A unit of Swiss private bank Sarasin has launched a fund to invest in the shares of environmentally aware property companies in an effort to satisfy growing demand for green investment.

The new fund, which Sarasin describes as the first of its kind, is called the Sarasin Sustainable Equity-Real Estate Global Fund and will invest in a broad spread of listed property companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

The fund is the product of a repositioning of the Sarasin Real Estate Equity III fund, and came to market on July 10.

A spokesman for the fund said nearly all the 7 million euros ($9.87 million) of investor equity held in the previous fund has rolled over into the new fund. Managers expect to attract a further 20 million euros of equity in the short term.

The Sarasin Sustainable Equity-Real Estate Global Fund is targeting an 8-10 percent total return on investment, the spokesman said.

Sarasin said real estate firms were increasingly aware of their responsibilities towards the environment and sustainable properties were gradually commanding higher prices over non-green assets on the market.

Sustainability makes a positive contribution to the fund's performance, Sarasin said in a statement.

In this way, tenants recognise the advantages of sustainable building methods, as reflected in fewer unoccupied buildings and wider acceptance of higher rents in return for lower running costs, it said.

The fund's investment strategy will be devised by the group's Sustainable Research team in Basel in tandem with a team of property investment experts at Sarasin & Partners in London.

This Sarasin & Partners team has been managing global real estate funds since 2004 and was responsible for 364 million Swiss francs ($338.6 million) of global real estate investments, as at July 10. (Reporting by Sinead Cruise; Editing by Andrew Macdonald) ($1=1.075 Swiss Franc) ($1=.7095 Euro) (See www.reutersrealestate.com for the global service for real estate professionals from Reuters)