What are the markers of a good real estate nature strategy?

Robust, integrated strategies can deliver real benefits

Real estate is starting to catch on to the value of strategic thinking around nature and biodiversity.

Amid the growing focus on building resilience to a changing climate and accelerating progress to net zero goals, more companies are asking what robust strategies on nature and biodiversity for their real estate look like.

JLL’s recent research shows 43% of UK investors have a nature and biodiversity strategy in place and a further 22% are developing one. Tenants too have nature on their radar. 39% of tenants surveyed in JLL’s Responsible Real Estate Survey already include nature-based solutions in leases with landlords, and another 35% plan to include these upon renewal.

A coherent and connected nature strategy can deliver many benefits from reducing climate risk and ensuring regulatory compliance to positively impacting a building’s long-term value through better employee or tenant engagement, improving health and wellbeing and wider social value.

Yet sticking points remain. According to GlobeScan’s 2023 survey, 94% of experts believe companies need to take more integrated approaches to address nature and climate issues.

So, what are the markers of a solid nature strategy for real estate?

  • It aligns with broader corporate strategies

Your real estate nature strategy must ladder up to your sustainability strategy and ultimately your corporate strategy. Understanding your corporate impact and reliance on nature and how this intersects with your wider environmental and social ambition is a key starting point.

It’s a weak area for many companies. In late 2022, the World Benchmarking Alliance’s Nature Benchmark found that just 5% of almost 400 companies assessed understood their impact on nature. Your nature strategy should address the global biodiversity crisis, as well as drive progress towards decarbonization and resilience goals.

  • It addresses climate change

Safeguarding and restoring nature is critical to managing greenhouse gas levels and limiting global warming. Nature-based solutions such as green roofs and rainwater harvesting can also build urban resilience and enable adaptation to our rapidly changing climate. Taking a strategic approach to embedding nature in net zero transition plans can help to futureproof your real estate while supporting your wider decarbonization efforts.

  • It is in tune with both the local and global environment

Just as buildings are inherently connected to their local areas, nature strategies must be too. Nature, and appropriate nature-based solutions, are highly context or location dependent, from both a physical and a regulatory perspective. On the physical side, considering the strengths and stresses of local ecology through measures such as local biodiversity action plans is key.

At a global level, you need to understand how you’re using natural resources across your operations and their impact on global ecosystems both directly and through your value chain.

Regulations are rolling out quickly at a local and national level. For example, many cities in Europe have mandated green roofs or solar on new buildings while England recently introduced biodiversity net gain (BNG) legislation for developments granted planning permission.

  • It has clear targets

Setting clear, ambitious targets for nature across a diverse portfolio is still challenging - and identifying the most appropriate metrics and frameworks is complex. However, you can still set good quality metrics that have clear time commitments and definitions of what success looks like. For example, post-occupancy surveys are a useful tool to understand the more social value of some aspects of nature strategies.

Frameworks are also developing to support nature strategies. The Science Based Targets Network offers guidance for target setting and tracking progress while the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures (TRFD) can help companies identify their dependencies and impacts on nature along with risks and opportunities.

  • It is collaborative, ambitious and holistic

What looks good on paper doesn’t always work out well in reality. Factors such as landlord-tenant relationships, capex costs, ongoing maintenance or sourcing of plants or materials all influence how successfully your nature strategy is implemented. Taking a long-term view and seeing the bigger picture is essential – measures that add to embodied carbon or scope 3 emissions are an own goal.

Considering the multiple benefits at a wider environmental, social and economic level can also deliver greater success; focussing solely on enhancing biodiversity limits the potential of a nature strategy. Depending on your real estate portfolio, you should be asking where you can make the biggest impact and thinking laterally; the solution may not be greening your roof, but greening your supply chain. 

Clear communication and collaboration between different partners - landlord, occupier, governments and third parties - is another critical aspect. Those with multinational portfolios will see significant variations between locations.

A nature strategy that delivers

Real estate is core to a more sustainable future – and nature has a critical role to play within that. By incorporating these five markers, you can develop a robust and integrated nature strategy for your real estate that helps to futureproof the assets you own or the spaces you lease while supporting people and planet.

For more information on nature and biodiversity strategies for real estate, visit our nature services page or contact our experts today:

Amanda Skeldon, Climate and Nature Director, JLL
Claire Racine, Director, Upstream Sustainability Services, JLL