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  • Clara Fishel

Earth Day / Sustainable Development / CRE

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

I am writing this the day after Earth Day. More specifically, the day after the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in the Time of COVID-19. I have been thinking about health... specifically, the health of our people, our planet, and our economy and how intimately connected they are.

Those of us working in commercial real estate can see these connections all the time - when looking at Land Use, Circulation, Conservation, Open Space, Air and Water Quality, Water Use, Energy Use, and Safety. We may even dig a little deeper and get into Equity, Community and Resiliency.

2007 - 08, I worked for developer Melaver, Inc. Melaver did LEED-certified building and renovation projects, which was pretty radical for a small town in the southeast. They hired me to put together a business case for sustainable development that we would use as a marketing tool to win new business. Even back then, there were lots of examples of the economic advantages of building with people and planet in mind but none of the brokers or developers we were talking to was even remotely interested.

Now, with that much more experience in the green building industry, huge improvements in technologies and processes, and everything we know about climate change, why is the Commercial Real Estate industry still so hesitant to embrace this stuff full stop?

There are plenty of companies, such as industrial developer, ProLogis and global real estate services giant, CBRE, that have embraced sustainable development, but on the whole, the CRE industry has been very slow to move in this direction.

Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, sustainable development makes the most sense to rational, numbers-driven decision makers. Besides, wouldn't you rather be doing good for the people and planet while making money instead of only making money?

But now there's this global pandemic, you say, and I don't even know if I'll make any money this year or next year! How can I be thinking about changing things up at a time like this!?! COVID-19 has brought forth many of the unsustainable, underlying unhealthy conditions of our intertwined social, environmental, and economic systems. Whether we like it or not, everything is different than before, for all of us.

I have never given up on sustainable development, but I have certainly tempered my fervor. Today, I am re-committing myself to the cause. Here are some excellent resources for those of you who are curious or likewise committed...


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