November 10, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the commercial real estate sector, including placing health and safety standards at the forefront of risk management across real estate portfolios. In Canada, ten of the largest institutional investors allocate $220 billion or 13.2% of their total portfolios to real estate.

In order to better understand approaches to workforce risks in the sector, the Canadian Capital Stewardship Network (CCSN) sent ten pension funds a short questionnaire in May 2020 on the steps they have taken to respond to the ongoing pandemic in their Canadian real asset portfolios. We examined whether Canadian funds have (a) responsible investment policies in place that acknowledge workers’ rights; (b) firm policies to assert decent working conditions in the stewardship of their real assets, and (c) responsible procurement policies applicable to contractors or responsible contractor policies (RCPs).

Our research indicates that there is a significant gap in oversight by real estate investors that would ensure effective due diligence of COVID-19 mitigation measures and workforce practices by real estate owners and their property managers. This report outlines a set of principles for a responsible real estate management approach for the commercial real estate sector in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. It then provides a summary of the information provided to us by the Canadian pension funds we surveyed in relation to the four principles.

Want to get involved?
View our Webinar: Responsible Real Estate Management in the Context of COVID-19

The CCSN hosted a webinar on December 10, 2020 to discuss the report’s findings and share strategies on how workers’ capital can be leveraged to promote safe and responsible business practices in private markets.

To view the webinar, click here. 

Report Highlights:
  • Ten of Canada’s largest institutional investors allocate $220 billion or 13.2% of their total portfolios to real estate.
  • 80% of cleaners in non-unionized buildings do not have access to adequate paid sick days.
  • 66% of non-unionized workers and 49% of unionized workers are experiencing an increase in workload as a result of COVID-19.
  • Responsible property owners and their real estate managers should ensure a stable continuation of income and benefits to contracted workers across their buildings, which includes access to paid sick leave.
  • To ensure the safe re-opening of the economy, responsible property owners should play a more active role in adapting systems to address workforce risks by establishing a mechanism for workers to raise concerns without fear of reprisal.
  • Responsible procurement policies or responsible contractor policies are proven tools of effective investment stewardship that uphold workers’ fundamental rights across contracted property services and sustain the value of real assets.

Read the report here in ENGLISH or in FRENCH

Read the press release here in ENGLISH or in FRENCH