M&G Real Estate Makes Progress on Ambitious Target for Health, Wellbeing and Inclusivity

28/03/2019

As part of its Responsible Property Investment (RPI) strategy, M&G Real Estate aims to reach 10 million people through its health, wellbeing and inclusivity programmes by 2025. Alongside wellbeing initiatives across its international portfolio, teams at UK shopping centres are taking a lead on inclusivity, successfully piloting schemes that are making it easier for people with different needs to get out and enjoy activities that many of us take for granted – supporting a more inclusive society and providing welcoming environments.

Autism- and dementia-friendly training

New Changing Places facilities

Mental Health Awareness Week events

Improving people’s lives and contributing to investment performance.

Situation

M&G Real Estate has proactively addressed Responsible Property Investment (RPI) issues for more than a decade. In 2018, M&G Real Estate launched its new RPI strategy, which includes an objective to reach 10 million people through health, wellbeing and inclusivity programmes by 2025.

Drivers include increasing recognition of the significant impact that the physical environment can have on health and wellbeing. Most people spend around 90% of their lives indoors (World Green Building Council) and a significant part of that time at work. Every year, millions of working days are lost to sickness, impacting the wellbeing of employees and the productivity of businesses. Retail destinations are places that almost everyone has some interaction with. Retailers are already convinced about the importance of health and wellbeing, both as affecting their customers’ shopping experience and as a growth industry for products and services.

As a real estate investor, M&G Real Estate can enhance health, wellbeing and the occupier experience by:

  • Engaging with occupiers to understand what they like about its buildings and the service provided, and to understand where it can improve.
  • Providing places that are accessible to all.
  • Creating opportunities for better health and wellbeing for those that work, live and spend time in its buildings.
  • Supporting high productivity for occupiers by providing the best quality buildings.

Ultimately, M&G Real Estate believes that if people enjoy their experience in its buildings, investment performance will follow, through lower vacancy rates and higher rents.

Actions

M&G Real Estate developed a Health, Wellbeing and Inclusivity Framework for its property management teams, presenting opportunities for them to enhance the experience of those who live, work in and visit its buildings. Property managers draw on the Framework in preparing Sustainability Asset Plans for each property. Inclusivity activities initially focused on UK shopping centres, which millions of customers visit each year.

The Framework identified 10 priority actions, with a number of these undertaken in 2018:

Training and awareness

  • Ascertain training needs for on-site staff, particularly those who are public-facing.
  • Identify local groups to meet with, learn from and partner with.
  • Engage with occupiers – what are their interests and concerns?
  • Larger office properties – review Fitwel assessment criteria and consider opportunities to enhance performance. Fitwel is an international certification system that optimises buildings to support health.
  • Larger retail properties – consider AccessAble’s review service and check if the local authority offers support. AccessAble gives potential visitors detailed information to work out if a place will be accessible for them.

Information and services

  • Host at least one health and wellbeing event annually at each property.
  • Install ‘Not Every Disability is Visible’ signage on all disabled toilet doors in public areas.
  • Introduce hearing loop(s) at properties where there is identified need.

Physical environment

  • Install automatic defibrillator(s) at properties with on-site staff and deliver training for their use.

Demonstrating impact

  • Record information and data on health and wellbeing activities and share with colleagues.
  • The Framework also provides information on awareness days and organisations that provide support, such as resources, training, and benchmark assessments.

Financials

  • Health, wellbeing and inclusivity activities are generally delivered through operational or marketing budgets.
  • Physical improvements are typically funded through asset development budgets and grants from local authorities where available.

Benefits

For M&G Real Estate, promoting health, wellbeing and inclusivity helps:

  • Provide welcoming environments that are accessible to all.
  • Support occupier health and wellbeing goals, raising productivity and potentially reducing working days lost to sickness.
  • Deliver M&G Real Estate’s RPI strategy and objectives.
  • Ultimately, enhance investment performance through lower vacancy rates and higher rents.

Challenges & Achievements

TRAINING AND AWARENESS

How to raise awareness of people’s different needs and equip staff with the skills to support them?

National awareness dates provide great opportunities to engage with centre teams, customers and occupiers on different issues. All M&G Real Estate managed shopping centres supported Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2018, working closely with local community groups and partners. Activities included de-stress cafés, yoga classes and mindfulness workshops. M&G Real Estate and shopping centres also supported Purple Tuesday, the UK’s accessible shopping day, in November 2018. This provided a platform for exploring opportunities to support inclusive shopping throughout the year. The Galleries shopping centre in Tyne and Wear supported a review by an AccessAble surveyor, funded by Sunderland City Council, raising awareness of facilities and services available for visitors. To equip staff with the skills to help customers with different needs, staff across all centres received dementia-friendly training programmes, including those run by the Alzheimer’s Society and at least two centres received autism-friendly training from the National Autistic Society. Informed by these initiatives, M&G Real Estate is encouraging identification of further awareness raising opportunities to support visitors and their carers.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

How to create places that serve the needs of everyone who wants to use them?

To date, M&G Real Estate has refurbished and upgraded toilet facilities to meet the Changing Places requirements at three UK shopping centres – two in conjunction with joint owners Intu – with a further facility being installed in a centre in 2019 and feasibility studies ongoing at an additional four centres. Changing Places facilities provide more space and equipment than standard accessible toilets, such as height-adjustable adult changing benches and ceiling track hoists. These empower more people to get out and enjoy activities that many of us take for granted. Centre teams are also updating toilet signage to highlight that not every disability is visible, helping people without obvious disabilities feel more comfortable to use accessible facilities without fear of criticism or embarrassment.

Other initiatives introduced to enhance the physical environment include:

  • Providing ‘safe place’ areas to help vulnerable people who are lost, scared or at risk to quickly access support. Two centres have designated ‘safe place’ areas.
  • Installing additional secure and covered bike racks, showers and lockers to promote cycling.
  • Introducing biophilic design, such as greenery and living walls, and artwork, including pieces by local artists, to enhance ambience and visual appeal.
  • Exploring opportunities for quiet spaces, with subdued light levels, comfortable seating and lower noise levels.
  • Considering the WELL Building Standard, which provides detailed information on opportunities through design. M&G Real Estate designed its first development, The Grid in Glasgow, using the WELL Building Standard™. The first asset in Scotland to be registered with the scheme, it is targeting WELL Gold.

FUTURE

How to achieve the ambitious target of reaching 10 million people?

Guided by the Framework, visitor feedback and input from local charities and partners, M&G Real Estate’s property managers are assessing health, wellbeing and inclusivity improvement opportunities at each property. Mental Health Awareness Week and Purple Tuesday events have helped UK shopping centre teams develop knowledge, experience and relationships in this area. M&G Real Estate aims to build on the activities piloted in 2018, bringing them together into a more structured programme across its global portfolio. As part of this drive, it will be expanding its inclusivity programme to large offices and retail parks, as well as sharing best practice. M&G Real Estate is also exploring the use of sensors in buildings to gain additional insights on occupier comfort. Whilst reaching 10 million people is the headline target, what stands out to the team is the impact that the programme is already having on individuals, with positive feedback from customers, staff and partners about the difference initiatives are making to people’s daily lives.

The Grid at 33 Cadogan Street, Glasgow, an office development targeting Gold WELL certification.

I am so pleased mental health is being more openly talked about. The more advertising that happens around it can only be a good thing. For the Galleries to arrange fundraising and mindfulness sessions shows they are in touch with the community and are keen to help any way they can.

 

 

Retail occupier, Galleries Shopping Centre