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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

What Is Sustainable Real Estate Investing? This VP Has the Answers—and Her Team in Singapore Is Hiring Now

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Wincel Kaufmann, Head of Sustainable Investing for APAC Real Assets for BlackRock.
| Courtesy of BlackRock

Wincel Kaufmann is an avid scuba diver—and it was this hobby that inspired the corporate real estate consultant to pursue a path within real estate that better aligned with her love of the environment: sustainable investing.

“As a scuba diver, I’ve seen the impact of climate change over the years,” says the Singapore-based Kaufmann, who a few years ago attended a conference and heard Vice President Al Gore speak about sustainable investing. “He said that sustainability is the biggest investment opportunity in history, and referred to a ‘sustainable revolution,’ which has the magnitude of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, but the speed of the digital revolution.”

The idea that sustainable investing was not just a trend, but rather something that could become the new standard pushed Kaufmann to find her current role, as the Head of Sustainable Investing for APAC Real Assets for BlackRock. She’s also a member of the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB)’s Asia Benchmark Committee.

Here, Kaufmann shares what she’s currently working on, how BlackRock’s Singapore office is a great place to grow your career, and why it’s an especially exciting time to join the company.

To learn more about what it’s like to work at BlackRock’s Singapore office, check out this article featuring a director on the real estate securities team.

What attracted you to work at BlackRock?

BlackRock is a leader in sustainable investing and our CEO Larry Fink talks about helping investors achieve their goals towards net zero, which means the company will cut the net greenhouse-gas emissions of their portfolios to zero. Sustainability is not only about managing risks, but it is also the biggest source of investment opportunities.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I am responsible for integrating ESG (environmental, social, and governance) considerations in our investment process. At the sourcing and due diligence stage in Asia real estate, ESG risks and opportunities are identified using our proprietary ESG questionnaire. Any material risks or opportunities are reviewed by the investment committee, and risk mitigation or opportunity implementation plans are agreed upon. Once the asset is under our management, these plans are then implemented and monitored.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

On the “E” in ESG, we focus on energy efficiency in all of the buildings that we manage, as this has both environmental and financial impact. A great example is an asset in Australia that will have its own solar panels on the roof. The clean energy will generate enough power for the whole building and will provide income without requiring additional capital. The clean energy will offset more than 13,000 tonnes of carbon emission—that’s equivalent to the energy used by 1,500 homes in a year or removing 3,000 cars from the road.

Across the region, particularly in Singapore, Japan, and China, we optimize our buildings’ air-conditioning systems. This has resulted in a 25% reduction in energy consumption, which also leads to financial savings.

On the “S,” or social component of ESG, our focus is on the impact to communities, particularly the tenants who work in our buildings. We provide access to fitness centers, child-care facilities, and cycle-to-work amenities. We also run regular tenant activities ranging from fitness programs, celebration of local festivities, and charitable works. These improvements in the quality of amenities and services increase the attractiveness of the buildings to both the tenants and future investors.

In Singapore, one of our tenants is a successful indoor farm company that is producing fresh vegetables for local consumers. The building holds a Green Mark Gold Award from the Building and Construction Authority and continues to attract a variety of tenants.

We consider opportunities for local and internationally recognized green building certifications to validate these efforts. Aside from international ones such as LEED and BREEAM, we use national energy certification called NABERS in Australia and the BCA Green Mark in Singapore.

We are also a member of the aforementioned GRESB, where all of our property and infrastructure funds are submitted to and compared to our peers. Our funds perform extremely well, with either 4 or 5 Green Stars out of 5, and consistently outperform their peers year-over-year.

How does BlackRock, and specifically the Singapore office, help employees grow and advance in their careers?

Singapore is a regional hub for BlackRock with a wide range of investment businesses. It’s a great place to develop your career with leaders who support employee growth and well-being. There’s no better place to work than that with a culture of support, both at work and in your life outside the office.

What advice do you have for applicants interested in applying for positions at BlackRock?

BlackRock is a great company to work for and has an extensive network for applicants. The individuals working in the company are very approachable and most will respond if you reach out to them for career advice.

What advice do you have for those looking to pursue a similar career path as yours?

A solid financial background is great to have, combined with the desire to make a positive impact. The term “sustainable investing” is used widely now to describe how we invest. In the future, we hope that the term will not be needed anymore as it becomes a norm for investing.