EVORA continues to partner with you through COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak is impacting all of us and has understandably disrupted the operations of all markets and businesses globally.  We are clearly all very concerned for our families, friends and colleagues in what are very difficult times and we want to extend our sincerest and heartfelt wishes to everyone.

Our commitment to our colleagues and customers remains our utmost priority.  We are continuing to work closely with all our customers on their sustainability programmes and are doing everything we can to communicate clearly and swiftly with everyone.  Our business remains strong with wonderfully committed teams and a robust capital base that enables us to continue to operate as a true long term partner, remaining extremely focused on delivering sustainability outcomes to our clients that help our people and our planet.

Business Continuity in a time of disruption

We have robust contingency plans in place to protect the health and safety of our people and our clients to allow us to continue operating with as little disruption as is practical in these very exceptional circumstances.  EVORA invoked full remote working conditions from the 16th of March and our core knowledge of Health and Wellbeing practices has allowed us to fully transition to flexible and remote working with the minimum of disruption.  Has it been plain sailing?  No, of course not and it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise, but we continue to be delighted and indeed humbled by the steadfast commitment of all our teams and how they are supporting our clients with passion, drive and good humour.

Since our inception we have always encouraged flexible working practices and we continue to invest in our infrastructure in support of this.  We absolutely believe that our flexible and highly connected culture will continue to allow us to operate with a minimum of impact to our commitments to you and the programmes we are supporting.

We have temporarily closed all our offices and stopped all business travel and are continuing to make alternative arrangements through phone and video conferencing to enable us to stay connected with everyone and we continue to remain available through our normal phone and email channels and will keep our social media feeds regularly updated.

We look forward to continuing to partner with you as we all navigate our way through COVID-19.  Please do take care, stay safe and our thoughts are with you all.  

EVORA achieves Planet Mark certification

We are very proud to announce that EVORA has achieved Planet Mark certification for the 6th year running.

The Planet Mark is an internationally recognised certification based on sustainability standards and its mission is to help us all contribute to a thriving planet as a collective force. The certification represents an organisation’s commitment to sustainability programmes to actively reduce environmental and social harm. 

In a key step forward, this year we have measured our social value contribution. Social value is the net social and environmental benefit generated to society by an organisation, expressed in ‘£’.

The national TOMS (Themes, Outcomes and Measures) framework, developed by Social Value Portal and the National Social Value Taskforce was used to measure the social value generated by EVORA.

In 2019, EVORA generated £454,644 in social value. This includes over £400,000 through actions relating to the people in our organisation and supply chain, as well as money and time donated to charitable organisations, and reducing our carbon footprint through commutes.

In order to measure our social value, EVORA had to submit data and evidence on a number of indicators.  These were:

  • Our People
  • Community and Volunteering
  • Donations
  • Procurement
  • Environmental Impacts

We look forward to completing the assessment again next year and we continue to drive our commitment to generate further social value opportunities.

‘’I’m delighted to see EVORA taking steps to report their social value offering. This submission has helped us identify where the organisation generates the most social value, and highlighted opportunities to create a greater benefit to society.’’

Emily Day, Sustainability Consultant

Helpful Tips on Staying Well while Working from Home

Humans are social beings and being isolated for an extended period of time can affect mental health and wellbeing.  Working from home is often comfortable and helpful when it is on an ad hoc basis.  In the current, unprecedented times however, working from home could become unexpectedly stressful.  This short page is aimed at providing some physical and mental health tips to keep us all well, healthy and happy during this period.

Mental and Physical Health are equally important: it is often easy to forget the link between mental and physical health, especially in the technology-driven 21st Century. 

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Try to keep a separate place for your work which you can walk away from.  It is important to keep a mental and physical separation between work and home, wherever possible.  If this is not practical, try working in different spaces to give yourself variety.
  • Set a daily routine, including getting up and dressed as you would normally.  For those with children at home now too, establish a routine for the whole family that allows time together and time doing your own things. Respect each other’s boundaries, both physical and mental, and keep communication lines open. 
  • Take regular breaks away from work. Have lunch or breaks away from your screen and switch all the reminders and alarms off so that your brain can relax.
  • Specify a ‘working day’ and ‘leave the office’, closing your work down.
  • Be aware of your mental health.  How is your mood?  Are you sleeping well?  It can often help to look at yourself as you might a friend, and see how you are doing. 
  • Replace your usual in-person activities with video calls and regular updates.  Humans are social animal for the most part and thrive on engagement with others; we will all need this as we adjust.
  • Control your exposure to the media and information, perhaps limiting to one specific time of the day.  Being surrounded by constant updates and repeated alarming news can be stressful and raise your own levels of worry and concern.
  • Be generous to yourself, and others.  This is not normal and will not last.  Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your close friends and family.

