Harald Steiner

CEO / European Real Estate Brand Institute


Transformation _ Guiding Your Journey, Part 2

Announcement: “Dear passengers, I would like to welcome you aboard the transformation express en route to corporate success. We are delighted that you have chosen to join us on our dedicated real estate train. We will be calling at the following stations: ESG/sustainability, employer branding and digital marketing leadership. We wish you a pleasant and informative journey”.
(If you’re on the right side of the tracks, may I refer you briefly but warmly to the blog of September 10: #7 / Transformation _ Guiding Your Journey, Part 1)


First Station: ESG

Did you have a particularly bumpy journey on the first leg of your transformation journey? Well, that’s probably due to the intensive rail works happening all over Europe. It’s like this: As it ramps up ESG regulations across the financial sector, the EU is also tightening its sustainability requirements for the real estate sector. From March 2021, a package of measures will gradually come into force, including regulations on disclosure, benchmarks and taxonomy. The goal, in a nutshell, is to take sustainability, which has long been voluntary in the real estate sector, and make it mandatory. For market participants, what was once an optional extra will soon become a sine qua non condition of doing business in Europe. The new regulations will have an impact on every segment of the real estate industry, although project developers, property and asset managers and fund providers will be most affected.
This means that every single company in the real estate industry needs to strategically integrate ESG criteria in their corporate DNA. And in doing so, there are two key factors everyone needs to be aware of: First, there’s no point in pretending – it simply cannot be done. Appearances (keyword: greenwashing) are no longer a passable substitute for substance because companies will be required to document their actions. You will have to provide valid data to demonstrate that you are strategically implementing appropriate sustainability measures. The time for words alone is long gone; it is now time to act. Second, your actions need to be fully ingrained into every fibre of your company, from the top levels of management all the way down. After all, a train driver can only do their job if the route is set, the tracks are clear and every carriage is properly linked together and ready to pull in the same direction. Otherwise, the journey will, at best, be a short one. One thing is certain: companies that do not make every effort to consistently implement their ESG strategies will run into problems, for example if they need to raise external financing.

Note: “Real estate companies will soon be required to report on the ESG performance of their assets and portfolios. You can read more about the real estate sector’s ESG initiative and the new scoring model proposed by Union Investment at the ESG Circle of Real Estate”.

Second Station: Employer Branding

Welcome to Employer Branding Central. If you manage a company that has made great headway along the track to sustainability, you already epitomise a strong, and much in demand, corporate value. After all, sustainability is not only about the environment, it is also about society. And, in times of crisis such as these, both values experience an enormous revaluation. People want to be supported, to be confident of the future and to be customers, partners and employees of companies that authentically commit themselves to these values. Maybe that sounds overly esoteric? You might well think that there are more important and more urgent matters to get to grips with during the coronavirus crisis. How about, for example, operational issues that will keep you afloat in the short term? Of course, you are not wrong. But I think both are just as necessary.
Drowning in moral integrity makes little sense, of course. But it would be just as negligent not to seize the opportunity to present your company as a strong employer brand with solid values – especially against the unsettling background of the current crisis. Shaping and advancing a value-oriented corporate culture is normally a laborious and time-consuming process. In a crisis, however, you can rapidly accelerate the process. Why? Because when life takes a difficult turn, people become far more receptive to authentic values; they long for security, empathy and trust. And you can use this unique opportunity to position your brand. The messages you communicate now will be “branded into” recipients’ memories for a long time – Employer Branding in the truest sense of the word!

Note: “Drees & Sommer has appointed Izabela Danner to its Executive Board. During her career, she has worked in various senior management positions, with a particular focus on corporate development and human resources”.

Third Station: Digital Marketing Leadership

Perhaps you are a little surprised that our journey also takes us through the wide, open landscape of digitization. As if it were not self-evident that messages, whether internal or external, are no longer distributed on handwritten slips of paper. But perhaps this is precisely where the misunderstanding lies. Anyone who thinks they can tick digitalisation off their list simply because they use digital marketing tools does not have a clear grasp of our ultimate destination. Digitization is all about leadership. In other words, it is about anchoring digital marketing in the corporate culture and “leading” the company with the high-quality, relevant data that has been evaluated by experts. Digital Marketing Leadership is where data scientists and corporate leaders join forces. It is important to analyse and understand the market and your own position within it before acting. Anything else would be like donning a train driver’s cap, stepping up into the engine car and randomly pushing buttons and pulling levers to see what happens. Digitization is not an end in itself, but a means to an end – in other words, a means of managing a strong brand that should shine like a beacon when the journey becomes foggy and customers, partners and employees need orientation.

Note: “In late 2019, KPMG announced investments in technology, people and innovation, and expects to spend US$5 billion over the next five years to enhance its leadership position in the digital transformation of professional services”.

Announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us on the transformation express! We wish you a pleasant onward journey”.

With branded regards
Your Harald Steiner 

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