads of practical tips related to shared living business models, technology, and investment as well as how to enhance community, wellbeing and sustainability. Each episode will shine insight onto the latest trends shaping the industry and discuss multiple successful case studies with loads of practical tips.
Season 1 Partners
ESG in Shared Living and Hybrid Hospitality: Now, a "Must Have"
[00:00:00] Naima: Want to learn about ESG and real estate, from investment to operations and measurement?
Welcome to Coliving Conversations, a show that shines light on the people, projects, and places of the blossoming coliving movement.
I’m Naima, head of Community & Wellbeing at Conscious Coliving, and I’m here in the studio today with my co-host for this episode, Matt Lesniak, who is the head of Impact and Innovation at Conscious Coliving. Matt has been involved in the coliving industry since its early beginnings and has a ton of experience and knowledge about all things coliving. So it’s really great to be collaborating with you for this episode today.
[00:00:52] Matt: Hey Naima, thanks for the awesome introduction and awesome to be in the studio with you today. So why don’t we get moving and grooving.
[00:01:05] Naima: Yeah, for sure. So, Matt, in this episode we’re gonna explore how ESG is transforming investment and development in the shared living sector. We’ll have a one-on-one conversation with the director of impact and sustainability of one of the largest shared living and hospitality brands in Europe. Which has recently received over 145 million euros in green loans.
So Matt, why is this conversation so important today?
[00:01:34] Matt: For so many reasons. As we explored in previous episodes, the world is facing huge societal and planetary changes. Climate change, health crises, loneliness, and the likes and the real estate industry contributes significantly to all of this. According to research from the UN, the World Building Council, the EU, and 40%, yes, 40 of energy consumption and 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the construction and operation phases of the building sector alone. Wow.
This gives real estate players a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity to build and manage their spaces sustainably. There are also increasing demands and pressures from investors, employees, and consumers to align their values to business goals, services and products, namely around climate change, wellbeing, affordability, community, and many others.
Finally, there are many new policy changes that are imposing new regulations at the business, city and global level, including the UN Sustainability Goals, which are driving change and impact within businesses and industries around the world.
[00:02:38] Naima: Cool. Yeah, thanks for that context, Matt. Um, should we briefly clarify for our listeners what we actually mean by ESG.
[00:02:47] Matt: Sure. ESG refers to corporate strategies that have strong environmental, social, and governance focuses in place. ESG reporting or disclosure can be understood as a way of communicating how the company is managing issues around social and environmental impact. Nowadays, there are many different terms that relate to the subject, including impact, sustainability, social value, diversity, inclusion and CSR.
[00:03:13] Naima: Thanks Matt for clarifying that for us and today on Coliving Conversations, to help us bring all of this theory into practicality, we speak to Amber Westerberg, who is the Director of Sustainability & Impact at The Social Hub, formally known as The Student Hotel.
[00:03:32] Matt: Awesome. So yeah, we’ve been following The Student Hotel, now The Social Hub, for quite some time. They’re an innovative hybrid hospitality model based in Europe, and they just rebranded last week. We find this to be such a strong rebrand as it really fits their offer so well as dynamic neighborhood hubs, which is something we’ve been encouraging for a while now. So big congrats to Charlie, Frank, Lucian, Amber, and the rest of the team on their rebrand.
With locations in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and other core markets in Europe, The Social Hub has hybrid spaces with hotel rooms for tourists, coliving for travelers, co-working for digital nomads, and a creative playground for entrepreneurs and locals.
Sustainability and impact are at the core of what they do. So it’s really great to be speaking with Amber. She’s been one of the main people spearheading this effort at The Social Hub for over two years with the aim of creating sustainable hubs for people to learn, stay, work, and play.
[00:04:23] Naima: Yes, indeed. It’s super cool everything that they’re up to these days. And indeed, really great rebrand. So as an overview in this conversation with Amber, we are going to explore, first of all what’s behind the role of someone who is a director of impact and sustainability for a shared living brand. We’re gonna hear about ESG criteria and how that’s becoming a condition now for much of the financing in real estate.
We’ll hear about The Social Hub’s, current impact strategy and related KPIs and certifications, as well as some of the ways that The Social Hub is already putting circular economy principles into practice.
