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GRESB 2018: The Results

At EVORA, we support a broad range of clients to complete GRESB submissions – from new starters and organisations just starting out on development of their ESG strategies through to industry leaders.

This year, we assisted around 70 submissions.  It has been (and continues to be) challenging work. However, we are delighted with the results.  We are in the process of completing a detained analysis for all participants we supported, however, below, we set out some exciting highlights.


GRESB 2018 Results for some of our clients

FORE Partnership, a purpose-driven, direct co-investing platform for UK and European real estate achieved five green stars (out of five) and came third in its peer group.  This was particularly pleasing as FORE has rapidly progressed to five green stars through a deep-rooted commitment to incorporate sustainability into everything it does.

SPF Joint Venture, an investment in German out of town retail parks and managed by PATRIZIA achieved five green stars and came third overall in Germany.  This GRESB result recognises two years of work to establish best practice ESG programmes.

The Hines Pan-European Core Fund(HECF), an open-ended non-listed pan-European diversified core fund, also achieved five green stars.  This time, for the second year in a row. HECF also retained its GRESB Global Sector Leader status and ranked first among European diversified office/retail portfolios. This year, HECF also achieved first place among the 367 European non-listed vehicles and seventh globally among the 874 vehicles that participated in the survey. Notably, the HECF also ranked first globally in the optional ‘Health & Well-Being’ and ‘Resilience’ modules.  Read more here.

Europa Capital submitted five funds to GRESB. EVORA has supported Europa to develop and operate an ESG strategy over the last two years and has assisted with responding to GRESB for longer.  The ongoing work is paying off.  This is reflected by improved ratings for all funds and an average 15% score increase.

For more information on GRESB, and on Health, Wellbeing and Resilience in particular, why not request to attend our upcoming event.


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB 2018: A Call to Arms!

Following the release of individual respondent-level GRESB results on Friday 7th September, overall results were presented by GRESB in London on Tuesday 11th September. Results presentations will continue to be delivered by GRESB around the world throughout September.

Headline figures presented demonstrated both the increased level of interest in GRESB and the positive impact the survey is having on real estate sustainability performance. In summary:

  • Participation has increased. In 2018 there were;
    • 903 survey responses (207 of which were from publicly listed entities)
    • From 64 countries
    • Covering 79,000 assets and $3.5 trillion in gross asset value.
  • A continual improvement in ESG performance was reported – where average GRESB scores increased to 68, up from 63 in 2017.  GRESB state that this continued improvement reflects the industry’s commitment to further integrate ESG best practices.
  • Australia maintains its regional leadership position but the performance gap between geographies is narrowing.
  • Of the 79,000 buildings covered by GRESB, 50,000 submitted data at ‘asset level’ (74% of all participants).
  • 83% of reported energy data was subject to a third party review.
  • Like-for-like energy, GHG and water data all demonstrated a year-on-year reduction (a good thing).
  • 11% of reported floor area benefits from some form of green building certificate.

I am heartened by progress to-date and continue to believe that GRESB remains a powerful mechanism that can help drive change in the real estate industry. However, I also believe that as an industry we must change-up a few gears.

However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error.

We have been talking about data – coverage and quality – for years, and yet it is still a problem. This must be addressed ‘globally’ and soon. EVORA developed our proprietary software tool SIERA to support the process of data acquisition and validation.  The decision to do so was and continues to be transformational for us and our clients. It has helped simplify and speed-up data collection and analysis at meter, asset and fund level. However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error. The technology exists to automate data acquisition but adoption remains low, in simple terms, data collection is still a bottle neck and the source of many errors, even in 2018!

Furthermore, wholescale adoption of new technologies and investment in retrofit of domestic and non-domestic buildings is needed, especially if, as an industry, we are going to contribute to our fullest ability to the internationally agreed commitments to mitigate climate change.

Rapid progression is needed!


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Results 2018: EVORA supports Hines to achieve Sector Leader status and top global ranking in Health, Wellbeing and Resilience

PRESS RELEASE – 12 September 2018
Download the full press release here.

Hines Pan-European Core Fund Recognized as Sector Leader by GRESB Results 2018 for Sustainability Performance

We are delighted to congratulate our client, Hines Pan-European Core Fund (HECF), for their absolutely stellar GRESB 2018 results:

  • GRESB Global Sector Leader
  • GRESB Europe Sector Leader
  • Ranked 1st Globally in the supplementary Health & Wellbeing module.
  • Ranked 1st Globally in the supplementary Resilience module.

It’s testament to their historic investment in and ongoing commitment to sustainability/ESG, plus their ability to respond quickly to emerging trends and topics such as health, wellbeing and resilience.

