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Accacia-Annu-Talreja

Accacia tackles real estate’s 40% share of global GHG emissions

Published on March 19, 2024

Accacia-Annu-Talreja

The real estate sector is responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions, the majority of which come from building operations and construction. The industry at large is under mounting pressure to meet increasingly stringent global climate goals. These include significant emission reductions to limit global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels, necessitating drastic sector-wide changes.

The push for net-zero emissions by 2050 has led to policies impacting real estate, such as higher carbon prices and tougher building standards, ultimately driving up costs and pushing investors toward more sustainable assets. But the shift is not just about compliance; it’s a fundamental change in market preferences toward greener, energy-efficient properties. Investors now face the challenge of balancing financial returns with the need for sustainability. 

With offices in Singapore and India, Accacia is an AI-powered B2B SaaS platform that enables large property owners to monitor their carbon footprints in real time. With clients and industry partners such as AECOM, Allianz, Xander, UOB, and several others, Accacia has already been implemented across more than 20 million square feet of real estate in Asia. The company is currently expanding in key markets around the world, including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North America.

Accacia’s co-founder and CEO Annu Talreja recently sat down with Helen Wong, Managing Partner at AC Ventures, on the Indonesia Digital Deconstructed podcast for a discussion on how to decarbonize the global real estate industry.  

Accacia: a vertical-focused solution

When asked about why there is a global need for tools like Accacia, Annu explained that real estate is inherently a complex business, with many moving parts. As such, it already requires many specialized ERP tools and SaaS solutions. By integrating with existing systems already used by the world’s largest property owners, Accacia helps them do a variety of important things. 

These include measuring Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions from asset operations, assessing and improving building designs for embodied carbon, calculating financed emissions for their investment portfolios, setting net-zero targets, tracking their decarbonization journeys, and more.  

Annu shared that the global estimated carbon accounting software market currently stands at US$15 billion and is expected to grow to US$50 billion in a few years. Meanwhile, the green building market is valued at approximately US$25 trillion in developing regions. In developed nations, the market for retrofits (upgrading existing buildings for enhanced energy efficiency and decarbonization) is somewhere between US$18 trillion and US$20 trillion. 

“So at its core, our product is a carbon emissions tracking platform. But it goes beyond mere tracking to facilitate actual decarbonization. By doing so, it also opens the door to a vast market of retrofit solutions, advanced technologies, and innovative materials within the real estate industry,” explained Annu. 

Early clients and key wins

The company’s founding team includes Jagmohan Gaarg, Accacia’s sales lead who worked with Annu previously at Oxfordcaps, a tech-enabled student housing business that she built and scaled to US$20 million in annual recurring revenue. Accacia’s co-founder and CTO Piyush Chitkara was a technical consultant for Oxfordcaps and now comes to the table with senior experience from major tech outfits like Cisco, Rakuten Mobile, and others.

Accacia launched in 2022 and spent the better part of a year experimenting in pursuit of product-market fit. After research and product development, the startup raised its first round of capital in December of that year. The following January, the team began onboarding its first paid clients to the platform. 

Highlighting some large early customers, Annu said, “Within the first year, we managed to sign some big enterprise clients, including Hines, which has about US$100 billion in AUM. It is one of the top five real estate asset managers globally. We also signed JSW Group which has more than US$20 billion in AUM and is one of the largest conglomerates based out of India. As a multinational, they are into all core sectors, including cement, steel, infrastructure, and more.”

Beyond sales, the company has also achieved notable milestones that underscore its growing influence and success. Among these, securing the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) accreditation stands out as a prominent badge.

Annu explained, “GRESB is the largest ESG reporting platform for all large real estate companies. Globally, they report via GRESB and rely on its ratings for their ESG rankings. We became the first product company from Asia to get that.” 

The evolving green real estate market

When asked about Accacia’s go-to-market strategy, Annu said that in Southeast Asia, one key play has been not only looking at local building assets but also targeting local asset managers, many of whom have real estate assets globally.  

She said, “So specifically when it comes to locations in Asia like Singapore, Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, we have some really large asset managers like Temasek GIC, CapitaLand, Keppel, Adia, and others. There are some really large global asset managers here and that’s why Singapore is a very important market for us.” 

Annu pointed out the changes in worldwide regulatory practices, specifically mentioning how the Singaporean government recently broadened its regulations. These updated rules now mandate that industries previously viewed as non-essential, such as the real estate sector, must now report their direct and indirect emissions.

“Also, we are seeing a lot of development, especially in more developed geographies in Asia, like Singapore, Japan, and Korea seeing 10% to 25% rental premiums being drawn in green buildings as opposed to non-green buildings. So in all, both the quickly evolving regulatory landscape as well as the demand from the real estate client perspective has been very encouraging for us.”

A decarbonization engine

When asked about what Accacia’s key objectives are for the next few years, Annu explained that the majority of the company’s technical focus will be put toward developing a “decarbonization planning engine” for clients. 

“We have taken an interesting bottom-up approach in building the decarbonization engine, which comes from my experience being an asset manager at Marriott,” said Annu. “So let’s say, for example, you need to optimize your air conditioning. HVAC is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions in Asia, given the cooling requirements. We have looked at the whole suite of innovative solutions that can help you with HVAC optimization and created a rule-based engine that can help asset managers clearly come to answers given their type of building, their type of loads, the age of their buildings, what are the best solutions within their budget, and more. For the next year or two, we will focus on making this offering more robust.”

She added that Accacia also aims to fine-tune its sales strategy. Initially, the team’s interactions have predominantly been with direct owners involved in either the construction or operation of buildings. However, Annu notes a growing interest from financial entities, such as investment banks and other institutions with significant real estate and infrastructure portfolios (think JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, etc). 

“These institutions are increasingly keen on understanding the climate risks associated with their assets, leading to collaborations on climate risk modeling,” she added. “A new module, aimed at assessing climate risk for real estate and infrastructure, is set to launch later in the year.”

Annu characterized Accacia’s progress in Asia as a successful client acquisition push and plans to sustain momentum with ongoing pilots and a viable pipeline. According to her, the team has also outlined a strategic focus on expanding into North America, aiming to solidify pilot projects with major clients and turn them into lasting partnerships.