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What is ESG? Environmental Social Governance with Matt Ellis
Episode 40329th September 2022 • Real Estate Investing with the REI Mastermind Network • REI Mastermind Network | Real Estate Investing
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Matt Ellis is the Founder and CEO of Measurabl and has spent several years in the world of commercial real estate. Before founding Measurabl, Matt spent five years with CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services company, where he began his career as a real estate broker and went on to lead CBRE’s Sustainability Practice Group in the Western US, implement CBRE’s industry-first global carbon neutrality program, and serve as Director of Sustainability Solutions.

Under Matt's leadership Measurabl has become the world’s most widely adopted environmental, social and governance (ESG) data management solution for commercial real estate. They help companies and investors measure, manage and disclose ESG performance, assess exposure to physical climate risk, and act on decarbonization and sustainable finance opportunities – on more than 11 billion square feet of commercial real estate across 80 countries.

Connect with Matt Ellis: https://www.measurabl.com/

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"You can invest 10,000 hours and become an expert or learn from those who have already made that investment." - Jack

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Environmental-Social-Governance-ESG-with-Matt-Ellis.mp3

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Welcome to the REI Mastermind Network, where host Jack Hoss gathers amazing stories from leaders in real estate investing.

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In each episode, our guests will tell you what they're doing that works, what they've tried, that failed, and best of all, you'll learn actionable steps to take your real estate investing.

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To the next level.

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Now here's Jack with another value packed episode.

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We have Matt Ellis with us here today with measurable.com and I'm going to make sure to have that link at the show.

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Notes because you need to do measurable without the E at the end and just to just to call that out.

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So, head over to reimastermindnet.net for those show notes. But Matt and I are going to talk about ESG today and and this is an acronym that we're going to stretch out here in a minute. But Matt?

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In a nutshell, let's start simple.

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What is ESG?

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Happy to describe it, Jack, and pleased to be talking with you today.

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So ESG stands for environmental social governance?

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And what it is trying to capture is the whole set of risks and rewards in real estate as well as other asset classes that we have for most of our history never bothered to measure, let alone manage.

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So, it's everything from carbon emissions and energy consumption on the environmental side through to.

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Policies and procedures around how you compensate your executive officer related to things like diversity, equity and inclusion.

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It's a huge.

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Minimum of concerns in the real estate business.

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And I know that a lot of people that listen.

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To this show are.

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Relatively new to real estate investing and you're going to start to wonder for yourself, well, how does this really impact me?

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This sounds like stuff that impacts commercial real estate and it definitely does.

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However, it is coming your way because I frankly I'm starting to see some of these questions in some of the.

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Underwriting for just.

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Single family homes and a few other things lately.

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It's entirely true.

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There's a few reasons for that.

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You know, one is that there's just a broad acceptance from lenders, you know, Wells Fargo, Fannie Mae and the multifamily segment that sustainability matters in terms of the properties overall return.

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And so, we're starting to ask these questions.

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And the other thing about it is that the single family and multifamily segments.

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Are increasingly institutionalized.

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So, the people that are buying those properties are more bigger platforms like invitation homes and so.

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So forth.

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And their money and their pressure is asking these types of questions as well.

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So, it's really a combination of policy changes and investor appetite changes.

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So, let's.

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Start with some of this, like you know you mentioned the money and some of the underwriting.

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How have you seen it giving people better access to capital for example?

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Fannie Mae was the 1st, at least in the United States, start to do this.

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They had a very famous now it's an enormous program, Fannie Mae Green lending program.

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And what it?

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Did was it offered specifically multifamily properties of discount on their interest rate?

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In exchange for taking action on energy and water, so to be more efficient, and it was a very popular program.

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It's spawned multiple imitators.

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I think Freddie Mac has now got something or planning to release something, and it's been, I think it's we're talking 10s of billions of dollars now and loans.

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They've gone out for quote UN quote green buildings in the and the multifamily segment.

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So that's the most famous example here in the US where underwriting terms changed for sustainability.

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There's some other examples at the institution.

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So, if you look out there at Boston Properties or Prologis or Canadian recalled Riocan number of others, they've issued green bonds and what we're seeing is that these bonds are being substantially oversubscribed, which means that they have lower borrowing costs.