We have thoroughly enjoyed providing HECF with sustainability consultancy (including GRESB submission support) during the past two years and look forward to continuing our collaboration during the year(s) ahead.

Ed Gabbitas, Director, EVORA said: The EVORA and HECF teams have worked incredibly hard over the past year to maintain Sector Leader status. It is great to see our high performing ESG strategy contribute to an equally high performing overall fund strategy, which has seen occupancy at 99.4% (as at Q2 2018), and doubling of assets under management (to €1.2bn GAV) since we first started working with Hines.

You can read the full Hines press release here.


GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB 2018: over, not done with!

With GRESB over we talked to a number of staff across our business to get a view on experiences faced, whilst it was still fresh in the team’s mind.


Supporting the team for our busiest ever GRESB season.

Paul Sutcliffe – Director

I’ve lost count of the number of GRESB submissions I have supported over the years. I do know that this year at EVORA we supported around 70 submissions, from a broad array of clients (covering sector Number 1s through to first time participants). Our busiest ever GRESB season!

Whilst we represent a broad array of participants with different fund structures and objectives, we do see some common themes. Our clients universally want to ensure that:

  1. Sustainability policies and practices are effective and appropriate for their organisations
  2. Their GRESB submission correctly and accurately reflects their true sustainability position.

There is a clear recognition and acceptance that GRESB is a one size fits all approach. To use a sloppy analogy – sometimes the shoe fits perfectly, other times it’s a bit loose, sometimes too tight, but everyone can still walk in it.

With the GRESB deadline of 12 noon Eastern US time fast approaching, I prepared myself for some long nights. I needn’t have worried though. Our team and clients mobilised, focused, used SIERA (our sustainability software platform) and worked hard to get everything in on time. Final confirmation, of the last submission (for me) came from the last of my clients early on Saturday morning. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had a weekend to enjoy!

One last thing. GRESB has been able to galvanize the industry and drive forward the sustainability agenda. Our industry should work with this and in particular, reflect when the results come out in September. I am a strong believer that GRESB should be used to inform, not drive individual organisational ESG agendas.


Time flies when it’s your first GRESB year!

Katie Brown – Junior Sustainability Consultant

As this was my first year supporting GRESB, there was a lot to grasp and a lot to learn, fast! The time flew, and on reflection preparation is key. Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it. It was important to plan well and communicate early – time well invested should be reflected in an accurate (and higher) GRESB score.

Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it.

I have been impressed that despite the focus on environmental performance of assets forming a core element of the survey, there is a broad spectrum of the sustainability agenda covered, with attention also on social and governance topics including health and safety, management, policies, and supply chains, just to name a few! Also, the inclusion of the health and wellbeing module, and this year a new module on resilience, brings to the forefront important and emerging ESG trends.

The GRESB survey promotes much needed transparency of the sustainability efforts by businesses in the real estate sector, both as a benchmarking tool and providing greater visibility for investors, but also provides a great opportunity to guide and inform more ambitious and rigorous ESG strategies going forward.


It’s all about the data.

Nick Hogg – Associate Director (SIERA Software)

As those that have participated in the GRESB submission process will know, the amount of information and effort that can be required to provide a seemingly straight forward number in answering a GRESB question can be sometimes underestimated. The Performance Indicators is an aspect where this can challenge participants due to sheer quantum of data that might need to be handled across all the impact areas for an entity, not least with more participants submitting data at asset level.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone. We have blogged before that GRESB have allowed the automated transfer of Performance Indicator (PI) data from sustainability management software systems, such as SIERA, directly into the GRESB portal for the last few years. We found this automated transfer of data through SIERA vital, not just in trying to make the complexity of reporting more efficient but essential in establishing a robust and transparent method of reporting asset level data.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone.

We introduced additional functionality in SIERA this year to further automate the calculation of energy, GHG and water intensity and have plans to continue expansion of SIERA’s GRESB capability over the coming months.


Submissions are done, but it’s not over!

Louise Russell –  Senior Sustainability Consultant

This will have been my fourth year supporting GRESB clients. I support a variety of clients each at a different stage on their sustainability journey.  Existing clients who are already hot on sustainability continue to maintain leading positions principally due to their wider sustainability programmes which we support during the year. For them, GRESB is useful to benchmark the position of their various funds against peers and internally. However, GRESB is not the driver and broader sustainability as well as responsible investing is something that is taken very seriously.

For my clients that were newcomers to GRESB this was the first time that they as an organisation considered what sustainability means to them. Clients are often surprised by what is already in place within their organisations albeit via an unstructured approach. Where we assist is coordinating the various stakeholders to collate the responses. Whilst we never advise that a sustainability strategy should be GRESB driven it does act as a gateway for those approaching sustainability for the first time.