Physical Considerations

  • Make sure you have a comfortable place to work where you can see properly
  • Ensure you have good exposure to natural daylight
  • Your chair should be the right height to allow you to work comfortably and the desk should allow you to sit with your legs underneath it
  • Try not to work on the sofa or similar “soft” areas for extended periods and look after your back and posture
  • Drink plenty of water!  It can be helpful to use the same bottle each day with a set amount of water.  Current advice is that adults should on average drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water per day.
  • Movement during the day is also important.  Try to stretch every 15 or so minutes, and move around regularly. 
  • Take regular breaks, ideally by leaving the house (within the government guidelines).  A change of scene and some fresh air are critical to maintaining health & wellbeing.
  • Keep exercising!  There are ways to exercise outside which will still maintain isolation, and there are plenty of videos available with ways to exercise inside at home.  Keeping your mind and body healthy in tandem will ensure that you are the most resilient you can be during this period.  
  • Laugh!!  There is a great body of evidence which shows the positive benefits of laughter.  Keep calling each other and have a good time together, add in some conscious comedy viewing.
  • Stay in touch with your work teams too; strong bonds are formed between teams and these will be helpful and supportive as we all stay at home. Try to use video communications as much as possible, not just audio.

Getting fresh air safely

  • Open the windows, it is important to let fresh air into your home.  Regularly changing the air in your home will reduce carbon dioxide and chemicals, as well as provide a link to the outside world, all of which keep us alert and more able to concentrate.
  • Go for a walk or spend time outside, within the current government rules (see link below).

For more advice and tips, here are some external web links:

Please note – these Tips should be used in the spirit in which they were shared: best practice sourced form multiple agencies and informed people.  They do not replace official advice or government updates and should not be considered as such.

Thank you to our very own Thomas Hutton for the cartoon!

Getting ready for GRESB season – Reporting tips and tricks

GRESB is imminently approaching! Which for a lot of us in the ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) industry, it means getting ready to report all the relevant activities that have been undertaken by funds over the course of the past year. In order to smoothen your reporting process and evidence collection, I have looked to outline some tips and tricks which will hopefully help you successfully deliver this year’s submission.

Establishing what’s new

GRESB, as you would suspect, is not a static survey, with improvements and updates added each year which seek to adapt to and follow the rapidly changing ESG market. As such, the first tip I can give you is to start with the basics and review what has changed. Once you have identified high-level changes both in evidence requirements and topics covered, you can then begin to look at establishing the evidence available in order to answer each of the questions. If you are unable to sufficiently support your answer with available evidence on current practices or perhaps are not achieving the marks you would expect, then you can begin to plan ahead for next year. Remember, if you are reporting on calendar year, we are already a few months into the GRESB 2021 reporting period, so you might have limited time to establish and develop new policies and practices!

Getting organized

Good organization is the epitome of so many things in life, and GRESB is no exception. It’s very easy to have a quick skim read of the GRESB survey and think that you send out a couple of emails and all will be rosy. That’s not the case I can assure you! An approach I have found successful is to identify at an early stage who your key stakeholders are and set out the information that each stakeholder will be required to provide. Early engagement will be helpful for your colleagues, as they will have oversight of information that will need to be provided further down the line, it also helps you avoid that last-minute panic over missing information. Using project management techniques, such as Gantt charts or online systems such as Microsoft Project can also help you get organized and keep track of everyone’s tasks and deadlines.

