2021 marked the beginning of my tenure as Chief Executive of Swire Properties. After four years in Beijing, I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities which lie ahead. Sustainable Development has always been close to my heart and I have had the opportunity to be involved in many of our initiatives over the years. Our journey and achievements to date are a significant source of pride for the whole organisation. Moreover, I recognise that our ability to continue to integrate Sustainable Development into our business is critical to our competitiveness and success over the long term. Sustainable Development (“SD”) will remain at the top of our agenda.
Working towards resilience in a challenging year
2021 was another challenging year, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to be felt across the world. I am extremely grateful to all members of our front-line staff who have worked so hard to keep our employees, our tenants and our customers safe. The continued period of disruption has underlined the need to develop and implement strategies to ensure that our business, our industry and our communities emerge stronger and more resilient. Many of these plans are captured in our SD 2030 Strategy.
We believe that companies with a strong commitment to improving their SD performance will be better prepared to withstand systemic climatic, social and economic stresses and volatility. This year, we continued to enjoy stable occupancy rates and promising growth in sales revenue. We have invested significantly in placemaking and placekeeping activities which will increase resilience and support a recovery in the communities and cities in which we operate.
Advancing to Net Zero with 1.5˚C-aligned science-based targets
COP26, held in Glasgow in November 2021, emphasised the importance of a transition to net-zero carbon emissions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5˚C. The summit also called for closer collaboration between Government, business and civil society to accelerate action and address the climate crisis.
At Swire Properties we believe that corporations can drive significant change which is why we are a strong proponent of science-based decarbonisation targets. This year, Swire Properties was the first real estate developer in Hong Kong and the Chinese Mainland to have our 1.5°C-aligned science-based targets approved, in line with the Paris Agreement. These industry-leading decarbonisation goals allow us to broaden our influence with our value chain partners and better monitor our downstream impact - continuing to initiate changes in our supply chain while further engaging our tenants on key climate issues.
Demonstrating across-the-board sustainability leadership
Over the past two years, we have placed greater emphasis on health and wellness in our communities. An excellent example of this commitment is our newest development, Taikoo Li Qiantan in Shanghai, a LEED- and WELL-certified shopping mall that is focused on promoting wellbeing and enhancing social resilience. Taikoo Li Qiantan became the first shopping mall in the world to obtain WELL Core Platinum certification.
We are also promoting change by demonstrating leadership in several other areas. Last year we achieved 100% renewable electricity at Taikoo Hui Guangzhou, building upon our achievements at Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li Chengdu in 2020. We were also the principal partner for the Hong Kong Green Building Council’s Advancing Net Zero Ideas Competition which aimed to stimulate innovation throughout the construction and property industries through the design of future-ready buildings and the retrofitting of existing building stock to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. In addition, our new corporate-level Zero Harm Commitment is an industry-leading pledge that strives to eliminate hazards and create a safe environment for all our employees, partners and the wider community.
This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Swire Properties Community Ambassador Programme, our corporate volunteering initiative. This significant milestone represents our enduring spirit of giving back and shows how far we have come over the past two decades – growing from a team of just 40 people to over 4,000 volunteers today! We will continue to give back to our communities through volunteering and building enduring partnerships with NGOs.
Another priority is to increase our understanding of the environmental, social and economic impacts that our developments have on the surrounding communities. We believe it is important to learn about and measure these impacts so that we can build and manage places that improve the built environment and enhance the lives of the people who live, work and stay within it. In 2021, we published our second Places Impact Report, produced in partnership with Tsinghua University in Beijing. This report examines the impact of Taikoo Li Sanlitun on the wider Sanlitun area in the Chaoyang District of Beijing.
Remaining focused to achieve our SD vision
I was recently asked what I thought our biggest achievement was as a business in 2021. For me, without doubt, our greatest achievement was in the area of Sustainable Development where we have moved closer towards achieving our vision of being the top performer in our industry globally by 2030. The progress is clear from our ascending ESG ratings and numerous awards received in 2021. We were listed seventh globally and first in Asia on the influential DJSI World Index. We also retained our Global Sector Leader title on the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) index and were ranked first on the Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index for the fourth year in a row – obtaining the highest score of all the assessed companies. The fact that the commitments which we have made to implement our SD 2030 Strategy are being recognised is very encouraging and motivates us to do more.
We are expecting 2022 will be another challenging year with more uncertainty and volatility ahead. It remains important for us to stay focused as a team on delivering on our SD plans, whether they be decarbonising our portfolios, remaining diligent in our commitment to achieve zero harm or investing our time and energy in volunteering to support our communities. As I embark on my first full year as Chief Executive of Swire Properties, I am committed to working closely with my colleagues to advance our SD agenda as we continue to build sustainable and resilient communities.