The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

Now that we are post-GRESB these same clients are looking to build on their existing processes, formalise their sustainability strategy and put in place a sustainability programme that will deliver an improved score in 2019. The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

If you have anymore questions about the content of this blog or GRESB in general, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Survey: We answer your questions

With many of us currently knee-deep in spreadsheets for this year’s GRESB submissions, we took some time out to speak with one of our Consultants and ask your questions about the GRESB survey.

About the survey

GRESB is an investor-driven assessment of sustainability performance, that gives Real Estate and Infrastructure funds of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to measure and showcase their performance on a range of environmental, social, and governance issues, and compare themselves to similar entities in the industry.

Real Estate and Infrastructure funds participate in two separate GRESB Surveys which, whilst having a different set of questions, have a similar structure and cover many of the same core ESG issues. At EVORA we have in-house experts on both surveys, so if you’re looking for assistance with your submission or just want some more information, then give this blog a read to get the basics and feel free get in touch if you want to know more.


Q.  How long is the overall submission process to the GRESB portal? Is there a timeline for the submission process?

The final GRESB deadline is July 1st, but a submission doesn’t come together over night! I would say that, to allow time for careful completion of the portal and a proper review, you generally need to have started collating data and evidence in March and you want the pieces in place by early June.

GRESB also offer a ‘Response Check’, where a GRESB employee will evaluate your response and help ensure you’re not going to miss out on points through mis-completion or insufficient evidence. The deadline for this is June 8thso, whilst you don’t have to be finished at this juncture, you want to be most of the way there to get the maximum benefit from the Check.

Q. What kind of evidence do I need to prepare before the GRESB portal opens?

To uphold the credibility of GRESB, a large amount of supporting evidence is required throughout the Survey, and rightly so. Certain indicators are entity specific, such as tenant surveys, risk assessments and completion of technical building audits, whereas others do allow responses from the Organisation / investment manager, such as employee and governance issues.

The key thing here is to make sure people on all levels are well-informed of what GRESB entails for them and that, linking back to the previous question, you start getting organised early!

Q. What is the most efficient way of collating and submitting to the GRESB portal if I have an international portfolio? 

At 25.6%, the Performance Indicators section carries the greatest weight of all the Aspects. Therefore, whilst it is often a challenge to organise, the hard work is heavily rewarded by GRESB. I would highly recommend that you get some purpose-built environmental data management software such as ours, SIERA, which is designed with GRESB in mind and can produce an import sheet which can be uploaded straight onto the GRESB Portal. Data collection programmes can be at all levels of temporal granularity, from a one-off annual request ahead of GRESB, to half-hourly data imports into our M&T module.

Q.  How can I improve my GRESB scores?

Each entity is a little bit different and will be stronger and weaker in different areas, however these are some general areas that you can target:

  • Get an EMS – Having an Environmental Management System in place not only scores points directly on the GRESB Survey, but has the indirect effect of planning and guiding your ESG strategies to be as effective as possible.
  • Sort your data – As outlined above, PI data is a huge part of the Survey so it’s worth the effort of organising it. EVORA’s bespoke environmental data management software, SIERA, is perfect for minimising effort and maximising performance in these elements of GRESB.
  • Green Building Certifications – with a global average of just 46 out of 100 last year, the Certifications aspect is a common weakness for participants. At EVORA, we have in-house BREEAM, WELL, LEED and Fitwel Assessors, so get in touch if you’re interested in certification to bolster your GRESB score and reap the wider benefits of certification.

Read more about our research and how to improve your score in this blog.

Q.  Can you make a submission without disclosing the results?

A cornerstone of GRESB, as an investor-driven sustainability assessment, is that the results can be made visible to investors. However, there is a “Grace Period” for first time participants allowing them to opt-out of sharing  result whilst they get to grips with the Survey.

Q.  Can I only submit my evidence and responses in English?

Responses do have to be made in English, however, GRESB will allow you to submit foreign language documents as evidence. In these circumstances, be sure to clearly indicate in the open text boxes provided exactly where in the document the relevant information is held, along with a thorough summary of content. This will help ensure nothing is missed or misinterpreted.

Q. What happens after I make my submission?

GRESB’s response validation process takes place in July and August, with the official results released at a series of events across the world in September. You will also receive your Benchmark Report at this point, which gives you the full breakdown of how you did on each Dimension, Aspect, and Indicator. Off the back of this, EVORA offers a “GRESB Gap Analysis” to new and existing clients, where one of our in-house experts will evaluate your performance and pick out key opportunities for improvement, and can then help implement them. In truth, for top GRESB performers, the process never really stops! The Survey really rewards comprehensive, sustained sustainability programmes.


