CDL integrates sustainability into its business strategy to provide a holistic account of its value creation for stakeholders. Adam Woodhall reports...
Sustainability, when done well, is driven at its core by innovation. A shining pearl of sustainable pioneering in Asia is the Singapore-based City Developments Limited (CDL), a real estate company operating in 26 countries and one of the city-state’s largest companies by market capitalisation. Its strategy? “At CDL, innovations for green growth is driven by a deep commitment to sustainability”, says Esther An, CDL’s Chief Sustainability Officer who has been instrumental in building up the company’s CSR portfolio since 1995.
The built environment is recognised as having one of the most significant environmental impacts. It is therefore essential that all stakeholders in the industry take positive action. CDL is one of the leaders in this area, achieving many firsts, not just in Singapore, but also across Asia Pacific and the world, transforming the way buildings sustain life.
Starting its sustainability mission with the ethos of "Conserving as We Construct" in an industry that was deemed to be destroying the environment two decades ago, CDL has integrated sustainability into its business strategy to provide a holistic account of its value creation for stakeholders. In many countries and cultures, “21” is the year of coming-of-age, and after 21 years, the company, guided by its corporate vision for the next lap of growth, is surging ahead to “Building Value for Tomorrow, Today” in the issues most material to its business.
What do you need to continue to be a pioneer over such a long period? I'd suggest the keys are passion, leadership commitment, courage to invest, and an ability to deliver consistent, quantifiable action. These are qualities CDL amply demonstrates.
Something else stands out when reviewing CDL’s performance: the holistic nature of their vision.
An notes, "More than two decades ago, CDL started on our CSR journey, led by the late Mr. Kwek Leng Joo. He firmly believed that as a company, we not only had to do well - maintain profitability and growth - but also to do good – care for our community and the environment. Back then, some people called us crazy. Today, they call us visionary.”
“The strong leadership commitment to sustainability continues today. Our CEO Grant Kelley directly supervises the sustainability portfolio. Under his directive, we ensure that our Economic Social and Governance (ESG) integration remains robust and more importantly, that it creates greater value for our business and stakeholders.”
CDL’s most recent sustainability report, 'Integrating our Strengths, Creating Future Value’, communicates the value it creates for stakeholders by harnessing its capitals - natural, social and relationship, financial, organisational, manufactured and human. CDL was the first developer in Singapore to communicate its holistic value creation by adopting the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)’s Integrated Reporting approach in 2015, and it remains committed to upholding the highest global standards where possible.
CDL’s commitment does not stop there. When the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals were launched in 2015, the company carefully considered how it might contribute. Nine goals were identified as being relevant to their business. CDL’s latest sustainability report outlines its targets and performance against these goals. As an international company, CDL notes that it is important to contribute to the global community and the planet at large. It is believed to be the first company in Singapore to publicly communicate such a commitment at the time of its report’s publication, and hopes this will inspire more companies to do the same.
To further align with global best practices, CDL has also made the bold move as the first developer in Singapore to achieve the ISO 14064-1 verification for emissions management and reporting.
CDL adopts a three-pronged approach to its sustainability strategy through sustainable design, resource-efficient management, and stakeholder engagement.
In Singapore, this approach has resulted in many unique ‘firsts’ for the city’s built industry, such as its first eco-condominium and first eco-mall, and the first CarbonNeutral® development in Asia Pacific.
Reviewing CDL’s success, An continues, "We have an ongoing commitment since over the last 10 years, to invest 2-5% of a new development’s costs to green building design, methods and features. We will continue to do so in spite of the weak economic outlook and tight margins. We are also committed to maintaining a minimum of Green MarkGoldPLUS for all our new developments, two levels above the mandatory standards."
CDL continues to push the envelope of innovation for green living in its residential developments. More recently, its d’Nest condominium entered the Singapore Book of Records for the “Largest Solar Panels In A Condominium” and prototyped a first-of-its-kind Home Energy Management System for its Echelon condominium. The Company’s HAUS@SERANGOON GARDEN is the first landed property in Singapore to come with a solar energy system in each unit.
In the area of user engagement, the company’s Green Lease Partnership programme supports commercial tenants in monitoring and reducing their carbon footprint. Through various initiatives under the programme such as a mobile portal enabling the near real-time monitoring of energy consumption, CDL’s commercial tenants have greater empowerment to drive energy improvements through behavioural change, green infrastructure and best procurement practices.
To date, some 95% of its commercial tenants have signed the CDL Green Lease Memorandum of Understanding. CDL is targeting 100% by 2017.
“We believe that with more stakeholders on board the eco-system, sustainability objectives can be better achieved,” says An.
The Company’s application of the Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction (PPVC) technology as a first in Asia and likely the world’s largest for a residential development at its The Brownstone project, continues to highlight CDL’s relentless pursuit of game-changing innovation that will help solve industry challenges of labour crunch, quality control, safer and cleaner worksites, and decreased material wastage.
These successes have been recognised on some of the biggest stages. CDL has been listed on three of the world’s most coveted sustainability benchmarks, the FTSE4Good Index Series (since 2002), Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World (since 2010), and Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (since 2011). Most recently, CDL was listed on the inaugural SGX Sustainability Indices and remains the only Singapore firm listed on the Global Compact 100 Sustainability Index. In 2016, CDL emerged as the Top Real Estate Developer in the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World and is ranked 10th on the global index.
Building on its progress, CDL continues to strengthen its healthy innovation pipeline. True to its corporate vision of ‘Building Value for Tomorrow, Today’, the forward-looking real estate giant made a donation of S$2.25m (£1.2m) to set up two new first-of-its-kind research labs in partnership with the National University of Singapore (NUS), The NUS-CDL Smart Green Home and the NUS-CDL Tropical Technologies Laboratory (T? Lab) will testbed indoor and outdoor innovations and emerging technologies for sustainable living and climate-resilient buildings.
This future ambition, aligned with its past achievements and present success, demonstrates clearly that CDL is one of the most holistically innovative property developers in the world. Its example proves that the nuts and bolts world of construction can thrive with sustainability integrated into its core business practices and strategy.