[00:05:06] Matt: Awesome. What a jam packed session this is, and definitely stick around to the end where Naima and I will expand more on all of this. And we’ll share some expiring examples of other shared living businesses who are really future proofing themselves by prioritizing impact and sustainability.
[00:05:22] Naima: Yes. So let’s get into the conversation now and then Matt, you and I will be back in the studio with some reflections afterwards. And FYI, as we recorded this conversation a few weeks ago, you will still hear The Student Hotel being mentioned instead of The Social Hub.
Before we dive in, I wanna give a big shout out to our partners, without whom season one of coliving conversations would not be possible. These are:
Coly: a scientific profiling and matchmaking platform for shared living.
Spaceflow: an all-in-one tenant experience platform to enable better life and buildings
And GoHumanGo!: A collective of professionals, supporting people and planet.
Thanks so much for joining us on the show today.
[00:06:19] Amber: Of course, very happy to be here.
[00:06:21] Naima: Amber, you are the Director of Sustainability & Impact for The Student Hotel, and the fact that your role exists is really telling about an important trend that is emerging in the real estate industry around sustainability and impact.
Could you share about that for our audience?
[00:06:42] Amber: Yeah, of course. So I, I’m the second, uh, Director of Sustainability & Impact here, so I can’t take all the credit, but, uh, at the time, indeed, it was back in 2016, if I remember correctly, um, there were both, let’s say internal and external pushes that enticed us to start working on sustainability more structurally.
We had already been working on sustainability and looking at what can we do, uh, whenever we opened up a new hotel. Um, but uh, we saw that on the one hand we ourselves wanted to standardize what we’re, we’re doing a bit more. Uh, we also saw that our community was very much asking for it and also, Our investors having certain ambitions with their, uh, with their real estate portfolio.
So it really was a combination of factors that, uh, that challenged us to then think about, Okay, so what’s the, what’s the bigger vision?
[00:07:30] Naima: Yeah, so interesting. And could you elaborate a little bit from the investor side? What were they asking for? What were they looking for in terms of impact sustainability?
[00:07:41] Amber: Well, I think, uh, you see that now with a lot of real estate investors and that includes our own, um, they are becoming more and more aware of the fact that they will need to invest in future proofing their portfolio, their investments to make sure that the buildings don’t become obsolete. Um, uh, slowly the business case is, is starting to be made, the green business case for having greener buildings, but, uh. What you see, even better is if you can’t really have the numbers yet what you do see is the numbers, if you don’t invest in future proving your, your portfolio and your buildings.
And so from, uh, the investment side, you, you see that indeed one is very much about making the buildings themselves more sustainable. So energy use, waters use, et cetera. Um, two, also prepping them for climate risk and risk resilience.
And three, very much benchmarking your efforts. So using certifications or reporting such as BREEAM certification or GRESB reporting to then also benchmark how you’re performing and, uh, potentially finding opportunities for improvement.
[00:08:45] Naima: And, um, you guys just got financing, right? Can you share about that?
[00:08:50] Amber: Yeah, we did. So that’s, that’s the third green loan. Um, up to date, we now have three of them whereby the loan conditions are also based on realizing certain sustainability targets. And so together with the banks, we then have this conversation about what do you find important, what do we find important, and what are we then going to focus on as a company?
And so the, the most recent one that we have is for our new properties in Italy, in Rome, and, um, Florence. Um, and the nice thing about that impact financing is the, the other two that we have are based on environmental KPIs. Um, but the one for Rome and Florence is based on, um, societal, uh, on a societal kpi, which is to make sure that, um, Every student, uh, has an opportunity to, uh, develop themselves.
[00:09:40] Naima: Mm, yeah. Could you explain how you are are measuring impact, whether it’s at the social, the environmental, the economic level?
[00:09:51] Amber: Yeah, So we’ve uh, last year, yeah, last year we developed new, uh, new long term targets, 2030 targets in line with, uh, the deadline to realize the sustainable development goals. Uh, we also very much looked at what, for example, the UN Global Compact is, um, advising or suggesting businesses to do.
And so we now have said we were already working on waste management, but now we, for example, set the goal to become a zero waste company by 2030. Meaning that there’s no more residual waste. And so everything that we label as waste can be either recycled or upcycled. Um, and so that’s one of those longer term projects that we’re now, uh, that we’re now working on.