Year-on-year the GRESB survey is becoming increasingly comprehensive. This year increased scrutiny has been placed on some existing questions, such as asking that Green Building Certification ratings be provided, some new questions have been added, and every participant will be subject to at least a low-level of validation. Furthermore, the currently optional Health & Wellbeing and Resilience modules are set to be built into the main Survey next year and in three years respectively. I expect this trend of increasing complexity and moving goalposts to continue as investor demands expand and change, so having an experienced GRESB consultant to provide support will become increasingly important.

Here at EVORA, we are entering our seventh year assisting with GRESB submissions, and have acquired a great knowledge base in this time to help maximise your GRESB performance. We have experience of delivering more than 150 submissions, including a number of 5 Star submissions and Sector Leader status.

In conclusion, I think the key takeaways for a successful GRESB submission is to: make sure everyone on all level is well informed and knows their role, start your submission early, use SIERA, and get an experienced consultant on board to help out.

If you have anymore questions about the content of this blog or GRESB in general, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Support 2018

GRESB reporting season for real estate and infrastructure participants is here again, and as a GRESB Premier Partner, EVORA is recognised as a leader in the provision of GRESB support, including training and strategic insight.

We have provided GRESB support for the last six years, and in 2017 we directly supported over 50 submissions from organisations that represent a cross section of the European property industry. We have helped clients get on the GRESB ladder and have equally supported clients to be market leaders.

We sit on a number of GRESB benchmark committees and our close working relationship with GRESB ensures that we are prepared and aware of future changes.

With our experience and expertise in this ever-emerging market sector, we ran a webinar last week with participants across Europe on our end to end service Titled “How to overcome GRESB challenges and achieve your best score”.

In this session we shared valuable insights and tips in a 5-point GRESB strategy, to increase awareness on how to get the best out of the reporting process and how you can align GRESB ratings with your long-term sustainability strategy.


Five point GRESB strategy

Our GRESB strategy covered an action plan for a seamless GRESB submission process. A quick recap is set out below.

  1. Plan your next GRESB submission in advance. Map out a plan on who to talk to, what to ask and which evidence you need to provide.
  2. Reduce the complexity of reporting by engaging in a streamlined process with your property managers. At EVORA, our consultants provide asset-level templates to property managers, to help in the collation of asset-based questions such as technical assessments, tenant engagement and efficiency measures.
  3. Improve scoring, where appropriate. Don’t miss out on easy points, discounting your reporting efforts by not meeting validation requirements. Read more here on our GRESB verification blog on how to ensure your response is accurate and acceptable by GRESB.
  4. Focus on data integrity and performance. Our proprietary software SIERA ensures that the process of data management is transparent, accurate and robust.
  5. Finally set actions for future success. GRESB addresses several key areas of an EMS within their survey such as management responsibilities, communication, training, objectives and, importantly, the results they are delivering. Developing an EMS therefore seems an appropriate approach to score well in GRESB. Find out here how a Plan-Do-Check-Act (EMS) approach can impact your GRESB score.

Final thoughts for GRESB success in 2018;

  • Start early / now!
  • Engage with internal colleagues and external stakeholders
  • Understand indicator intent and scoring requirements
  • Gather evidence and identify alignment to requirements
  • To make it easy on yourself and others – get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

Request the webinar recording


GRESB Premier PartnerWe are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Infrastructure Survey: What is it?

EVORA is now entering its seventh year of helping entities produce GRESB Real Estate Survey submissions, and with each passing cycle we have accrued more expertise, expanded our client base, and become leaders in the field. Last year we provided comprehensive support to 26 funds and general support to many others, and this year the figure is set to get even higher as we gain greater recognition for our expertise.

But GRESB offers more than just the Real Estate Survey, and for 2018 we have expanded our scope of services to include the GRESB Infrastructure Survey.


What is the GRESB Infrastructure Survey?

Much like its real estate equivalent, the GRESB Infrastructure Survey is an investor-driven assessment of ESG (Environmental-Social-Governance) performance for entities.

Much of the content is also very similar, however the setup of the Infrastructure Survey is quite different from that of GRESB Real Estate, as it is broken down into two sub-surveys: 1) the Fund Assessment and 2) the Asset Assessment.

The Fund Assessment is a relatively small element of the overall survey, and focuses on ESG policies and principles, persons responsible for ESG issues, and the monitoring and mitigation of ESG risks, at the entity level.