Gathering asset information

The performance section of the 2020 GRESB submission is worth a whopping 70% of the total marks, and therefore deserves plenty of attention. A key element is the coverage questions focusing on, asset-specific energy, water and waste efficiency measures, technical audits and Green Building Certificates, that have been implemented and carried out in the past three years (Note that Green Building Certificates are not time-bound). Logically, the smaller the portfolio the easier it will be to keep track of asset-level activities, but for those with high asset numbers it becomes increasingly difficult. Gathering asset information is often conducted by sending out spreadsheets, although this can result in multiple versions of spreadsheets floating about, which is something to be careful about. An alternative approach is utilizing online surveys that mitigate the risks associated with multiple spreadsheets.

Figure 1: Using a Data Management System to collate and store asset level initiatives

A hot tip is focus in on some key assets, for examples those that have recently undergone refurbishments, where a lot of asset initiatives are likely to have taken place. Remember to think ahead to next year’s submission and how you can utilize information collected for previous submissions.

Getting savvy with utility data

GRESB has a range of requirements in relation to how utility data is reported, and you can easily feel overwhelmed when dealing with large data sets where it’s vital that the outputs are accurate. Its good practice to review utility consumption at the most granular level time permits. I recommend reviewing utility data at a meter level, as it enables you to clearly identify gaps and inconsistencies and presents you with a clear picture of consumption patterns for each supply and building area. Automatically, this greater visibility will benefit you when having to provide a clear explanation to GRESB on sector-level variances and unusual intensities.

Figure 2: Using a Data Management System to automatically alert variances at meter and asset 

In light of all these observations, a data management system is proven to be able to simplify and demystify the whole utility reporting process and can help monitor, track and review consumption throughout the year. Why do the heavy lifting yourself when a computer can do it for you after all?

Hopefully, I have conveyed some useful tips for approaching GRESB this year and I will leave you with a parting quote to motivate you to get organized!

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

GRESB 2020: Three Key Changes

Each year, GRESB works with its members and key industry stakeholders to update the assessment and address the material issues within Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance of real estate investments.

Below we outline three of the key changes following the release of the 2020 GRESB Real Estate Reference Guide ahead of the GRESB assessment portal opening on the 1st April.

1. Structure

For 2020, separate components have been introduced to the Real Estate Assessment for Management, Performance and Development. The Management and Performance components replace the Management & Policy and Implementation & Measurement components from previous GRESB iterations.

The core component of Management is required for all participants, with the type of investment (standing or development) influencing the secondary component required. Separate benchmark reports will be issued for standing investments and development investments. As shown below:

GRESB Real Estate Reporting Structure
Figure 1 – GRESB Real Estate Reporting Structure. Source: GRESB 2020 Real Estate Reference Guide.

The 2020 inclusion of the Development component is a result of a merger of the previous ‘New Construction and Major Renovation’ module and the separate ‘Developer Assessment’ module. GRESB participants with development projects will now have a better understanding of their ESG performance and be able to compare with their peers.

Previously, the Development Benchmark only included developers, however funds with both standing investments and development projects will be included in both the Standing Investments Benchmark and the Development Benchmark – receiving two Benchmark Reports to reflect their performance in each component. The component weighting for each category in 2020 is outlined below for standing investment and developments:

GRESB Real Estate Assessment Scoring Methodology

Figure 2 – GRESB Real Estate Assessment Scoring Methodology. Source: GRESB, 2020 Real Estate Indicator Summary.

2. Assessment Review Period

GRESB has also introduced a Review Period into the assessment timeline with the aim of strengthening the reliability of participant responses and the subsequent benchmark results. The review period will begin on the 1st September when all participants will receive their preliminary GRESB results for 2020. Participants will be able to submit a review request before 15th September to GRESB using the Review Form. Final results are released to participants and investor members on the 1st October.

3. Asset Focus

GRESB has continued to develop further sector definitions to enable accurate and relevant comparisons with peers. Additional property types have been introduced for 2020 which will allow in the future for more granular benchmarking of asset performance. In addition, the terminology of ‘direct’ and ‘indirectly’ managed assets has also been removed.

The timeframe for asset energy, water and waste efficiency initiatives and technical building assessments has also been reduced from four to three years. This change has highlighted the importance that GRESB places on continual improvement.

Another major change is the removal of intensities calculations, which will be a relief for many parties who have previously had to manually calculate these figures! 

EVORA are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support after supporting 73 funds to submit to GRESB in 2019, including 25 funds located outside the UK. View our official Global 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 to see how we can help you.