Opinion

Sustainability is a business reality that creates shared values

For the shopping center industry sustainability has become in the past years much more than simple positioning. It is considered a relevant economic, social and environmental aspect that has a significant impact on corporate value.

BY ELSA MONTEIRO

Nowadays many companies focus on the economic return of sustainable business strategies and consider efficiency strategies a competitive advantage. Sustainable business approaches now play a major role from customer perception up to financial returns.

As a consequence investors and other stakeholders insist that shopping center companies align their core business with value creating goals. They demand transparent and internationally comparable information about the performance of the assets in order to benchmark and set the standards. Only shopping center companies, who can respond in a professional way to this need, will secure their competitive advantage on international and national markets.

Sonae Sierra, as a pioneer in the field of sustainability, has been publishing for many years fully integrated economic, environmental and social reports based on international benchmark reporting guidelines as “International Integrated Reporting Council” (IIRC), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) with “Construction and Real Estate Sector Supplement” (CRESS). Thus, at Sonae Sierra, sustainability is a business reality with measurable, valuable and accountable business results, which provide transparent information to all stakeholders. To achieve such targets we have identified four priorities that will deliver shared value for our business, society and the environment. Addressing such issues is intended to enable us to sustain the ‘capital stocks’ of resources and relationships which our business is dependent on in the medium to long-term.

This means that, by executing our sustainability strategy alongside our business strategy, we aim to create a virtuous circle whereby we address the principal sustainability risks facing our operations in order to safeguard our continued capacity to do business. Effective risk management underpins both our business and sustainability strategy by ensuring that risks associated with all our business activities are tightly managed and controlled. A strong sustainability governance structure and an embedded process of stakeholder engagement are both important components of our strategy. We also partake in a range of external initiatives to push the sustainability agenda forward within our industry.

Likewise, in 2014 we were able to save €18.6 million as a result of efficiency improvements regarding energy, waste and water management made by the company since 2002 and 2003. With regard to safety and health initiatives, the major highlights are the 77% reduction in lost working days due to occupational accidents per employee, since 2005, and an 80% reduction in the number of non-conformities arising from Safety Preventive Observations, also since 2005.

Such results come with a long term view on the business and recently the application of the Creating Shared Value concept that led to the evolution of the sustainability strategy implemented by the Company for 20 years. This made the Company identify a series of long-term environmental and social challenges and search for ways to transform them into business value, while contributing at the same time to respond to these five main priorities: Resource resilience; prosperous retailers; leveraging knowledge, healthy lifestyles and safe people & eco-efficiency.

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