Meanwhile, it is the Asset Assessment that is broken down into the familiar Management, Policy & Disclosure, Risks & Opportunities, Monitoring & EMS, Stakeholder Engagement, Performance Indicators, and Certification & Awards modules, albeit with differences in the questions themselves and the distribution of points compared to GRESB Real Estate. Additional content includes questions relating specifically to biodiversity and air pollutants in the Performance Indicators section, whilst there is for example less focus on certification.

An optional Resilience module has also been introduced for GRESB Real Estate and GRESB Infrastructure in 2018 – you can read more about it here.


Asset Assessments – Weighted Asset Average

You are free to submit a standalone Fund Assessment without asset-level evaluation if you wish. However, to get an overall GRESB Infrastructure score you must also complete the Asset Assessment for at least 25% of your portfolio (usually weighted by GAV). Furthermore, there is an advantage to completing Asset Assessments for as many assets as possible, as your scores are collated into a Weighted Asset Average (WAA) where assets that did not complete an Asset Assessment score zero.

Your WAA is worth 70% of the final GRESB score, with the Fund Assessment making up the other 30%. A simple example calculation is provided below:

GRESB Infrastructure Survey - WAA table

Combined with an example Fund Assessment score of 76, the overall GRESB score would be:

(56   x  70%)   +   (76  x   30%)   =   62

Which represents:

(WAA Score x Asset Assessment Weighting) + (Fund Score x Fund Assessment Weighting) = Overall Score

The GRESB Infrastructure Survey is comprehensive in its coverage of ESG content, whilst also allowing a wide range of infrastructure assets, from airports to schools to toll roads to windfarms, to be compared. ESG issues matter for all forms of built infrastructure, and GRESB provides an ideal platform to meet investor and public demand for improved sustainable performance.


If you think GRESB Infrastructure might be for you, then get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

 


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

GRESB Resilience Module: will you survive and thrive in the face of systems disruption?

When you hear the word resilience you might think of an activist like Martin Luther King, an explorer such as Ranulph Fiennes, or an athlete akin to Mo Farah.

In all walks of life it is an admirable and desirable quality, but the meaning it carries in the field of commercial property is perhaps not as well defined or understood as it needs to be given the increasing role it is expected to play in securing long-term success.


GRESB is recognising the importance of resilience in real estate portfolios by introducing a brand new module for the 2018 GRESB survey. Much like the Health & Wellbeing module that came before it, the GRESB Resilience module will standalone and evolve over the next 3 years with the intention of subsequently integrating it into the main GRESB survey.

But what is it that makes real estate resilient?

What is it that makes companies and funds resilient?

And what is it that will make you GRESB resilient?


What is resilience?

The exact definition of resilience in a sustainability context is not yet fully agreed, however the IPCC defines it as:

“The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions”.

Meanwhile, GRESB defines it as:

“The capacity of companies and funds to survive and thrive in the face of social and environmental shocks and stressors”.

In short, how well equipped is your organisation to deal with big events that disrupt systems (floods, fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks etc.), and the stressors that make you more susceptible to harm when events do occur (poverty, environmental degradation, aging infrastructure etc.)?


The GRESB resilience module

The GRESB Resilience module has been kept fairly simple this year, asking basic-level questions on the involvement of management and stakeholders in resilience-related decisions, on asset and business operational risk reporting, on strategies for the management of risk, and, interestingly, to “describe your response to three illustrative, disruptive, extreme, or catastrophic events or near misses during the reporting period”. I am intrigued to see what kind of responses come in for this last one.

I am confident that the Resilience module will follow the projected path of the Health & Wellbeing and ultimately become a part of the main survey. Firstly, because the probability of these system shocks is indisputably growing for many issues (e.g. climate change, terrorism, I.T. security) and secondly, because of the potentially huge environmental, social, and financial consequences that could result from failing to invest in resilience.

Exactly how the module will look in a few years’ time is hard to say, with GRESB using this year to gauge the current state of play in the industry. I doubt it will progress to any kind of individual asset-level evaluation any time soon given the multitude of uncertainties in resilience modelling and the unique situation every asset is in with regards to external shocks and stresses. Instead, I expect it will likely remain procedural, focussing on how organisations go about identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks in their portfolio, and how they are communicating these risks to different parties. However, we wait with intrigue to see how this new reporting element develops.


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Contact us about GRESB support.

GRESB Verification: Why it’s important our Top Tips for success

One of the more notable changes that GRESB has introduced for the 2018 survey is their approach for verifying participant’s answers.

Starting in 2018, GRESB (or more accurately, their parent company GBCI), will perform a deep dive (termed Validation Plus) on all participants for a subset of questions and indicators. Previously, the approach was to select 25% of participants for a detailed review of an entire response.


GRESB Verification – why do we need it?