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Yeah, this is one of those things that really perplexes a lot of people.

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You know the concept that some of this stuff has to be considered now, especially when you're talking about multifamily properties or commercial properties.

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Like and and keeping track of it, that's where your specialization comes in, right?

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Is you have a tool, an online tool that allows this to generate essentially the necessary reports to adhere to some of these regulations and requirements.

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Would that be?

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Fair to say.

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Yeah, that's right.

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I mean, we provide the essential tools to measure sustainability impact and that's the thing about that is you cannot manage what you do not measure, right.

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So, in order to apply for the loan or to respond to the investor request or the resident or tenant requests.

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First you have to have the data and that's.

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The business that.

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We're in. Sure.

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So, with all of that, you know, let's talk about some of those regulations that you're seeing today, like what are some of those environmental for example type of things that you've seen some of the bigger players enforce when they do some of the underwriting?

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Sure. Well, let's start with sort of municipal and sort of state level codes. In the last of 3-4 years, you've seen this blossom from a few dozen jurisdictions like Cambridge, MA or you know, New York.

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San Francisco, the more progressive communities where there happened to be a lot that huge density in real estate.

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Now there are you know well over 60 jurisdictions in the United States that have got some requirement that you disclosed the property level energy and oil, water and or carbon.

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OK.

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So, this is a very new and fast-moving phenomenon.

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They're actually required by law.

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To make these disclosures how?

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At the state level, what you often see is building code changes.

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California is famous for this.

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But and then on the books for a long time, things Title 24 is the one that's around energy.

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And environmental responsibility.

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But other communities are latching on, so you're seeing a change and disclosure and at the same time you're seeing a big push towards new building codes or much stricter they're forcing on property owners more considerations around renewables on sites or.

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Retail or exchanging resource building materials or everything above.

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So, I really think the policy at the state and the local level is important.

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I'd like to .1 more thing out to.

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Jack, which is.

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The financing of clean energy and carbon reductions and properties is back way back at Berkeley, CA.

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Yeah, this is probably over a decade ago that day and then in pace property assessed clean energy and what that pace financing was an ability to.

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Get money for energy savings and also other environmental management tools and put that in the capital stack of the property by attaching it to the tax property tax.

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So, it was senior everything else, and that was a revolutionary invention that's really changed the way that we can finance clean energy and properties of all types.

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So outside of the access to the capital whether you know through these programs.

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What are some of the other benefits somebody could realize if they adhere to?

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Some of these.

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Yeah, sure.

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I mean there's, look there's been a big conversation about how attractive this is to the resident, right, and multifamily and single family and that was a debate.

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You know, we weren't sure how compelling sustainability was when someone evaluating 1 multifamily project versus another multifamily project.

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But what we've seen happen in the commercial space is encouraging and commercial, we were actually able to prove that I used to work for CBRE and and on sustainability matters.

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And we were doing a.

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Lot of analysis to see if there's a correlation between property value and and lease rates and their sustainability performance, usually by looking at things like Energy Star certificates or LEED certification.

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And we found there is a strong correlation and so we're seeing what happened in commercial property port over to residential property.

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We're seeing these same types of benefits and and at the end of the day what's happening there is that people are voting with their feet.

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Tenants or now residents were going to pay more for more sustainable properties.

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And I think that trend is well documented now and expected to increase and improve over time.

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Yeah, and I I'm, I'm amazed too that you we talk about the benefits associated with the funding, but I mean there's other funding app options that like for example my elect local electric company and one of the one of my 12 Plex is they would pay for me to put smart.

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Thermostats in in the units.

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Yeah, there's.

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You know, it's all of these little perks.

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Right. You think about it.

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As a perk, smart metering.

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You know that I gave you more, see?

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What was cool about that?

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Stuff, is that you?

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For the first.

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Time. As a property owner, you were getting enabling technologies that allowed you to quote UN quote measure, right?

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The energy consumption forget carbon emissions for a moment.

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And then?

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You realized, well, look.

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If I can.

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Manage down right, make my properties more efficient.

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I might be able to capture more net operating income, so it's a very primal instinct, right?

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It wasn't about carbon emissions per say, it was just about maximizing noit and improving property value.

