5 December 2023
Language: English

Guest: Nir Basal, Ariel Properties
Our sustainability lead hosts Ariel Properties project manager to present this internationally important topic, its sources, and how it impacts the business world.


Gul: Hello everyone, we are recording our episode regarding sustainability once again and this time for all you English speakers out there. After all, this concerns the entire world. We are developing in our group a well-structured sustainability strategy to advance not just us, our facilities and our employees, but also our clients and stakeholders. We could talk about this subject for hours and still not cover half of it, so we will use this platform to raise awareness to the topic and give you a little taste that might open up your appetite to explore it further by yourselves. My name is Gul Sedlinsky and I am the sustainability integrator of the group, which is one of my responsibilities in the IFM team led by VP of IFM and Global Strategic Idit Shani and with me is Nir Basal. Nir is a senior projects manager in Ariel Properties Group for the past Six years. Over the past two years, he has been managing Microsoft Campus in Herzliya for the company. His job entails proficiency in sustainability, environment, corporate responsibility, Fitwell, corporate real estate management and customer experience excellence in Microsoft and also staying with an ear to the ground for all the hot topics and trends. Welcome, Nir, how are you?

Nir: Hey Gul, I'm fine, Thank you for having me. Happy to take part in this very fun and important podcast. The fact that we are re-recording this one in English, emphasizes better than anything else in my opinion – of how sustainability is the new universal language and how it speaks out so loudly throughout and across our entire Industry.

Gul: That's amazing. We would like to start our podcast with a quote that might draw a bit of inspiration, what do you have for us?

Nir: You know me, I'm a man of many quotes, but if we got together here to talk about sustainability, so there is a popular Chinese proverb that says: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

Gul: Definitely, let's all get together and plant trees.

Nir: So, Gul, what is sustainability?

Gul: Sustainability is a concept aimed at filling the present's needs without compromising the needs of the future in environment, economic and social aspects. This can be achieved through well balance and continuous sustainable developments and strategy.

Nir: Strategy? What is a sustainability strategy?

Gul: Well, in order to manage this concept, there was a need to assemble it into three pillars to allow companies understand how to operate, which is referred to as ESG, environment, social and governance.
Governance concerns the company's code of ethics, transparency, anti-corruption measures and more.
Social is about the welfare of the employees, their working conditions, health and safety, diversity, equity and inclusion and social engagement.
And the last pillar is, of course, environment – the protection of the environment, reduction of carbon emissions, resource usage reduction and waste management.

Nir: You said social, why do social processes have anything to do with sustainability?

Gul: The whole idea behind sustainability is to take care of the future of humanity and the world. If the world will become clean and ecologically balanced, but it will come at the expanse of humanity that will suffer social degradation, we really didn't achieve our goal.

Nir: Okay, so what sustainability activities does Electra FM have?

Gul: So many, from maintenance of photovoltaic panels generating renewable energy and actions to promote energy efficiency to using environmentally friendly cleaning products. We even have a division in Ariel Properties Group for Fit & Spa the its manager Eyal Bruchim presented to us in the episode regarding wellness that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of employees. We have just finalized our new Sustainability Synergy service package with Zalul NGO to help our clients with their sustainability journey. So, what kind of activities did you promote in Microsoft and other places?

Nir: At Microsoft, as well as at Ariel properties, by the way, Sustainability, Inclusion, Equality, Environment, Accessibility, are all part of the company's DNA. This fact has helped us fulfill our perception of work on the subject in front of a corporation such as Microsoft that adopts and embraces our activities and innovation in this field. For the past 2 years we've taken dozens of actions.  Going over all of them will take the better part of this episode, but if we need to name a few: we activated a PV system on the campus roof; we initiated 6 different garbage streams; we've selected suppliers who proactively employ people with special needs; we switched all the company's utensils to consumable / reusable ones; and so much more.

Gul: This is amazing, I think this work is really great and inspiring. How do you measure efficiency of an activity?

Nir: It can be said that first of all, we need to decide what the required activity is – what is the challenge we are facing? After doing that, its treatment should be inspected over 2 levels. The first should be financial, the actions shouldn't be a burden on the company since they are financial organizations. And the second one is that the actions should be measurable. Companies that are looking to improve their responsible investments portfolio, but find it difficult to analyze and monitor for themselves the scope of their ESG activity and the effectiveness of the actions taken, therefore, the vast majority (around 80% of companies) use ESG ratings of external rating bodies, Such as CDP, SCI, S&P, of course, internal measurements can also be performed and there are many tools for internal monitoring of the efficiency of our organizational investments, including dedicated applications, internal surveys, internal performance monitoring and much more. Well. Gul, can you please tell a bit about the life cycle of product?

Gul: Yeah, of course. Most people thing that the negative impact created by a product is just the waste it creates and if it's a product that can be easily recycled, a balanced has been reached. Well, this is a narrow outlook on the subject (that I no long ago had myself). It begins with the impact of extraction the material from the environment, production, distribution, consumption and then disposal. Every part has its own impact, so the way to make ourselves better residents of this planet is to reduce, reuse, recycle. That means firstly to reduce our unnecessary purchases and consumption, then reuse whatever we can, and only after that recycle.
I learned a lot in the 22 minute YouTube video The Story of Stuff. It might be from 2009, but it is super relevant and highly recommended.