The rationale for validating responses is simple to comprehend. If unchecked, there is a risk that some respondents may stretch the truth and overplay an entities performance and/or practices for ESG management. Checking all participants on the same subset of indicators creates a more level playing field, which should be to the benefit of sustainability leaders who can easily demonstrate and disclosure their performance. However, the check is still very light touch as, typically speaking, only one document needs to be uploaded to indicate how ESG is implemented / managed across a fund; one example of good practice may be the exception and not the rule for some.

Validation is not in place to trip people up or create unnecessary burden. It is an action that GRESB must take to ensure the ratings it gives to participants are credible.Click To Tweet

Validation is not in place to trip people up or create unnecessary burden. It is an action that GRESB must take to ensure the ratings it gives to participants are credible. Why is this important? From the outset, GRESB has stated it is an investor driven organisation. If investors are being fed inaccurate information, then they may not be able to accurately identify good ESG strategies from mediocre or non-existent ones. Investor confidence will suffer as a result and GRESB will fizzle out.

It was fascinating to learn about Danone’s (the yoghurt people) announcement in their Financial report issued last month. In it they stated an agreement for “tying financing cost and environmental and social performance”. The interest paid on their €2billlion credit facility, syndicated by 12 international banks no less, would be impacted upwards or downwards on the basis of ESG performances, as measured by independent third parties.  Additional factors other than ESG are also considered.

WOW! Wouldn’t this raise the bar for GRESB submissions if an entities credit rating and / or credit facility was linked to the number of Green Stars GRESB issued each year!


GRESB verification – Top Tips

So how can you ensure your GRESB response is accurate and that evidence submitted is accepted by GRESB?

We set out below, our six top-tips.

  1. Read the guidance document – GRESB is transparent on the scoring requirements for each indicator. Participants should familiarise themselves with the guidance document to ensure they understand what is required for each response.
  2. Get advice – if you don’t have the time or inclination to read the 264 page guidance book, get expert help from EVORA. We have had visibility of 98 assessments so far and as such have significant experience. I’m looking forward to passing the century mark this year (and most probably the double hundred!)
  3. Focus on data integrity – the Performance Indicator section now carries the highest weighting of any section (termed Aspect by GRESB) at 25.6%. Asset level data is at the heart of this section and data transparency and accuracy is key. Look out for my colleague Chris Bennett’s blog on how SIERA delivers on data integrity.
  4. Communicate early– GRESB is a comprehensive multi-disciplinary survey. It is highly unlikely that one person will have the answer to all questions. Participants should be aware of internal and external stakeholders they need to involve in the process and communicate requirements to them early.
  5. Take time over evidence – sourcing evidence, signposting content via the Upload Template, and preparing / splitting / merging pdfs takes time. It is worthwhile taking the time to keep accurate records, as this can help deliver efficiencies for future years. It is also worthwhile taking time to ensure that signposting GRESB to relevant evidence is accurate. This includes hyperlinks and ‘deep link’. Broken links are the responsibility of the participant and will be interpreted as the absence of evidence.
  6. A global benchmark? Finally, your assessment response must be submitted in English. For a Global benchmark this seems a little harsh for the many non-English speaking participants and I know from experience that it is a major frustration. Uploaded evidence does not need to be translated entirely. However, a thorough summary of the content, sufficient to convey that each requirement has been met, should be provided in English. This will add time and /or cost for many participants.

Following my advice will ensure your ESG strategies are assessed accurately by GRESB. I have seen many responses (not completed by EVORA!) marked down for not following guidance.


We are hosting a webinar on 19th April titled How to overcome GRESB challenges and achieve your best score.  Join us to hear insights on how to save time, reduce complexity and align GRESB ratings with your sustainability strategy.

Click here for more details.

 


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.

Changes to GRESB 2018 Real Estate Survey Part 2 – The Detail

Last week, my colleague Paul Sutcliffe penned a blog briefly setting out the headline changes to the GRESB 2018 Real Estate Survey.  Having had a bit more time to digest these updates, below I provide a detailed look at how the survey has changed this year. I also outline some key practical considerations.

Unlike Paul’s blog, this one is very much aimed at those working closely with the GRESB RE survey. For those that fit this bill (btw, lucky you/us!), please do read on and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these changes further.


Entity and reporting characteristics – Composition of the entity’s standing investments during the reporting period (RC5.1)

Change: It will no longer be possible to report in units. Rather all property types will need to report in sq. ft. or m2.  

EVORA comment: This may present a challenge to many respondents as for certain property types, floor area surveys are often not available (e.g. hotels, student accommodation and car parks). In some instances, there may be other sources of information that can be used. For buildings (i.e. not car parks), this can include the EPC certificate. In most cases an area is also likely to be stated on insurance documents. Where necessary, entities may need to make assumptions to convert units into areas. For this, we suggest looking to country-specific planning regulations, which may have minimum space requirements – e.g. for car parks.