Um, but we’re for example, also looking into, uh, our CO2 footprint. Uh, Uh, our energy management, we would like to produce a lot more renewable energy ourselves and also, uh, make our buildings less dependent on the grid. But we also, for example, have decided, uh, we’ll be using BREEAM use certification to, um, to benchmark our full portfolio.
Uh, so slowly, we just had the first certification round for BREEAM News for all our Dutch hotels. Last year and now whenever we recertify, we’re going to include even more hotels, um, because that also very clearly shows what we can then still improve on what score we have and what is, what is left there.
So those are some of the, uh, uh, environmental KPIs that we are, we are working on at the moment. Yeah, uh, the societal business case is sometimes a bit more challenging to quantify, but we’re definitely also getting better at it. And so we have these overall targets and then depend. The hotel, what they’re working on, their size, they have their own, uh, hotel level targets.
Uh, they report back to me either on a monthly, quarterly, yearly basis, depends. Uh, and then based on that, we track performance and we look at, um, what a, what we can improve or should improve.
[00:11:35] Naima: Fantastic. It’s really, really inspiring to hear. So Amber, you’ve, you’ve mentioned these certifications. Could you just clarify which, uh, which of the ones that The Student Hotel is using?
[00:11:46] Amber: Yeah, of course. So we use, uh, BREEAM. And BREEAM, mean Use certification and BREEAM are, uh, or BREEAM is a certification standard specifically for real estate. Um, and to get very specific, you have BREEAM new built, so that certification can only be acquired on an asset level during construction. And then once the hotel is open, You can go up for BREEAM in use certification where you can decide to certify your asset, but also your management and your actual output.
Um, and then the, the interesting thing about BREEAM in use is that it’s only valid for a maximum of three years after which you need to re-certify. Giving you the opportunity and also pushing you a little bit to then of course, improve your score. Um, so that’s very much the certification for the buildings.
And then we have GRESB reporting. And GRESB is the Global Real Estate Benchmark. Um, and so they ask us a lot about. , anything related to esg. So, um, do you have an environmental management system? Do you track your suppliers, but also how many employees were off sick last year? Uh, what kind of community programming you have?
So really everything related to esg. Uh, and you’re then scored, um, both for your, uh, in our case, our standing assets, so the hotels that are open and our, uh, assets in develop.
[00:13:04] Naima: Okay. Yeah. So what teams are involved at The Student Hotel for the impact strategy and framework? What, what does that look like internally?
[00:13:12] Amber: Oh, it’s definitely a, a group or a departmental effort? Yes. I am heading the department that’s researching trends and developments and looking into, Okay. What, uh, should we as a company be focusing on and what do we want to focus on? Um, but I very much need to collaborate with our different departments, also, get their input.
I mean, I am not, um, an engineer. Uh, I don’t know how to build buildings. So of course I can see what the trends and developments are, but I definitely need to align with our real estate department to then understand. How does this fit into our processes? What do we need to change? What are the, the impacts of, of changing?
In general, real estate and hotel operations, uh, and asset management are indeed the, the stakeholders that I work with most. But because we’re, for example, also focusing on societal impact, we have our community teams, we have hr, and so, um, I don’t really think that there’s a department that I don’t work with.
[00:14:05] Naima: Okay. Yeah. And also the residents, Right? I. Do you, do you see that?
[00:14:10] Amber: Um, they, they see what we’re doing. They’re also crucial for, uh, the success of the different projects that we have. Uh, I mean, um, uh, there’s a lot of things that we do on the back end, so they may not really see that. Um, but a lot of the projects, because we’re working in a service based industry, You have that interaction with people, and in our case, with our students, our hotel guests, our coworkers.
And so as such, if you want to make something happen, if you want to create success in the buildings, you need the people who are in there to act accordingly, to act the way that you’ve, you’ve set them out to, to act. Uh, and so that is, I would say, um, uh, uh, the fun part, very much the engaging part, but also the most challenging part, uh, because it’s human behavior.
Mm-hmm. and that is not very predictable. Yeah. Well, it is predictable. Yeah. But it’s, it’s, it’s not as easy to to steer towards where you want it to get sometime.