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And though you're right, there was a whole lot of utilities got into this game.

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They had regulatory.

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Pressure on them.

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To reduce the amount of electrons they were pushing out to market, the best way they could do that was help make the properties more efficient.

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Yeah, well, and then with that too, you know there's a there is a benefit to the tenants too.

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They might have an environmentally conscious push to move into these type of apartment buildings, but in a way too they're probably going to be saving money on their utilities or.

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What have you?

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Yeah, you know, this is one of those things that just fascinates me.

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Because when you when you think about it, not only you get some of these benefits that you know I.

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Pick on the local electric company, for example, and they were going to provide these updated thermostats to the units.

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But it does reduce the utility costs for the resident and then it also typically is going to help me in some way regarding the cash flow.

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I mean I can usually increase the rents for some of these.

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Extra benefits and and if I can get my overall expenses down, I mean that's a win for everybody.

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You know, I sometimes think about it like being in the military.

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Ever notice how there's a?

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Military perk everywhere.

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You turn right whether you're dining out on a Friday evening or you're going to college.

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And I think sustainability feels like that to me somehow.

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It's like if you are in a forward posture on sustainability, landlord, you're interested in what amenities the utility might provide for free.

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What efficiency programs that might provide for free?

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What technologies you might access at a disco?

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I don't know what data insights you might gain to be more competitive as you operate your buildings.

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Like all of these things are just blossoming out of paying any attention whatsoever.

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Now that's the carrot, though, like the stick is also coming to be clear.

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Right. These are these regulations.

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That you and I are talking about so whether you like it or not, right?

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This issue will affect you.

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It'll come over the transom from your lender.

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Who's going to ask the question about how much energy do you use?

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Has that changed over time and your interest rate could change as a result or fundamentally your access to capital, right, that sounds to me.

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A lot more like a stick.

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Yeah, yeah.

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No, we definitely, especially in real estate, though we're kind of used to.

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Being pushed in certain directions, I mean real estate investing is attractive and then the government has made it attractive for obvious reasons and that's the, we're kind of used to that paradigm.

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You know people, one thing I get asked often is sort of the why question your lies is affecting real estate of all things, and people are not typically aware of these two things.

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One, it is the world's largest asset class. That is true. 17 trillion asset value and commercial. I think something like 40 and residential. You can check my figures.

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But they're like that order.

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Of magnitude, the 2nd that people didn't.

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No, we weren't very aware of was that it was also one of the most environmentally and socially impactful asset classes.

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It's 40% of US carbon emissions are coming from buildings by virtue of the energy they consume. It's like 30% of potable water.

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It's like 28% of raw materials. We spend 90% of our time indoor either in an office.

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Building or more or less these days at our homes, working and sleeping right. So, the health and well-being implications are vast.

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So, you've got to really remember, like there's a reason the policy and the capital is focusing on real estate.

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It's big both in terms of dollar value.

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And environmental social impact.

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So, is there a does your tool?

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Maybe does?

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This is there a way for somebody to assess quickly a property, whether it's commercial or otherwise, whether it would be worthwhile for them financially to make these types of moves?

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But the short answer is, in residential real estate right now, the utility is probably one of your better friends for I'm talking about a single-family home.

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If the homeowner just wanted to know where they were at, they should be able to look at their utility these days and see a little bar chart.

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As gives you versus comparable households and then typically they've been advertising centers and programs for you there in the commercial space, which is what we do at measurable most.

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Of our work.

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The sophistication is significant, right?

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So, we have a platform now that gives you a whole set of metrics that you can understand automatically.

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It compares you against whole portfolios of real estate or other buildings and other cities around the world, so we can actually draw a straight line too.

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Which buildings are good or bad relative to their peers and specifically?

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What you might be.

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Able to do to improve them with the highest ROI.

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So, the toolkit for commercial is very sophisticated and we're doing more and more work in the residential, especially the multifamily side.

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So, these things are coming.

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Out there too.

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So, your platform, but what?

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How much data does somebody have to enter versus it being automated?

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Like what?

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What do you already have?

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Yeah, yeah.

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I mean our sort of some of our secret sauce at measurable has been around automation because people don't want to answer death and if they do.

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They tend to make.