Management – Inclusion of ESG factors in annual performance targets of employees (2017: Q6)

Change: An additional sub-question has been added to this indicator, asking whether performance against these targets have ‘financial’ and or ‘non-financial consequences’. The list of possible ‘employee’ types has also been reduced from nine down to four (remaining options: ‘All employees’; ’Board of Directors’; ‘Senior Management Team’; and, ‘Other’). A requirement for a supporting evidence upload has been added.

EVORA comment: According to the pre-release, the scoring of this question has not changed, suggesting that the new ‘financial’ / ‘non-financial consequences’ differentiation is for information only. Therefore, we do not anticipate this question causing additional stress for respondents compared with last year. However, this change does hint at a wider trend seen across the ESG industry towards favouring a link between sustainability performance and financial incentives. Perhaps this is something we will see GRESB adopt in future versions of the survey.


Policy and Disclosure – Policies in place that address governance issues (2017: Q9)

Change: The list of governance issues that could be covered by an entity’s policies has been expanded; new options include data protection & privacy, fiduciary duty, fraud, political contributions, and whistleblower protection. The number of points awarded to this question has increased, from 1 to 2 points.

EVORA comment: Our expectation is that for larger reporting organisations few if any of these options will present a significant challenge. However, for smaller investment houses we wonder if for one or more of these new selections it may be difficult to provide the necessary documentary evidence to demonstrate that such issues are covered by a formal policy. We note that the full question includes an extensive list of options and it is not necessary to select all in order to obtain full marks. For anyone with particular concerns, we suggest doing a gap analysis against the full question.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Monitoring diversity (i.e. C-suite, Board, Management Committee)

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if and how respondents monitor diversity amongst its governance bodies. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: As with the previous indicator, we anticipate that larger (particularly listed) respondents will already be doing some or all of this – e.g. for certain countries / organisations this may already be a legislative requirement (e.g. EU non-financial reporting directive). For other, likely smaller, entities this indicator may require additional work and raise questions around the sensitivity of this information. We recommend engaging the relevant stakeholders (e.g. C-suite, HR department) as early as possible to work through any sensitivities and, if determined appropriate, a strategy for collecting this information. It is worth noting that for GRESB the pattern is often that new questions are introduced as ‘optional’ or for ‘reporting purposes only’ in year one, but from year two or three, they often become scored.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Commitments to ESG leadership initiatives

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks which third-party standards or groups respondents are members of / signatories to (e.g. IIGCC, PRI, RE 100, science based targets, TCFD, UNGC). The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: We have mixed feelings about this indicator because as worthy as these initiatives are, we feel that many are more appropriate for larger organisations that typically have more resources available to manage membership/alignment to these schemes. As mentioned above, ‘reporting purposes only’ questions often become scored in subsequent years.

Please note: We have experience support client’s alignment to various such initiatives and would be very happy to provide you with a complementary briefing on the opportunities and challenges presented by each of these initiatives. Contact us.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Process for communicating ESG-related misconduct, penalties, incidents or accidents

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents have a process for communicating ESG-related misconduct, penalties, incidents or accidents and if so, which stakeholders are included in the process. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018. However, according to GRESB this information may be used “as criteria for the recognition of 2018 Sector Leaders”.

EVORA comment: We anticipate that this indicator will be acceptable to most respondents.


Risk and Opportunities – Asset-level environmental and/or social risk assessments of standing investments during the last three years (2017: Q15.2)

Change: This indicator now requires reporting of ‘percentage (%) portfolio covered’ for each type of risk assessment. This indicator also now requires reporting of the third-party standard to which risk assessments are aligned (e.g. ISO 31000). Responses will be scored according to the issues selected and their respective % portfolio coverage. The open text box will no longer be scored and alignment to a third-party standard will not be scored (only required for reporting purposes).

EVORA comment: We can understand the rationale for this change, however, we have concerns over the additional reporting burden this will present for entities with larger portfolios. We note that some options are likely to be easy to determine a % coverage e.g. ‘GHG emissions’ and ‘regulatory risk’. Conversely, other options may require asset-by-asset consideration, such as ‘contamination’ and ‘flood risk’.


Risk and Opportunities –  Implementation of measures during the last four years to improve waste management (2017: Q19)

Change: This indicator remains the same as last year, however, it will be scored (whereas last year it was for reporting purposes only). This indicator will attract a maximum of one point.

