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What was discussed at the ULI Annual Conference 2022 in Athens?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022


On Tuesday, September 27th, 2022, the Urban Land Institute celebrated the ULI Greece & Cyprus Annual Conference in Athens at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Maribel Esparcia Pérez, European Sustainable Hospitality Club Managing Partner, participated in the Sustainability and ESG discussion about priorities in real estate in an uncertain world, to share the current state of hospitality sustainability and ESG practices.

In the event context, before the panel discussion, Sophia Chick, Vice President, Research & Advisory Services, presented the social role of real estate in an uncertain world.

Social impact real estate investing represents an opportunity for the industry to improve present circumstances and prospects of underserved communities. In the session, she presented the latest ULI report "Social impact: investing with a purpose to protect and enhance returns".

Following her presentation, during the Sustainability and ESG panel, speakers explained the E, the S, and the G criteria and the intersectionality between issues, and how the sector has the potential to solve them.

During the event, the double materiality challenge presented the greatest challenge. Maribel shared the World Business Council comments on current regulations and the challenges businesses face in the adaptation period. From ESRS alignment with internationally recognized standards of the ISSB, clarity around the double materiality content, and time to get businesses to implement processes and internal systems to gather the disclosure requirements data.

ESGs and corporate sustainability should change from compliance to a long-term value-creation tool.

There is momentum in responsible investing. An example is the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) entity. They had 63 investors in 2006 representing $6.5 trillion, and now there are over 4,000 signatories in 2021 representing $121 trillion. During the event, the importance of impact investing in real estate came up repeatedly, emphasizing using capital to solve systemic problems.

As Alex Edmans stated recently in the research paper, "The end of ESG", there is no such thing as ESG investing, only ESG analysis". ESGs are not a brand-new concept, and the criteria have been in scientific research papers since 2007. It is about creating long-term value.

Part of the ESG panel discussion was Kiara Konti, Partner, Climate Change & Sustainability Leader (CESA), EY, Maribel Esparcia Pérez, Founding Partner, European Sustainable Hospitality Club, Stathis Potamitis, Managing Partner, PotamitisVekris-Law Partnership, and moderating Ioannis Orfanos, Member of the Executive Committee, ULI Greece & Cyprus and Partner, Arbitrage Real Estate.

Some of the business areas discussed in the panel were:

  • The importance of sustainability disclosures, regulations, and ESG criteria in real estate investing

  • The ESG reporting and assurance

  • Measurement of non-financial KPIs and socioeconomic benefits

  • The concept of double materiality and the CSRD Regulation requirements

  • Choose a data management provider and technology that enables better measurement and reporting, with data that is clear, consistent, and reliable.

  • Climate risks and mitigation actions in real estate investments

  • How can we measure the impact of ESG investments? What about the non-quantifiable benefits?

  • Clarification on ESG Reporting is needed.


As investors have called for more transparent and harmonized sustainability data in recent years, panelists shared ESG-related data requirements and the challenges to currently measuring the effectiveness and financial significance of specific ESG measures. A nuance that will help to clarify this direction is the CSRD regulation and the Double materiality.

As regulators in major markets are introducing a rising number of mandatory reporting requirements, combined with existing legislation, these rules have intensified ESG-related litigation risk for reporting entities, but the lack of standardization and reporting frameworks and institutions, as well as the lack of industry-specific clarifications, makes, is ESG reporting difficult. Thus, the focus has to be on sustainability holistically to improve company performance and impact.

It was also discussed how advanced are real estate investors and developers in addressing these risks in their investments and also in their current portfolios. The panelists discussed practical exa<mples and case studies to showcase how sustainability and ESG policies have effectively helped real estate investment to better address these risks and future-proof their assets.

The challenges around data and the different outcomes from different software providers in climate physical risks make it hard to make informed-decision making for asset managers. The question remains open on how machine learning tech and deep tech can support and enhance decision-making and reporting.


Ioannis Orfanos, Partner, Arbitrage Real Estate - Moderator Ioannis is an experienced investment management and advisory professional in real estate and sustainable investing. In Arbitrage, Ioannis is sourcing, underwriting, and managing asset management and (re)development investment projects in commercial and hospitality real estate with a suitable profile for high-yield and value add funds. In the past, Ioannis worked for Europa Capital in London, where he oversaw its real estate development investments in Europe. Prior, Ioannis worked for Deloitte in London, where he was involved in a variety of advisory assignments focusing on real estate occupation, management, and capital programs. Ioannis has also conducted consulting work for Citigroup in Rome. Ioannis studied civil engineering background from NTU of Athens and holds an MBA from ESCP Europe and an MSc in Construction Economics & Management from UCL.

Kiara Konti, Partner, Climate Change & Sustainability Leader (CESA), EY Kiara is a Partner at EY Greece, leading EY’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services (CCaSS) practice in Greece and the CESA (Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe & Central Asia) region. She has subject-matter knowledge and 18 years of experience in sustainability consulting and assurance services, across a series of ESG aspects, including decarbonization, the circular economy, and sustainable finance. She is a BoD Member of the UNGC Network in Greece and a member of the Sustainability Committee and the Circular Economy Committee of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. She is providing consulting services among other areas on sustainability, decarbonization, sustainable finance strategy and target setting, sustainability governance and management systems, ESG risk and opportunities identification as well as ESG reporting.

Maribel Esparcia Pérez, Managing Partner at the European Sustainable Hospitality Group Maribel is a University Professor and Managing Partner at the European Sustainable Hospitality Group. Passionate Hotelier ran room operations at international hotel chains and independent 4- and 5- star boutique properties for almost a decade. Maribel is a certified Change Agent by the ISSP, a keynote speaker at key industry conferences, and part of the CSW63 Sustainable Development Goals Commission at United Nations HQ. She is also a World Panel Expert for Sustainable Hospitality at HospitalityNet member and biodiversity and human rights researcher at the Hoteliers Guild Sustainability Academy.

Stathis Potamitis, Managing Partner, PotamitisVekris-Law Partnership Stathis has a broadly based transactional practice focused on restructuring and M&A. He has contributed to the reform of legislation related to insolvency, restructuring, and capital markets. He has also been active in corporate governance as a member of the Corporate Governance Council since its inception. Stathis is an INSOL International Fellow, a fellow of the American College of Bankruptcy, and a member of the International Insolvency Institute. He participated in the expert group that advised the European Commission on the Restructuring Directive and continues to provide advice on further insolvency law reform, and he headed the group of experts that drafted the recently enacted Law for the Settlement of Debt and Second Chance (law 4738/2020).

In conclusion, the main topics that will continue to attract attention from different hospitality and real estate stakeholders are:

- Greater transparency - CSRD regulation and others will help to obtain reliable, relevant, and comparable data. - Standardization of reporting frameworks - Scaling climate and non-climate-related technologies and deep tech - Asset decarbonization - Greater comparability across jurisdictions - Further lawsuits against greenwashing - Decoupling the term ESG from emissions and sustainability, and understanding the holistic impact and systemic change needed.

Read more about the ULI conference here.

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