As part of a build-up of its global ESG team, private equity major Blackstone has appointed Nina James to lead its environmental, social and governance efforts in Asian real estate.
The hiring of the former Investa exec to fill one of five newly created managing director positions across the US, Europe and Asia comes as New York-based Blackstone adds resources and capabilities within its business units and builds out its corporate ESG structure.
The team will continue to advance Blackstone’s decade-long focus on ESG, the group said in a release, with initiatives including carbon emissions reductions and greater diversity in the boardroom.
“We view ESG as central to our mission of delivering strong returns for clients,” said Blackstone president and COO Jon Gray. “Blackstone is using its scale and expertise to help strengthen our companies, assets and the communities in which they operate.”
James was previously the general manager of responsible investment and corporate sustainability for Sydney-based Investa Property Group. She began her career as a landscape architect and became interested in sustainability issues in land development and commercial real estate, as well as sustainable finance.
In addition to her previous experience with Investa, James spent four years on the Australian Executive Committee of real estate non-profit Urban Land Institute. Earlier in her career, she logged a stint as senior landscape architect at the University of Western Sydney, where she was responsible for design, documentation and construction services for landscape works across 10 campuses.
James holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a master’s in environmental management, both from the University of New South Wales. She also completed a certificate in sustainable finance from Columbia University.
In her new role, James will partner with Eric Duchon, global head of real estate ESG, in building out Blackstone’s Asia-based capabilities in the asset management team.
In addition to the Asia hire, Blackstone announced the appointment of Elizabeth Lewis as managing director of ESG for corporate, handling the implementation of ESG policies across the group’s businesses; James Mandel as managing director of sustainability for portfolio operations; Caroline Hill as head of real estate ESG for Europe; and Rita Mangalick as global head of ESG for Blackstone Alternative Asset Management and Blackstone Credit.
“We are thrilled to have Elizabeth, James, Nina, Caroline and Rita joining our global ESG team,” Gray said. “They each bring a wide spectrum of domain expertise as we continue to drive value for our investors and create impact across our portfolio.”
The new team members will help further the ESG goals announced last year by Blackstone. These include a reduction in carbon emissions by 15 percent across all new investments globally where the group controls energy usage within the first three years of ownership, as well as two diversity initiatives starting in the US and Europe — a target of at least one-third diverse representation on portfolio company boards for new control investments, plus a programme to support creating diverse hiring and career mobility.
Among the previous ESG milestones highlighted by Blackstone are a 50 percent reduction in lighting energy used at the group’s New York headquarters; the installation of nearly 10,000 rooftop solar panels at Stuyvesant Town, a Blackstone-owned apartment complex in Manhattan; and the appointment of a woman or minority as one of the top two leaders at 50 percent of the group’s primary businesses.
“From its founding, Blackstone has dedicated itself to being a responsible corporate citizen,” the group’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, Steve Schwarzman, said in 2019. “Our commitment to corporate responsibility is embedded into every investment decision we make, and I take personal pride knowing that the founding principles and values the firm was built on 35 years ago still govern us today.”