EVORA comment: We agree with the principle behind this update, which increases the importance of and therefore focus on implementation of waste management improvement measures. This brings waste and resource management in line with the energy and water versions of this question and further shifts the overall balance of GRESB towards measuring / incentivising green ‘walk’, as well as ‘talk’.


Stakeholder Engagement – Employee and tenant satisfaction surveys (2017: Q34.1 & Q37.1)

Change: An additional sub-question has been added to this indicator, asking if and what ‘quantitative metrics’ were included in the surveys (e.g. overall satisfaction score). This new sub-question will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: This is a logical evolution to this question and should be borne in mind by anyone designing a satisfaction survey. Ultimately, it should improve quantification of what has historically been a largely qualitative issue.


Stakeholder Engagement – Monitoring of compliance with sustainability-specific requirements in lease contracts (2017: Q39.2)

Change: An open text box has been added to enable GRESB to further validate the approach taken by respondents to monitoring compliance with green lease clauses. Last year, this question was for reporting purposes only; however, this year it will attract a maximum of one point.

EVORA comment: In our view, this is another logical evolution to the survey. However, we do note that the process behind tracking green leases may not provide sufficient information on the number, depth and strength of green clauses in place.


Stakeholder Engagement – *NEW INDICATOR* – Engaging with supply chains to ensure ESG requirements are met

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents engage with supply chains to ensure ESG requirements are met. If ‘yes’ is selected, respondents are asked to describe the process in an open text box. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: We anticipate that this indicator will be acceptable to most respondents and note an overlap with a subsequent question on monitoring supply chain compliance with ESG requirements.


Stakeholder Engagement – *NEW INDICATOR* – Stakeholder grievance mechanism

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents have a formal process for stakeholders to communicate grievances. If ‘yes’ is selected, respondents are asked to select from a list of ‘characteristics’ of the grievance process (e.g. rights compatible, transparent) and stakeholders that the process applies to (e.g. community, contractors). The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: As with most of the other new indicators, we anticipate that larger respondents will already be doing some or all of this. For other, likely smaller, entities these processes are less likely to be formalised and therefore demonstrating compliance may require additional work.


Performance indicators – Landlord versus tenant data collection and coverage (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: Although tenant energy/water consumption data is still requested, GRESB have committed to reducing the weighting it receives within the scoring and benchmarking of the ‘data coverage’ element of responses. Correspondingly, they will shift the emphasis onto data coverage of the landlord-controlled energy and water supplies.

EVORA comment: We fully support this update and have been lobbying GRESB on the issue for a while. For us it makes complete sense to focus scoring on what the landlord has control over, rather than their tenant activities, which they often have little ability to influence (particularly for certain property/portfolio types – e.g. industrial/logistics, FRIs).


Performance indicators – Like for like data coverage area (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: Respondents will now have to report on the size of the ‘like for like’ portfolio reported within the energy and water consumption data tables.

EVORA comment: We support this update and note that this should not add additional reporting burden for those using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


Performance indicators – Like for like consumption trends (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: The scoring of reported energy and water consumption trends for the ‘like for like’ portfolio has changed. Last year all three points available for this indicator were attributed to the direction and scale of the consumption trends. From this year, one point will be awarded for data availability and only two points attributed to the consumption trend.

EVORA comment: This change should provide investors with greater clarity on the proportion of the portfolio that is driving change. However, as the like-for-like consumption trend is the only truly ‘performance based’ indicator, in our view, stealing points from the consumption trend aspect and giving them to data coverage is not entirely progressive.


Performance indicators – Scope 3 emissions (2017: Q26.1)

Change: Reporting of Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has become mandatory. In the context of GRESB, Scope 3 emissions include those associated with energy consumption in tenant areas and/or indirectly managed assets. From this year, Scope 3 emissions will be included in the scoring and benchmarking of responses, both in terms of data coverage and the ‘like for like’ consumption trend.

EVORA comment: We understand the principle behind this update, however we question the intention to score the Scope 3 like for like consumption trend, as well as data coverage. This is because, as mentioned above, generally tenant energy consumption and therefore GHG footprint is beyond the landlord’s control. As above, we note that this should not add additional reporting burden for those using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


Building Certifications – Green building certificates during design/construction/renovation or operation (2017: Q30.1 & 30.2)

Change: There is an expansion to the scope of these questions to include a requirement to provide certification levels/scores achieved (in addition to the overall schemes applied). This element will not be scored in 2018; it will be for reporting purposes only.

EVORA comment: We are supportive of this update and again, note that this should not add additional reporting burden for anyone using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


To find out how EVORA can help you to navigate GRESB, whether you are a first timer or an experienced respondent, then please get in touch.

 


GRESB Premier PartnerAs a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.

We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.