Nir: Okay, so when did the change start? Why just then?

Gul: Okay, so humanity's negative impact on the environment started with the industrial revolution, but the real eye opener of the humanity was world war II. An atomic bomb will have that affect. In the 60's and 70's all the tree huggers were showing up in the US and they pushed to institute regulations on factories and from that point on everything started rolling. Slowly, but surely. We are used to everything working itself out at the end, aren't we getting everyone stressed for nothing? Maybe global warming is a myth?

Nir: It is true that the skeptical crowd regarding global warming has become more vocal and receiving wider exposure, unfortunately also among opinion leaders and even among a very small proportion of the scientific community. In general, I can understand the claim of global warming deniers that the earth is cooling and warming in cycles, as it has done for billions of years, it is of course affected by the orbit around the sun, but the warming processes observed around the 80s show an accelerated warming process which is not related to the distance of the Earth from the sun today. By the way, Gul, studies on the subject show that according to the distance of the earth from the sun - one could expect much cooler weather in the current century, however, one can see beyond warming, extreme natural phenomena at almost every point in the globe. To sum it up, within the framework of equality and diversity in opinions today, there is room for multiplicity of opinions, ideas, and yet, the major part of the scientific community recognizes and points out humanity’s part in contribution to greenhouse gas accumulation, rising ground temperature, declining seawater temperatures, melting glaciers and so on.

Gul: Okay, it's all very nice, and trying to save the world, but why should a company which is profit driven have an interest in investing in Sustainability at all?

Nir: We can talk about the green and social agendas and say how important it is, and it is important, but if we are talking about entities that, as you say - are economic, that are in the business of making money, then, in the business field, a very clear trend has been observed in recent years in which the growing interest of investors who increase their focus on ESG ratings and the motivations of companies to receive high ratings on those rating scales. Such responsible investments in companies and ventures whose business activities also yield a measurable social or environmental return, have in the last decade become an international trend that strives to innovatively address global challenges in all areas of life. I can tell you that about $ 350 billion has been invested in this area to date, and those numbers are expected to grow significantly. This growth is something that the market knows, feels and reacts to. Gul. I have heard that in Israel there is the Maala index. What is the Maala index?

Gul: Well, you talked about ratings for ESG. There are many ways to measure sustainability commitment levels in companies around the world. It is connected to regulations, but also to self-check of companies and the efficiency of their activities and reputation for their clients and employees. So in Israel the rating that we have is by Maala organization. After filling out a questionnaire, companies receive a rating, which reflects their status in regards to sustainability. The most important part, in my opinion, of the process is that it allows self-check while going through it. Tavas of our group is a member of the organization. Do you feel a change in employees after they meet a new sustainability endeavor in the company?

Nir: I do feel it, but I’m also being supported by researches conducted on the subject. I can tell you that once a company operates from a real, authentic place, it's also reflected in the actions of its employees in an authentic way and the cooperation and responses from the staff are significant and can be said more comprehensive. This is more noticeable when looking into generation point of view, reflected on the Y generation employees and more so in Z generation, who see themselves responsible for environmental and social issues and want to see that the companies that employ them - can understand and promote their principles - even when those are not revenue generators for the company. I can give you one example, when we started our collaboration with `Pitchon Lev`, about clothing donations and toys for low-income families and made the opportunity to donate on campus accessible - we actually created a very strong buzz in the high-tech community inside and outside Microsoft, even before we shared the new possibility with the employees.

Gul: It's really so great to help communities. There are activities and products that are just green washing. How do you spot Green Washing?

Nir: Green washing is an obstacle to the world of sustainability. Many corporations seek to take advantage of the growing need for sustainability and spread partial information, if not false, in order to appear greener and in fact simply mislead consumers or investors. Greenwash detection can be done through fieldwork. One main method is called "lack of evidence" - this refers to a product or organization that indicates ecological data that has no scientific basis or data that can be refuted very easily while searching for available information. Another method is called trade-off, and it involves companies that proudly state the ecological benefits of their product without specifying what it takes to produce it. Such a classic situation, for example, can be seen in reusable cloth bags that are not thrown in the trash too quickly - but the carbon footprint of their manufacturing process creates a situation that this bag should be used more than 50 times in order to really be friendlier than a nylon bag! Another and last method for today is the use of ambiguity. Use of descriptions such as 100% natural, or environmentally friendly - terms that are not measurable values ​​and do not indicate the quality of a product or service and certainly not their contribution to the ecosystem or user.

Gul: Okay, so we all feel the change in the world due to COVID. So, How did COVID influenced sustainability?

Nir: In my perspective Covid crisis is the "first global sustainability" crisis in history. I think the crisis emphasizes human responsibility on the planet and functions as a wake-up call to prefer a sustainable approach to investment. World leaders and citizens already understand that endless economic growth is not possible on a planet of limited resources. So the trends were felt prior to covid; however, this period accelerated the change that was clear to come in the next decade.

Gul: So, we have learned a lot of interesting things today and I want to thank you, Nir, for coming over.

Nir: Thank you for having me, Gul.

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