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Mistakes so we can fully automate your utility data and your utility bills from your local utility company.

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We can fully automate whether or not a building has got a particular certification, like a lead or an Energy Star.

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We can fully automate even things as complex as physical climate risk, flood, wildfire, hurricane risk.

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Which is increasingly important for your insurance policies, so.

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All of that just requires you to enter a building address and then we can return.

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A set of statistics, including your regulatory exposure, which we're talking about.

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Do you give a law that compels this building to disclose its energy consumption?

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And then the utilities just got to put a username and password in and we can sync up with that utility too.

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So, we're getting really good at this type of stuff to bring that that.

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In fast and efficiently.

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So, when we, when you're talking about ESG, we talked briefly.

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Here now regarding environment.

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Of what aspects of the social do you track or what?

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Talk about that layer a little bit.

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So social if you go back to for, you know, Legionnaires disease, right, this was a real controversy and it's, you know, issues of asbestos and stuff.

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And what happened was it became clear that the real estate owner and developer had some responsibility to make sure that these.

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Buildings were safe and healthy.

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Now, what's going on today is that's really being stretched to a whole new level.

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So, you have commercial landlords who are installing technologies to count pathogens because they're responsible for care about COVID, right?

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What about landlords who are tracking heat and temperature and light biophilia all behind this idea that?

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Because we spend so much of our time 90% indoors that naturally, if we can improve that healthy experience for that occupant, more occupants should come and pay higher rents or spend more time shopping.

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So, the S is.

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The problem with us is that it's difficult and expensive right now to measure those.

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You typically have to put sensors in the building or do other spot checks with experts, so it hasn't gotten the degree of adoption that environmental concerns have.

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That will also evolve on the governance side.

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What's going on is in some ways it's actually the most developed for publicly traded companies.

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They have always had to disclose what their policies and procedures say, and now they're being asked about DPI and executive compensation and climate risk and net zero.

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It's not so much for private, and especially not so much for small private.

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So G is either advanced on the institutional side or immature for sure.

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On the small, single-family side, S is in the wings. It's waiting. It's merging. Still. It's avant-garde, if you will. Environmental concerns.

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Are worth the day.

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The battle is being fought today.

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Yeah, that that social aspect though, especially over the past few years, we've kind of seen a pretty significant surgeon.

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So, I would guess, and you know I had somebody that I talked to recently that that had a company that put in air filtration systems you know and and and.

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What you were talking?

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About there and I don't think they that they had a booming business over the past two years because that's in that.

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That was such a huge focus, right?

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But you're right, you know, the governance aspect, I can, I can really see that being the case, you know, being the most mature and usually we kind of see that on bigger corporations.

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Government entities and then unfortunately for most of us, it starts to trickle down into the smaller investors or the smaller properties.

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Yep, I think what starts this.

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You know, money and policy are very top down.

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And as they change their criteria, their expectations, you know it knocks into the major properties and then it cascades down to smaller properties of different categories.

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So, I think we can see that the writing is on.

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The wall here.

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Is one way to think about it.

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So, I think a lot of people are going to, when you first come into mind, you know, you're talking about ESG commercial prop.

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Parties that this could possibly be relatively expensive to implement, manage and like.

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What're your thoughts regarding that?

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Well, is it?

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Is it expensive to implement and manage?

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It or is.

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It more expensive to not be able to track tenants or attract financing.

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You know, it's, I think it's, uh, it's as existential as that.

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It is just a question of time.

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So, I think that that's always been a knock-on sustainability is that you know that this is more expensive what we found out.

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Was that there are bread and butter tactics like light bulb retrofits, basics of building operations.

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And maintenance, you know commissioning of BMS systems that are very fundamental that are cost effective immediate payback you know 90-day payback, 12-month payback so when we think about sustainable a little bit more narrowly about building operations and things that we can do there you, you might find that no in fact.

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It pays for it.

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It's not expensive whatsoever, at least over a period of.

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Time maybe only.

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If you think about it as an.

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Upfront capital cost.

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Well, it sounds like it just takes a.

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Lot of education just to get everybody on board just so they understand, actually understand the whole system.

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Look, I mean, let's remember that this is a business of real estate is providing shade and shelter to office workers or residents, right?

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And it has always been a big job.

