Our latest Q&A session shines the spotlight on Wesleyan's Property Team, responsible for a £400 million UK commercial property portfolio. The team reveals how their passion for the environment and improving the lives of local communities aligns with managing a diverse portfolio and a responsibility to maximise returns for our With Profits customers.
Q: What impact does the buildings and construction sector have on the environment and what weight of responsibility does that place on your team?
A: A recent report by the UN’s Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction shows that the building and construction sector is responsible for 38% of global CO2 emissions and that the industry itself uses 40% of all natural materials.
This puts the environmental impacts of real estate firmly in the spotlight, which means we must be more aware of how we manage our portfolio from a sustainability perspective.
For example, in recent years we have done a lot of work to improve the commercial property assets held within our portfolio by incorporating a broad range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives, which all align perfectly with our Sustainable Investing Policy.
Q: Can you provide some examples?
A: In 2022, we employed professionally qualified building surveyors to access all 40 of the buildings in our portfolio that featured composite cladding panels.
The results of the subsequent survey showed that all the properties were considered to be 'low risk to life'. And, in the same year, we included ‘green lease clauses’ in all new leases, allowing us to work collaboratively with our tenants to improve the environmental performance of the properties they occupy.
Q: Making profitable returns for Wesleyan’s With Profits customers is important. With the Sustainable Investing Policy in mind, does a tenant’s line of business and the impact this may have on the local community influence your decision to offer a tenancy?
A: Yes. For example, under the 'reducing harm' pillar, we will not rent our properties to gambling businesses. And, if we’re unsure of the credentials of any prospective tenant, we work with our Sustainable Investment Team who carry out a deep dive analysis on that business. If they find something at odds with the policy, we won’t pursue it.
Likewise, if we see an opportunity that we feel improves our long-term profits, while also improving the lives of local communities, we will not hesitate.
Our property at Gosforth Park Way in Newcastle upon Tyne, currently let to Nuffield Health, is a perfect example. Along with providing a good financial return, the property provides much needed amenities to people of all ages and abilities, across a large catchment area.
Q: Finally, you mention the desire to support the communities local to where your properties are located, if the opportunity arises. Have you some examples of the great work you do?
A: It’s very much part of our DNA to help others and, as a mutual, Wesleyan has been doing this for over 180 years. Where we can, we will support charities or the NHS by using free space inside and outside of our buildings for the greater good. For example, the outside wall of one of our buildings in Leeds is sometimes used as a mural to promote worthy causes, such as homelessness and NHS campaigns.
More recently, we supported a project to renovate a disused nature reserve close to one of our buildings in Devon. We have also welcomed 'Women Acting In Today's Society' (WAITS) to our head office in Birmingham. It's a not-for-profit charity that provides vital support to women suffering domestic abuse. In particular, women from Black and ethnic minority groups.
In recognition of the work they do, we provided floor space to the charity on concessionary terms for a full 12-month period.
You can read more about the work we do to support ESG initiatives by visiting our Property Team case studies page.