I spend a great deal of time talking to sustainability directors about how to incorporate energy and sustainability language into their company's leases. While sustainability directors typically like the idea of energy-aligned leases, there are often significant obstacles in their way. I hear the same protests time and time again.
"We've considered putting new clauses in, but we don't think that any tenants/landlords are willing to negotiate on these points."
"My real estate team doesn't listen to me, and I don't know how to show them that this is a common practice."
"We have a lot of great green initiatives going on, but our leasing team tends to ignore them."
Each of these obstacles boils down to buy-in, and buy-in can be a tough thing to come by in commercial real estate. Proven programs such as LEED and ENERGY STAR needed years to gain acceptance from the real estate community, and I still find myself frequently explaining their many benefits to real estate veterans.
Two of the characteristics of LEED and ENERGY STAR that helped those programs gain acceptance from the industry were defined requirements/standards and public recognition of leading companies. Until today, a sustainability director trying to convince their real estate team to introduce green lease language had neither of those key elements to fall back on as selling points.
Now IMT and the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Alliance are launching what we hope will become a major part of the solution to these obstacles. The Green Lease Leaders recognition program is designed to, among other things, create an acceptable industry-wide definition for a green or energy-aligned lease and offer public recognition for companies and brokers who have already successfully adopted these concepts in their leasing process.
The goal is for interested professionals to discover that a green lease actually reads just like a standard lease with a handful of edits, rather than some utopian concept cooked up by enviros. We've had the help of an extraordinary industry advisory group as we put this program together, and several major real estate trade associations have provided their support in one form or another.
We have worked to create recognition that is both useful and attainable, a base from which to grow as much as the industry needs it to in the future. Retailers, office users, and real estate companies are all touting their sustainability strategies publicly, and the leasing process is a smart first step and a sensible way to help implement those strategies.
We hope that down the road, when a retail or office tenant is looking for an energy-efficient space, they will work with a Green Lease Leader-recognized broker who can identify offerings from Green Lease Leader-recognized property owners. The first group of Green Lease Leaders will be announced this May at the Better Buildings Alliance forum. I hope we'll find that there are many in the industry who have already found ways to gain buy-in.
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