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The property managers I used to work next to, we're still worried about leaky roofs, you know, and still worry about whether or not the plumbing it spotted a leak and all the rest.

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So, you're, I'm, I'm with you that it absolutely is an expansion of the mandate of a landlord, professional, owner of property that they've got to now add sustainability.

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Concerns my olive branch on that is you'll find that these are not just profitable or position your asset for better tenant experience and attraction and retention tenants.

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That's being well documented, but you'll find that the, just like in understanding the economics of real estate, more educated you are, more effective you are.

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And this is just one more aspect of.

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Being in the real estate business.

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So, with commercial properties you typically have.

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Individual businesses that you're dealing with, do you find that a lot of these property owners then also have to get existing their existing customers on board too?

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Let to enable some of this.

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Yeah, it can be the.

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Case 'cause, there's this thing, we have the fancy term of the split incentive, which is basically saying look, you know, take a take a multifamily building, you might as a landlord control the common areas and the fountain in the garden apartment community in terms of water, but you don't control whether that light bulbs.

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Turn on or off in the morning and at night.

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The resident does that, and the resident pays those utility bills.

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And so there.

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Was a big.

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Debate about well, what extent should the land?

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Or be compelled to do anything about this and frankly can't do anything about this.

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What we've learned is that because there's that emerging appetite for more sustainable property and experiences by residents, there's those millennials again, and whatever comes past them, the equation got flipped that we wanted to be engaged by our.

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And or to help us with recycling programs in.

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The community or.

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Energy conservation measures so the landlord could become your friend.

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Usually, it's more of an antagonistic relationship, and that's because the landlord had the capital to control and invest in all these other things that you the.

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Resident did not.

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So, we run it together.

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Basically, the President wanted to see more sustainable outcomes.

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The landlord wanted to save money and keep happy tenants.

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And it turns out sustainable is a great way for those two parties to meet.

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Yeah, I can understand that.

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So, could you give us an example like do you have a, an example of a property that came on board, implemented some of the recommendations that you're talking about and like the property maybe the property value from before versus after?

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Well, I mean, I yeah.

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Got 12 billion square feet as examples I suppose, right?

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Remember that measureabl were the most widely adopted ESG technology for real estate.

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On the planet.

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We serve hundreds of companies with, you know, many, many 10s of thousands of assets in 90 countries.

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And there's a reason for that.

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It's the reason.

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Is because they know that there's profitability and sustainability and when you look at say just the multifamily segment, a good example this would be AvalonBay's when the premium.

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There, multifamily owners out there, great pioneer in that segment around sustainability and tenant and resident engagement.

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And I think that when you look at the stock price of those types of publicly traded companies relative to you know the less advanced peers, you can see the difference right there and there's some nice studies just looking at the.

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Some P500 performance.

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And cross-referencing quote UN quote sustainable stocks which you can get from say an S&P global and they outperform.

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So, you know, when you look at it at the portfolio level you see these individual benefits really start to show up in aggregate.

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Yeah, I guess we didn't even talk about that.

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I mean, you're talking about publicly traded companies.

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But you you're talking about a lot of investors and and private capital that are investing in these types of properties.

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I'm sure there's a lot of private capital out there that's also attracted to these types of projects.

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Yeah, the private equity segment, think of like TPG or Goldman Sachs.

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Blackstone, right, the has really found religion on this issue.

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So, you know, blacks of course is backing the most famous as back.

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That's the most famous single family residential platforms out there.

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So, I think that private equity, which is a really interesting version of the broader capital stack in real estate, that's just a really good example of that.

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The math is behind this issue.

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And it doesn't need, it doesn't need shareholders, right?

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It doesn't need a pub.

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Accrete to do this, it means that the money at the individual asset level, on the deal level is still there.

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Well, maybe my day job is going to sneak in here a little bit and the fact that now I'm going to ask you questions regarding the data and how you're using this.

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It sounds like the more people and the more companies and the more properties that you come have come on board your platform gets stronger and stronger because of all that data and information.

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That's being shared with you, would that be fair to say?

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So, to say, I think we're seeing that in a lot of real estate technology, by the way.

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There is a real the real gold rush in the real estate technology business is control over data, because in the real estate business, the historically we've all worked on an information asymmetry.

