Jordan Relfe and Adam Hinds had something of a wake-up call last summer. They had co-founded their wellbeing property company, LifeProven, four years previous, which was gaining traction but there had been a gnawing doubt that they were missing something – the ability to guide their clients on the entire ESG journey, not just wellbeing when climatic risk and governance reporting was becoming ever more important for long-term investment decision making, asset and business valuations, legislative compliance and consumer expectations.
“In 2021, we were looking at just a third of ESG focusing on the ‘S’ through wellbeing within the property sector. We made a very conscious decision to change tack to help clients see their corporate activities, development, and portfolios through the entirety of the ESG lens in a way that cuts through all the noise.”Jordan Relfe, Co-Founder, LifeProven
This helps LifeProven clients reduce carbon emissions, improve occupier and community health and wellbeing through measurable and commercially valuable data insights.
As such, LifeProven has spent the last 12 months as it would say ‘getting on with it, not just talking’, hiring specialists in project management, sustainability, and building its own in-house data analytics department – as well as upskilling existing team members through specialist training. It has developed the Real Estate Wellbeing Metric, the industry’s first scientific backed platform to measure how buildings positively influence the health, wellbeing and quality of life of their occupant’s overtime – ensuring the true ‘Social’ benefit of high-quality building design and operation can be measured and reported overtime. The platform captures live operational data insights from its occupants, used to objectively identify what attributes are providing greatest benefits in the building, provide operational management insights and used to inform design and development briefs for future schemes – which it hopes in time will become the industry standard for measuring true social impact.
LifeProven has underpinned this gear change by winning UK Property Week’s – Innovation Award in December 2021 – and the business of some impressive names including Blackrock, VervLife, Workplace Futures Group, Urban Splash, General Projects and Dandi Living among them. “We like to think we’re punching above our weight,” smiles Co-founder Adam Hinds. LifeProven has a momentum it’s now in the position to build on over 2023.
The timing for the relaunch seems to be fortuitous too. The Covid pandemic has altered much about the way we live and work, but what may be the most lasting impact has been the change of perspective it has fast-forwarded: demonstrating the societal and planetary value of a business beyond its pure profit have become a greater part of the corporate world.
“Funders and investors are increasingly interested in asset performance metrics which look beyond pure profits; actively considering how buildings and businesses impact people and the planet as long term, risk adjusted investment factors. With a 70+ year investment lifecycle and rapidly changing legislation and market expectations, a highly profitable building today may become non-compliant, ‘stranded’ or frankly just completely unwanted by consumers very quickly if certain ESG factors aren’t considered in the long-term building strategy.”Jordan Relfe, Co-Founder, LifeProven
Jordan and Adam may be idealists on the one hand. Arguably they’re part of a generational shift that is helping the property sector reconsider its buildings and processes as also having an ethical component. With more GenZ and Millennials working in the sector – and aware that property alone accounts for 35% of carbon emissions in the UK, and has the unique ability to influence the health and wellbeing of its occupants – Jordan and Adam believe this is the case, without being self-righteous about it.
“We started the business because it chimes with the values we hold. We wanted to be in real estate but in a way that we knew was adding commercial value whilst doing a lot of good. We are helping clients see ESG beyond just an acronym that is used for marketing and PR, but as a fundamental to their long-term commercial value, business proposition and level of consumer trust built through positive actions.”Adam Hinds, Co-Founder, LifeProven
But, on the other hand, Jordan and Adam are not so idealistic as to fail to appreciate that property is a business, one that needs to make a profit in order to provide homes and workplaces. Indeed, LifeProven may well ride an industry wave: one that, with property prices surely plateauing, energy cost risks and building cost increases comes to see the focus increasingly on driving capital value through the yield – that is, the ability to consistency collect rent. LifeProven says it’s first clients were the industry’s early adopters of ESG who had been doing it for years, however, newer clients are coming as they now recognise ESG as both a risk and significant opportunity, helping them to stand out in the market to give their investors or customers more value.
They have helped develop offerings such as ‘London’s healthiest building’, for its combination of natural light, green spaces, storage, air quality, privacy, acoustic performance, opportunities for social interaction, as well as tangibly demonstrating its ability to meet climatic targets for net-zero carbon and so on. A unique proposition only possible through understanding ESG in real estate.
“Profit had become a bit of a dirty word, but of course what we do is about improving financial performance as well – if your corporate and development ESG targets are suitably aligned to the directives of your business activities you will focus on project decisions that provide greatest long-term value, such as ensuring your assets are compliant with emerging minimum energy targets, carbon reduction targets aligned to the Paris-climate accord and its ability to consistently respond to the health and expectations of its occupants.”Jordan Relfe, Co-Founder, LifeProven
LifeProven’s relaunch has allowed it to take a more holistic approach to its analysis for clients too, not just covering bases through the likes of its ESG Asset Ledger, whole life carbon modelling, operational greenhouse gas carbon accounting, EPC assessments, ESG reporting and the like, but rather in operating as a bespoke one-stop-shop for all matters sustainability and wellbeing with a blend of RICS Regulated project, cost and development management services too. Property projects tend to be fragmented among serial stakeholders at the best of times, but LifeProven oversees the infusing of ESG at each stage of project delivery, from beginning to end through four key stages of strategy, deliver, measure and report services. It’s an approach that makes the company stand out in what will, no doubt, become a crowded market.
What’s just as important, Adam claims that his company will carry out that oversight in simple terms that everyone can understand and follow.
“Developers know they face a legislative pressure to make their buildings carbon neutral by 2050. And some understand that occupier health and wellbeing is about building performance and consumer demand. These are big ticket items, that many companies are unsure where to start, or what direction to head with their more traditional day to day business activities. We are making it as simple as possible for developers, funds, investors, contractors and the like, so they know exactly what to do on the ground so it can be consistently delivered, with benefits measured and reported annually back to their boards, shareholders or occupants – again building trust.”Adam Hinds, Co-Founder, LifeProven
Being able to provide the data to do this – data that will add to a property’s future investment and resale value – is undoubtedly a defining aspect of LifeProven pitch, notably given the current business climate’s emphasis on data as being what makes a decision actionable. To this end, LifeProven has its proprietary and anonymised Real Estate Wellbeing Metric survey methodology, designed in conjunction with Dr Brendon Stubbs of King’s College, University of London.
“We see the ability to demonstrate, through data, that the ESG performance of a building over time will be fundamental to creating value and reducing risk. Investors are now considering what they will or won’t need to spend to meet the legislative changes and changing consumer expectations, impacting rents and sale prices achieved. We’re seeing more and more clients come to us as they start thinking about these ideas, because they want to make progress with them, whatever that might amount to, rather than just bluster about them. They are seeing the importance of sustainability, wellbeing and long-term commercial value in tandem.”Adam Hinds, Co-Founder, LifeProven