[00:15:05] Naima: Yeah. I can understand that. human behavior definitely has, its, its complexities and layers. Um, you’ve mentioned big focus on community and on connection. Could, could you elaborate a bit on, on that aspect of The Student Hotel model?
[00:15:20] Amber: For us uh, TSH is very much about a place where people come together, where we have indeed, uh, very consciously designed an open floor plan on the ground floor so that even if you’re not staying with us, you’re more than welcome to come in.
And so, indeed, in, in the stay option, we have students who stay with us for three, six or 10 months out of the year. So, ranging from a semester to a full academic year. And indeed we have hotel and extended stay guests. Um, but it’s more about the experience that we’re creating where it indeed it becomes this place for many different things, uh, and that you can stay to, uh, work there for a day, grab a cup of coffee, uh, just uh, walk into the restaurant.
And so for us, The Student Hotel is very much the idea. Becoming this place where people can come together, where you create this community, uh, where you can have, uh, classes and fun and workshops and lectures and you happen to stay with us or you don’t.
[00:16:18] Naima: Yeah. It sounds like it’s not just for the people who are staying there, but also can serve as like a neighborhood hub. And I think that’s just so inspiring to have places like this that can be a space for events and for co-working and all sorts of creative things. I’ve been to. A dance event at The Student Hotel in Berlin. And so, um, a really, yeah, really great example of, of the different levels of impact and community that can be formed.
Um, what would you say is the biggest one or two wins or achievements in terms of impact and sustainability at The Student Hotel?
[00:16:54] Amber: So, I think, um, one of the things that I’m really proud of is, uh, the development of our hotel in, uh, Delft in the Netherlands. Um, for those of the, for those listeners who don’t know, uh, Delft is very much considered an, an innovation hub in the Netherlands, so we decided to challenge ourselves and make sure that the ground floor of the hotel is based on circular design principles.
And so that was really our first. Uh, go at, uh, trying to create a circular building, trying to understand what are the differences between how, how we used to do or how we normally do things, and then making it circular, running into challenges in, in circularity. And so, uh, we managed to pull it off. We also have a very transparent and clear story about levels of circularity. So not everything is, is perfect. Um, but it was a great way for us to experience what, what the circular economy could entail and which is also definitely going to drive, uh, future designs. So that’s one that I’m always very proud of. That’s very much on the, on the building side.
I think another example of something that I’m very proud of is the fact that we we’ve always set out to not only change ourselves and, and TSH to become as sustainable as possible, but also ideally change the system. And so in order to change the system, you need to work together. And so, um, from the outset we’ve made it a point to then also try to see if our partners are suppliers, but also um, uh, uh, the, the banks and the financial institutions that we work with, if we can challenge them to also think more about sustainability.
And so I think that’s a great example of showing that there’s a, there’s a shift in the system as a whole happening
[00:18:33] Naima: . Ooh, fantastic. Being part of the system change. I love it. Um, I’m really curious if you could share one example from that circularity principle that’s different from other ones that are not circular.
[00:18:48] Amber: Um, well, for example, um, we use a lot of steel construction, uh, on the ground floor. I mean, we built big, quite relatively big hotels, at least 350 rooms whenever we open a new hotel.
And so we use steel constructions. Um, the environmental impact of steel in itself is, is is rather significant. Uh, so we were thinking, okay, or we were actually then also being consulted on what is the next step in, in steel construction and how can you make sure you make this more circular? Um, in the other hotels, pre Delft, you would find steel that would’ve been coated black, because that better fits our branding.
Um, but as soon as you start coding materials, it becomes more difficult, uh, to, uh, preserve the raw material. And so for Delft, we decided then we need to keep it exposed, um, as is. So it is black steel, but it hasn’t been coated. And so you see where the, the different elements have been, uh, connected together.
Um, you, you see that it’s a bit raw, uh, compared to potentially other, uh, other steel, uh, frames that you see in the other hotels. Uh, but that makes it the more circular option. And we, for example, also, uh, only used, uh, screws and bolts and no more glue because glue is also and adhesive making it more difficult to separate raw materials.
And so you see bolts and you see nuts. And so it’s, it create it. Also, it’s a challenge because it creates a different vibe and TSH also has a very strong branding. So you wanna within that framework then see what’s possible. But there’s definitely opportunities. And so it was fun to have that, uh, to have that conversation and do that research.
