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Advancing social value in property development

Reflections from Property Webinar Series Session #1

In the first session of the Property Webinar Series "Corporate Social Responsibility in Real Estate in Times of Crises" – three expert panelists Mendel Giezen (Associate Professor in Sustainable Urban Development & Planning at the University of Amsterdam), Lisette van Doorn (Chief Executive at Urban Land Institute Europe), and Hans Op ‘t Veld (Head of Responsible Investment at PGGM Investments and Research Fellow at Amsterdam School of Real Estate) were invited to reflect on the social dimensions of CSR in relation to planning and property development from a theoretical and practical lens.

The aim of this session was to discuss the significance and changing role of CSR in real estate development practices. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us it is that ‘we are all in this together’. In the current global socio-economic context, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a business strategy comes into clear focus. A recent article by McKinsey calls for bold actions by real estate players to foster deep relationships with stakeholders within and beyond their organisational boundaries, even to earn tenants’ “respect, trust and loyalty.” Standpoints like this open new doors for organisations involved in the financing, development and construction of urban real estate to (re)align their CSR strategies.

We approached CSR from a specific urban planning and development perspective. The Financial Crisis of 2008, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement have arguably played a significant role in pushing CSR forward. However, the focus has primarily been placed on environmental policies and organizational governance, leaving the social dimensions of the concept and their effects on cities largely open for interpretation. Therefore, we focused on the distinct interplay between the ‘social’ components of CSR and their potential impact in property development practices, beyond the scale of individual buildings. Furthermore, we looked ahead: COVID-19 has accentuated vulnerabilities within many urban societies, including social isolation, small homes and the lack of urban amenities. Can and will these social elements be included in the scope of CSR, and will this pandemic correspondingly change the future of urban real estate development?

As moderator of the session, I wrote a reflective summary on the first webinar, which is published in the Centre for Urban Studies blog series, which can be found here:

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