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.
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:
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.
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
Information and services
For M&G Real Estate, promoting health, wellbeing and inclusivity helps:
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.
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:
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.
Retail occupier, Galleries Shopping Centre
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.”