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For many who live and breathe our sectors across the placemaking and built environments, the value of relationships and staying in touch really can’t be overstated.

This year has been short on coffee catch-ups, friendly chats during a conference, or the opportunity to present a fresh idea or forge a new partnership in person.

And relationship-building is no easy task via digital platforms alone.

But one plus point for me in this changing landscape has been the amount of online content that’s been made free and readily available this year, as people and businesses find alternative ways to be seen and heard and share their knowledge.

And a couple of topics that had no shortage of air time are environmental, social and governance (ESG) and social impact.

If you take an interest in sustainable and responsible investment, or impact investment, there has been a pretty steady flow of strong content and useful resources to tune into.

So, with that in mind, here are just a handful of ESG and purpose-related items that I appreciated, and think our sectors might find of interest too.

Thank you to all of the organisations below for their excellent work. And please feel free to share any others that you’ve found particularly helpful.

Sustainability Reporting Standard

The Good Economy & sector partners

If you work anywhere near housing, you’ll probably have heard about the Sustainability Reporting Standard (formerly described as the ESG social housing reporting standard).

Social housing has become the first ever UK sector to develop a standardised approach to ESG reporting. At the time of formal launch, 42 housing associations and 32 lenders were early adopters of the standard, along with 17 organisations acting as endorsers.

The Good Economy, a consultancy specialising in social impact, has spearheaded the project, which was driven primarily by housing association Peabody and advisory firm Centrus.

Around half a dozen webinars took place during the consultation and the launch, which attracted national and trade headlines aplenty upon launch in November.

The standard will evolve and a ‘Social and Affordable Housing: Sustainability Reporting Standards Board’ is being set up in 2021. But the standard is already serving as an useful template and reference point for housing associations who are tuned into the value of effective ESG reporting.

You can see the report and watch the launch of the webinar here.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG): why it matters and why you should act now?

British Property Federation

For anyone interested in ESG in residential real estate, look no further than the British Property Federation’s (BPF’s) November webinar.

Chaired by PfP Capital’s Alex Notay, with speakers including Katherine Sherwin from Blackrock, Jon Lovell of Hillbreak and Stuart Burrows of the government’s Cabinet Office, the discussion gets to the heart of ESG.

One particularly interesting topic of discussion was around measuring and reporting social impact; from the bridging of social impact to UN SDGs, to questions around the ‘monetising’ of social value, and calls for investors to engage with and better understand their communities.

All that before the conversation even turns to net zero carbon emissions…

Certainly worth a watch.

SDG Mapping for Pension Funds; with Karen Shackleton at Pensions for Purpose

The Ethical Compass Podcast

Ben Holden and Jon Maguire deliver quality, highly informative and entertaining podcasts with top names across the responsible, sustainable and impact investing landscape.

I caught their discussion with Karen Shackleton, head of Pensions for Purpose, back in May. Karen runs a collaborative online platform focused on raising awareness of impact investment, ESG and sustainable investment, now carrying up to 700 thought leadership articles on ESG and impact on its site.

This discussion centred around the UN’s sustainable development goals – a common language and framework for ESG reporting – and their value and usefulness for pension funds. We also hear about ways to raise standards in ESG reporting. Plus, there’s some discussion about the growing popularity of property among pension funds, and it being a natural source of positive social impact.

Our Planet: Too Big to Fail

WWF and Silverback Films

I included this film in my last blog, but for good measure, here it is again.

For anyone wanting a big picture perspective on why any of this matters, then I would recommend watching this 40-minute film.

Hats off to the filmmakers and contributors for their candid approach.

At its core, it is about stressing the connection between the economic system and the natural world, and the role of the financial sector in addressing sustainability and climate change.

It is very much about thinking big, and thinking about future generations. And that makes it an inspiring watch.

The film points to the need for a collective will to change the financial and economic system to reach a sustainable future.

As its remarks in its narrative: “Taking society and the environment into account in all our financial decisions will soon be business critical. Fortunately for the finance sector, the opportunities and benefits are endless.”