Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to investigate the level of importance that green building features and initiatives (GBFIs) have with regards to decision strategies in the South African listed property market.

Design/methodology/approach - The paper extrapolates qualitative data in the form of a multiple case study analysis as the overarching research methodology. Three South African real estate investment trusts (REITs) participated in the research. Pattern matching in conjunction with semi-structured interviews was implemented to determine whether patterns in the literature could be matched to the empirical data.

Findings - It was found that each REIT is at different stages with regards to the implementation of GBFIs, thus relating to the decision strategy adopted by each REIT. The strategies applied had different drivers; either to reduce costs or to gain a competitive advantage in local and international markets. REITs that had been implementing GBFIs for a longer period of time were found to have more advanced strategies and a higher degree of GBFI consideration in their decision strategies. The main conclusion revealed that there is a range with regards to the level of how reactive/proactive of each of the three participating REITs in terms of their decision strategies with specific reference to GBFIs. This is mainly due to the fact that green building is still in its infancy in the South African property market, thus resulting in delays regarding the full implementation of GBFIs in the South African listed property market.

Research limitations/implications - This paper is indicative and highlights a number of issues surrounding the decision strategies in the listed property market with regards to the level of implementation of GBFIs. There is scope for a more comprehensive investigation by increasing the number of cases, so as to reduce interpretation of the results as generalizable.

Practical implications - The findings indicate a broad spectrum in the level of integration of GBFIs in the decision strategies with the South African listed property market. The level of integration is dependant on when a particular REIT started implementing GBFIs. Those REITs that were proactive in implementing GBFIs into their portfolio are starting to accrue benefits that are resulting in a competitive advantage.

Originality/value - This is the first paper to investigate the role GBFIs play in the decision strategies in the South African REITs.