Uh, and I have to give credit to the, to the design and the real estate team because they did a lot of the, the research on.
[00:20:35] Naima: Wow. Super interesting. What would you say has been the biggest challenge you’re facing in your role at The Student Hotel?
[00:20:42] Amber: I would say the biggest challenge is definitely the human behavior. Um, because we are so dependent on our community to, to work with us on this, uh, I always say you can build the most sustainable building in the world, but if people then don’t know how to use it and they still take showers for half an hour or an hour, then it kind of defeats the purpose of what you’ve been working on in the back end.
Mm. And so, We’re constantly working on. Uh, what’s our story? How do we communicate this? Uh, how do we train our staff? How do we bring the community along? What are some of the cultural difference? We have a super international group of students, so you also need to think about the local context, which in my case here is Amsterdam.
But then if we go to Florence, it’s Italian. I’m also not, uh, uh, Italian. So there’s so many different factors influencing. The human behavior and the interventions that we then need to design. Um, and the added challenge that we have is because we are a, well, a hotel and, and, and a coliving space, our community changes rather rapidly.
So every new year we get a new batch of students. Yeah. And so you also need to keep that process ongoing and repeat and repeat every year. And so you can’t ever think that you’ve figured it out because there’s a new group of people coming in. So, um, uh, I would definitely say that’s the, that’s the biggest challenge that we have.
[00:22:01] Naima: Hmm. Yeah. Well thanks for highlighting that and also some of the ways that you are overcoming it through education, through bringing people on board through understanding cultural differences. Um, so on that line, um, What would be one or two tips that you have for operators in this industry to become more environmentally and impact driven?
[00:22:25] Amber: Well, I would definitely say pick your focus area first. Think about that one. So we’ve come to a point where I think it’s going to hurt you if you’re not doing anything related to sustainability as a company. Because of the societal trends, you’re, you’re required to do something. Uh, but I think also a lot of companies are still searching what that, something that means for them.
And I have a feeling that sometimes, um, people tend to choose topics that don’t always relate to what their core business is. And I think if you wanna be successful, it should definitely be something that relates to your core business. Because if it feels like something completely separate, um, I think one, you run the risk of not really seeing it.
As crucial, uh, to your business and your business operations. But two, it might also not get the energy and the success and the resources that it deserves. And so for hotel operators or coliving operators, it makes sense to work on those topics that you deal with on a daily basis, which is the amenities you put in the room, which is your waste management, which is your housekeeping and your washing.
So definitely focus on your focus area first. Um, make it practical. Um, I think also cuz of, of social media and transparency and, and, and public accountability, companies are getting scared to start something. So they wanna be perfect from the get go because they’re afraid of being accused of greenwashing or being canceled.
And I think if you are. Yeah, very honest, upfront about what you’re doing, what still needs to be done, where you are in the process. You can definitely start smaller, uh, learn first, uh, uh, fall down, maybe once or twice, redevelop and then become successful. And then once you figured out the wheel, uh, you can like scale up your efforts.
So make it practical and don’t really think that you should, uh, aim for the, the, the sun and the moon and the. From the get go. Um, and I would, as we just mentioned, really focus on the storytelling. Um, really make sure that you don’t forget the communications, uh, and explaining and, and, and trying to enthu people to understand what you’re doing and get them along.
Um, because often you’re not really going to have, uh, incentives. I mean, people pay a, a monthly fee, for example, or like for a hotel night. It’s an all inclusive price. No one’s going to, like, they’re not gonna feel it if they shower for half an hour because they already paid for it. Um, so you should, yeah, really think about how you can then still incentivize people and that very much has to do with communication.
[00:24:50] Naima: Mm. Wow. So many little golden nuggets right there. Thanks. Thanks for that ember. Um, so shifting now towards the end of our conversation, would love to kinda wrap this up with a future oriented perspective. What’s your vision moving forward for The Student Hotel in terms of impact?
[00:25:11] Amber: Um, scaling up our efforts, um, playing the game on a higher level, so to say.
