The 2020 Sustainability Report: An Interview with Roya Khaleeli - Director, Sustainability & Innovation

LIVE greener | 6 MIN READ | 2021-09-16

This week, Minto released its 2020 Sustainability Report, and so we caught up with Roya Khaleeli, Director, Sustainability & Innovation - Minto Communities for the low-down on the report.

Roya Khaleeli, Director, Sustainability & Innovation

Read on as Roya shares what’s new and noteworthy for this year, what she’s personally most excited about, and how the report reflects Minto’s commitment to building better places for people and for the planet.

Q: Thank you so much for chatting with us today about the latest Sustainability Report! Can you explain what your role was in the development of the report?

This was actually my 4th year working on the sustainability report at Minto.

Since 2017, I’ve had the pleasure of managing the delivery of the report - but of course, it is a huge group effort. There is a core team of three of us that pull most of it together, with input from a number of others within the business. 

When we develop the report, we’re pulling in information from a range of other departments, and as a result, it really reflects what everyone across the company is working on. It’s pretty incredible.

Q: How long has Minto been publishing these reports? And how have they evolved over the years?

The report started out as an “Environmental Report” in 2009. In 2013, we expanded it into a “Sustainability Report” because of the addition of health and safety data. Then, in 2018, we began to structure it around themes under environment, social, and governance (ESG).

Q: That’s a really great segue into my next question! So, what’s new/noteworthy in this year’s report? Can you elaborate on the addition of the ESG framework?

We’ve added a timeline which shows our journey with ESG. What I like about this is it shows that Minto has been thoughtful in how we build and manage our communities from the very early days, but that you can see it really ramped up starting in the 2000s and onwards. So, it gives people that insight that while ESG has been spoken about more in the last ten years, we’ve been doing it for over 20.

We’re very excited to be sharing our new ESG framework, which is based on three pillars: 

  • Environmental Impact
  • Social Impact
  • Business Resilience

We’ve been working on the development of this since 2019 and are excited to share our progress.

As part of the development of the ESG strategy, we’re also sharing our Materiality Matrix. This is a very industry specific approach to prioritizing the greatest impacts we have as a business in the area of ESG. 

We identified a total of 22 key issues ranging from environmental stewardship and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to health and safety and resident engagement, to risk management and ethics. We then surveyed our stakeholders and got insight from industry studies and subject experts on which are most relevant to our business. The result is the Materiality Matrix. Climate resilience and GHG emissions are seen as the most important topics.

This year, we’ve also shared more on the members of our Board of Directors and we have a new set of case studies providing more depth to what we achieved in the year.

Q: How did the pandemic change or shift Minto’s priorities on sustainability?

For so many years, the weight and focus was given to the environmental piece in the report. But this year because of COVID, it’s been primarily about protecting the health and well-being of people - our homebuyers, residents, employees, and partners.

We share more details in the report about our response to the crisis, including: 

  • Supporting employees who couldn’t work from home
  • Providing mental health resources for employees and their families
  • Pausing rent increases and offering a rent deferral program for those struggling to pay rent
  • Supporting our homebuyers with online and virtual platforms

Q: Why should a homeowner or renter care about this report or the things we discuss in it?

More and more, people in general, want to know that either the business they’re spending their money with or the employer they’re working for day in and day out, is responsible.

Our Sustainability Report gives our homeowners and renters insight into how we operate, and all that we do to try and create better places for them. Because that’s what we’re all about -  building better places for people, one home and one relationship at a time. 

Q: Why should an employee care about this report or the things we discuss in it?

It's natural for employees to be fully focused on the work that their team or department is responsible for, and to lose perspective a bit on how their work links to another group or how their work rolls up into the big picture. 

I would hope that this report provides some insight into all the good that Minto is doing as a business, so that people can see how that thing that they’re focusing on rolls into, say, delivering rental buildings that use less water or new communities that have a lower carbon emission overall.

I’ll grill people when the report launches… *laughs*... I’ll be in meetings and I’ll say, “so, I’m sure you guys have all read the sustainability report… What did you think?” And sometimes people will respond and say, “well, I didn’t know that we did XYZ.” And I love that. Because I know that they feel good knowing now that Minto does whatever it is that they discovered that they didn’t know about before.

Q: In 2020, Minto began the process of developing an ESG strategy, making progress as an ethically responsible forward-thinking business. What exactly does this mean and why is it important? 

So, when I said that we’ve been doing ESG for the last 20 years in some form… we haven’t been calling it ESG. We’ve been calling it sustainability. And so, I will say that it’s really been the investment industry that has brought the term ESG to the forefront over the last 5-7 years. It’s a way that the investment industry is looking at mitigating risk.

There are a number of studies that show that companies that focus on ESG related issues perform better financially than those that do not. 

And how can you not? 

When you’re going through that process of identifying your impact, and going out to your stakeholders and saying, “what should we focus on?” You naturally have to do something about it. You have to have your ducks in order… And when you’re reporting on these issues, what gets measured gets managed.

Also, beyond the financial, it is a way for us to show in a more concrete way how we are working to create better places. Better for people and better for the planet.

Q: What are you personally most excited about in the next chapter of the ESG story?

At a high level, I’m most excited about having a strategy that the entire business can get behind and having that strategy integrated into our overall business plan.

And I can’t wait to start delivering on the objectives that we’re laying out. It’s one thing to have a strategy, but the work is definitely not done! There’s still lots to do.

Main image courtesy of JVW Photos [jvwphotos.ca]

To download the full 2020 Sustainability Report, click here.