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You know, if I was CBR E World largest real estate services company, I might know more about properties and what they're buying.

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Or selling for and losing for than you.

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And that would mean I was the better advisor and you'd.

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Hire me as.

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Your broker.

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Technology is coming in and it's becoming a platform used by all parties.

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And in that environment, the more data you have, the more valuable or you are to the next.

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Consumer of your product because you give them more insights, but the consequence of this is it's forcing brokers, lenders and everyone who used to be able to win on information asymmetry to really win on value and value creation because everyone is starting to have access to the same information.

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So, I think that's just a bigger, it's not so much.

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The thing is an overall trend in the property business towards more transparency and I think that's overall, better.

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So, when I, I would guess that a lot of the governance information then is very localized, you know, we're kind of seeing.

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California, for example, is going to have different governance than Florida or Texas.

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So how? How?

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That's some obvious.

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Well, how granular is your platform then?

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Did does it go down to that and do you keep track of the different governance requirements in the different regions?

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It's so tune extent.

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I'd say Jack like something we can look at is you know say California has got a board diversity requirement and I don't recall whether that's for publics and privates or just public and the diversity requirements, gender diversity and sets a state law and you know it's on the books.

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And it doesn't matter whether your real estate company, otherwise it would affect you.

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So, what measureabl’s looking at, mostly when it comes to governance, is the documentation that proves or lays out at least what you do on environmental social matters.

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So, we in our system are storing the policies and the procedures and the evidence that the that the enterprise is doing these things.

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That's compelled to do by law or more.

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So, do you help individuals, you know, just bring some of those concepts to the forefront so they're aware of it in their in their market?

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I mean we our job is.

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To lay out the tools for doing.

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All this work in the same.

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It's scalable fashion because of what you're pointing object.

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There's so many differences by region, by city, you know, let alone by state and national regime because we are serving customers around the world.

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That I think when you look at the technology, what you'll see is an optimal state, and your task is to see if you can fill in this S bucket, the G bucket, the bucket in order to be benchmarked as best of breed.

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So, if that's your goal, right?

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But what it does do is it illuminates the gaps very quickly, so you if you have no policies.

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If you have no utility data, if you have no awareness of certification status or regulatory status, and if you can't track your capital investment or know any of your ROI's, that will be quickly revealed because you will have a blank picture looking at you.

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Our most sophisticated customers by comparison.

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And have a deep data asset that they can answer every single question that I just posed and give you the evidence with the click.

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Of a button.

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Yeah, yeah. So, you know this in a nutshell. It really seems like, well, first of all, what Matt has pointed out here for the past 25 minutes is, is that this is this is coming your way one way or another.

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And then we better get on board or at least have it on our radar so that we know it's coming, but there's quite a few benefits not only financially but well, let's be honest, especially financially as you're attracting existing tenants or new tenant.

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Increased rents, increased property value. I mean there's a lot of benefits associated with this for people in order to get on board the concept here and measurable is going to be a great tool for you. So, I would definitely send everybody to measurable.com again to take a look at some information.

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And frankly, I have to admit, Matt, I was cheating a little bit because there's a PDF, free PDF that people can.

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Download that kind of does a that has a great FAQ and a lot of information there for them to kind of get it.

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It's just a good primer, so head over to measurable.com. Remember it doesn't have the. I'll make sure to have that link in the show notes. But Matt, this was a great primer today. I really appreciate your time and and letting me put you on the spot.

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On a couple things before I let you go, is there a question you wished I would have asked you here today, or a concept we should have covered?

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I'll tell you what the I think the basic thank you Jack.

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There's a lot of fun to talk with you.

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I think this is.

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An issue that is at least needs to be on people plate to address and irrespective your size.

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I think the main thing is do you know all your material risks and potential rewards, and if I told you that to answer that question you now needed to know your environmental social impacts, then I hope you can answer yes.

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And if you can't, I hope you start to think about how you could.

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And that this conversation today was illuminating that way.

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So that's it.

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Thanks for the.

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Time, Jack.

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Well, I appreciate it.

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You're welcome back anytime.

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I hope you'll take me up on that and we'll talk to you again very soon.

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Right.

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Thank you, Sir.

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