I think we’ve also had some initial, initial years trying to figure out what it means, how that works for us, um, what our focus should be on. And I think we’re now at a point where we understand it. Um, we, we, we have an idea of where the real estate, uh, industry will go. Where the hotel site will go and where we want to be in inside of those industries.
And so now I’m just getting really excited about scaling up our efforts and thinking about a couple of bigger projects. And so becoming zero waste, it’s, it’s, I don’t know yet. I don’t know how we’re going to get there. And officially I’ve given us eight more years to figure it out. But yeah, I’m, I’m looking forward to such challenges where you don’t think about just 1, 2, 3 years ahead, but really say, Okay, eight years time, it’s played the long game.
Mm-hmm. , what are we gonna do? So definitely investing in like bigger projects, um, uh, longer term projects. Uh, and, and indeed also, I mean, um, keeping in line with what’s happening globally and, and what every, Well not everyone, but what’s organizations such as the UN and the UN Global Compact are saying that we should be doing.
[00:26:25] Naima: Love that. So really, like long term thinking, net zero. And, and scaling up. Um, yeah, really hear that. And here to help support that happen. Um, and you mentioned the industry and, and where the real estate sector’s also moving. What are you seeing in terms of, of that trend?
[00:26:43] Amber: Um, I think the awareness is definitely there. I think we now know as it, as industries, as people we know we need to do something. I mean, there’s, there’s more than enough science saying you need to do something. Um, I still also hear a lot of talk about, Oh, we want to get started with sustainability. What can you advise us? And so. While you’d think that it’s, it’s undeniable.
There are also a lot of companies that are really still at the, at the early stages in the beginning phase of this. So, um, yes, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s here, it’s here to stay. Sustainability. I mean, everyone now talks about sustainability. So in that sense it’s good. Um, but I think we can, we can push the boundaries a bit more and, and a bit fit faster, prefer.
[00:27:29] Naima: Mm. And I think that is such an important role and voice that The Student Hotel is playing. It’s like, yes, not everything is perfect as you said, but you guys are getting in there. You’re trying, you’re making action, you’re doing impact reports. You know, you have these targets, you have these certifications, and, and you’re doing it, and you’re actioning it.
And, and it. An invitation for others to, to see and feel inspired of, Okay, this is at least one way to do it. And, and so I really thank you for, for everything you’re doing and, and leading and, and your teams.
[00:28:01] Amber: Well, that’s a big compliment. Thank you so much. I mean, yeah, we, we like this, we like innovating, We like pushing ourselves. I mean, that’s also what we like to call part of the student spirit where you’re ever learning and ever changing. And, uh, we also indeed really wanna see that the, the business uh, side of things as a whole change.
So it’s, uh, it’s not about us being the best at anything. It’s very much about, uh, uh, using the, the power of the crowd and collective action of, of all the different industries and all the different companies together to drive that change.
[00:28:40] Matt: Wow, what a great conversation. And big thanks to Amber for all her inspiring insights. Really cool to hear how The Social Hub is embedding principles and frameworks like the circular economy, ESG, and science-based targets into the core of their community hubs.
[00:28:54] Naima: Yeah, for sure. What a great conversation indeed.
And really loved hearing more about everything The Social Hub is doing from Amber. Um, Matt, and you just mentioned circular economy. Could you define that for the audience?
[00:29:08] Matt: Yeah, yeah, of course. Uh, the circular economy is a concept in which products within a certain market or economy are produced to be constantly reused or recycled.
Basically, the idea is to keep resources and use for as long as. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by applying the principles of the circular economy to the way we designed the built environment, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from building materials by 38% by 2050.
[00:29:32] Naima: 30 8% by 2050. Wow. I mean, yeah, that would be such a game changer.
For our audience, do check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website for some really practical toolkits on circular. And also a complimentary book, which we love and often recommend is Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. And we’ll add a link to both of these in the show notes.
And you know what I found really interesting in the conversation with Amber was to hear how having strong impact strategies can really translate into good business opportunities and returns. According to McKinsey there have been more than 2000 academic studies on this topic, and around 70% of them find a positive relationship between higher ESG scores and better financial returns.
Um, in relation to the conversation with Amber, ESG criteria are now conditional for many banks and investors to offer any kind of financ. So if we take the case of The Social Hub, the bank, there was UniCredit Bank, which financed them with over 145 million euro in social and environmental impact financing based on them achieving a BREEAM “very good rating amongst other social and environmental impact”.
