16 Oct 2017 - 11:00 CET

Marieke van Kamp on improving NN Group’s real estate sustainability

NN Group improved its score in the 2017 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) assessment, a leading global standard for assessing environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of real estate.

Marieke van Kamp is Head of Private Markets at NN Group’s Investment Office. She is responsible for the real estate, private equity, and private loan portfolios of the NN insurance companies. Marieke elaborates on the outcome of the 2017 benchmark. 

Marieke van Kamp, Head of Private Markets at NN Group’s Investment Office. Marieke van Kamp, Head of Private Markets at NN Group’s Investment Office.

‘As a large, international insurance company and asset manager, Responsible Investment is an important factor in what we do. In our role as investors, we integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into our investment process. And, as more and more customers show interest in Responsible Investment, we continue to offer specialised, sustainable investment solutions they prefer’.

‘Real estate is an important asset class within NN ‘s own investment portfolio’, Marieke explains. ‘As a long-term investor in real estate, we believe it is important to invest in measures to reduce environmental impacts. Participating in the GRESB benchmark allows us to measure and monitor our performance, stimulating us to constantly improve’.

Why is it important to make real estate investments more sustainable?

‘We recognise that real estate can contribute to the social and environmental challenges that society faces. Therefore we invest in measures to improve energy, water, and waste efficiency. Also, we engage with our suppliers, asking them to use sustainable materials in renovations. We involve tenants through regular surveys to improve existing property performance. And we ask borrowers to improve their sustainability performance. Through these actions, we create long term value and improve the environment we live in’.


Can you give us some idea what NN’s real estate portfolio looks like? And how do you improve its sustainability?

‘With a managed portfolio of real estate investments and -loans combined, real estate is an important asset class within NN’s own investment portfolio. The portfolio is spread over sectors and regions in Europe. We invest in both commercial real estate, such as office buildings, shopping centres and logistic buildings, and residential real estate, including student housing. We also provide loans to commercial real estate owners’.


What sustainability improvement are you most excited about?

‘Personally, I am very excited about our efforts to put solar panels onto the roofs of the logistic buildings in our portfolio. We have some 850,000 square meters of roof on logistic buildings, that roughly equals 170 football fields. To me, that represents a substantial opportunity to increase in green energy production and I hope that we can achieve a lot there’.


So what are the lessons learned?

‘The value of gathering data cannot be underestimated. Data provide insight, help you to compare assets, recognise things off average, to define actions which can be taken to improve sustainability performance. Also, raising awareness in the value chain really helps to acquire new ideas and bringing these into concrete actions. Everyone can play a role in improving real estate sustainability: tenants, property managers, valuators, contractors. And everyone profits from that’.


What is NN’s ambition going forward in making its real estate investments more sustainable?

‘In the 2017 GRESB benchmark, NN Group’s real estate portfolio received Four Stars out of a total of five. Participating in this ESG benchmark allows us to measure and monitor our performance, stimulating us to constantly improve. Improving portfolio sustainability is a high priority for all the NN teams involved in managing the real estate assets. Of course, good benchmark scores are always nice, but at the end of the day it is the underlying, real, tangible results – a reduced environmental impact and satisfied tenants – that count’.