And just to mention two other examples. So one is Bridges Fund a global impact investor who worked with Venn to create their impact strategies and KPIs. Venn is a neighborhood focused, shared living operator with several locations in Israel, US, and Europe. And their impact reports value and measure aspects such as loneliness, belonging, and overall life satisfaction.
And then a third example is Urban Campus, which is based in Paris and currently has locations in Madrid. Um, and they have similar metrics on resident loneliness, happiness, quality of life, and actually their impact report found that 95% of their residents feel happier and 85% feel less lonely since living at their Urban Campus spaces, which is just awesome. And, uh, you can find a link to this impact report in the show notes.
And so all of these kind of impact, focus indicators and strategies are really attracting more and more investors who are seeking to finance align businesses that are walking the talk.
And so, Matt, on this point actually, could you elaborate? Your view, what are some of investors’ main criteria for impact investing today?
[00:32:20] Matt: Yeah, of course. So from our research, we’ve found that investors are seeking the following in regards to ESG:
A transparent and overarching ESG policy. Assignment of ESG responsibility across the management team. Diversity among the team. The ability to estimate carbon emissions and health and safety records among a few others.
So to learn more about investor demands, you can read a recent report from Kushman and Wakefield that we are sharing in the show notes. This report highlights the five key factors driving demand for ESG investment in the built environment.
[00:32:55] Naima: Cool. Thanks Matt. And yeah, this growing trend of impact financing also goes hand in hand with the growing number of certifications and frameworks that are helping not only set the standard, but also raise the bar for impact in the real estate and hospitality sectors.
And Amber mentioned some of these in the conversation, but could you share from your perspective, Matt, um, what are some of the most important certifications and frameworks to be aware of?
[00:33:24] Matt: Yeah, of course. One of them is the Well Building Standard, which is relatively new, but we find it has a great mix of environmental sustainability criteria, operational criteria, social impact requirements, and of course wellbeing criteria that ties everything together.
We know that The Social Hub is also using both GRESB and BREEAM for their locations depending on the local context and demands at the moment.
GRESB, BREEAM and LEED are some of the most used real estate certifications in markets like the us, uk, and Europe. But there are also many other ways to measure impact and sustainability as a shared living business.
For example, The Social Hub is also committed to adhering to Science Based Targets, which is a framework that provides companies with a clearly defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals. You could read more about all of these frameworks in the show notes.
[00:34:15] Naima: Yeah, these show notes are really gonna be jampacked. Um, so Matt, we often talk about how these kind of certifications are super useful and that we as an industry can go even further.
Indeed we see a need for an all-encompassing impact framework developed specifically for shared living businesses and communities, which is why we have spent over two years researching and developing the coliving impact framework, an open source tool that coliving spaces can use to measure and optimize their impact in terms of wellbeing, community, and sustainability related aspects.
[00:34:59] Matt: Yeah, thanks for mentioning this one, Naima. If anyone is curious to learn more, check out the Coliving Impact Framework page on consciouscoliving.com/impact-framework/.
Alrighty, so this wraps up our reflections on our conversation with Amber. You can check out a recent blog post we wrote on the business case for ESG and how shared living brands are showcasing their impact on the Conscious Coliving blog.
[00:35:21] Naima: Yep. And on there you’ll also find a blog post that summarizes a keynote that Matt and I actually presented to the staff of The Social Hub on how to foster thriving communities that are beneficial for your members and your business.
[00:35:37] Matt: And of course you can check out a bunch of other resources on our resources page, including just one last one that we will highlight, which is the UK GPCs Guide for Delivering Social Value on Built Environment Projects. And the Green Building Council has a lot of great resources, which have been huge inspiration for a lot of our work.
[00:35:56] Naima: Yep. Awesome. Well, thanks Matt so much for joining as my co-host for this episode today.
[00:36:02] Matt: Yeah, thank you Naima. It was, it was really fun to join this conversation with you. And thanks to Amber for all of our awesome insights. Thank you to our partners.
And big, big thanks to all of you out there for listening.
Coliving Conversations (Season 1). A co-production between Conscious and GoHumanGo!
Until the next episode!.
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