Sonny Masero joins Board as Chief Strategy Officer

EVORA Global is delighted to announce that Sonny Masero has joined the company’s Board as Chief Strategy Officer (CSO).

Sonny joins EVORA at an exciting and challenging time in the company’s history. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic the EVORA Board is looking ahead; knowing that the sustainability of real assets remains a high ESG priority for investors. Climate change, the restoration of wildlife and social equality are all a global priority for this decade.

Sonny brings to EVORA Global 25 years of expertise in the field of energy, climate change and sustainability in real estate and corporate governance. He has worked with CleanTech and PropTech businesses, including CA Technologies and Demand Logic, winning nineteen industry awards for innovation, leadership and best practice. Sonny is able to draw upon a broad depth of experience across a wide range of companies, from Fortune 500 and FTSE corporations, SMEs, charities and start-ups –two of these securing recognition as Best UK Workplaces.

As CSO, Sonny will develop and drive forward EVORA’s market strategy, using technology to support our consultancy team to deliver outstanding and leading solutions to the industry – to be the best. Building on EVORA’s market leading SIERA software platform, the strategy will respond to interest from investors in the active management and disclosure of ESG risks and climate resilience. The next decade is critical to tackling climate change and biodiversity restoration, and EVORA is committed to helping clients achieve the largest positive impact they can.

Chris Bennett, CEO, comments “EVORA has managed to plot a successful route through 2020 in a very difficult and unusual time. I am extremely pleased that someone of Sonny’s reputation has chosen to join our Board to help drive the business forward to achieve even greater success.”

Sonny Masero said “EVORA has a strong reputation in the ESG market, working closely with the leading property investors and investment managers, and doing so with integrity. I am excited to be joining Chris, Paul and Ed’s company to execute on a growth strategy with a clear sustainability purpose at such an important time.”

EU Taxonomy: A Law of Significance

On Friday 19th June, the European Parliament adopted the Taxonomy Regulation. This could be the most significant piece of legislation which affects the treatment of sustainability risks by the European investment community. The Taxonomy is more than a system of classification of ESG risks and opportunities – its weight could make ripples around the global investment community.

Whilst ESG has been a niche investment class for the last couple of decades, the difference now is that Climate Change is seen as a mainstream investment risk. As Larry Flint said earlier this year, “Climate Risk is Investment Risk”. The members of the UN Asset-Owners Alliance, managing $4.7tn of assets, have committed to transition their portfolios to Net Zero Carbon by 2050. The world’s largest pension funds – GPIF, CalSTRS & USS – list climate change as their biggest ESG risk. This is not a niche regulation. It is expected to directly affect 7,000 listed companies and all issued fund-managed products. 

Whilst the Taxonomy’s main focus is on environmental issues – i.e. Climate Change Mitigation; Climate Change Adaptation; Sustainable & Protection of Water & Marine Resources; Transition to a Circulate Economy; Pollution Prevention & Control; and Protection & Restoration of Biodiversity & Ecosystems – it also has minimum social safeguards. Further legislation is expected to better regulate the social impact of investments so this Taxonomy is not the end in correcting existing market distortions.

The Taxonomy is important because it intervenes in how environmental investments are classified. It also sets our screening criteria and thresholds of significance. This is influential because it describes thresholds for a variety of activities. The thresholds are markers for what a ‘Significant Contribution’ is to tackling a particular challenge, like Climate Change Mitigation. It also sets in law thresholds for Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) so if you are investing to make a Significant Contribution to tackling Climate Change Mitigation you must also DNSH to Biodiversity.

For climate change mitigation, a 50%-55% reduction in emissions by 2030 is one criteria and net-zero by 2050 obviously. The weighty Technical Appendix, which accompanies the Taxonomy guidance, is more detailed and sets significance thresholds for a range of activities, including construction and the improvement of property:

  • “Acquisition and ownership: buildings built after 2021 are eligible if they meet the criteria for the ‘Construction of new buildings’, while buildings built before 2021 are eligible if their performance is comparable to the performance of the top 15% of the national stock, in terms of calculated Primary Energy Demand during the use phase. An additional requirement is applied only to large non-residential buildings (built both before and after 2021) to ensure efficient operations through energy management.
  • “Construction of new buildings: to be eligible, the design and construction of new buildings need to ensure a net primary energy demand that is at least 20% lower than the level mandated by national regulations. This is assessed through the calculated energy performance of the building, i.e. performance forecasted on the basis of modelling building physics under typical climatic and occupancy conditions.”

These criteria and thresholds are set out now and will be reviewed on 3-year cycle. You can expect them to ratchet up every 5 years so if you have long-term holds in your fund it is important to be aware of this process. The publication of this Taxonomy now is valuable because it can be built into due diligence processes and investment appraisals, including risks to income, growth and exit value. The start of 2022 is when this disclosure requirement will come into effect, but expect the preparation to start now. 

The Taxonomy Regulation builds on the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) and the recent Regulation on the Disclosure of Sustainability Risks in Financial Services, which sets out high-level requirements for clear communication of these investment risks from March 2021. These are all key legal components of the European Green New Deal and the related Action Plan on Sustainable Finance.

Data is key to compliance with these regulations as these are measurable criteria. By investing over the next 12 months in the right data model and software platform will provide a competitive advantage. EVORA’s advisory team and our SIERA software platform can help real asset investors navigate their way through this emerging legislation, which is a key transition risk and opportunity as we move to a greener economy. 

Coincidentally, the 19th June is also Juneteenth, which is an internationally significant day for social equality. It marks the day on which the US Emancipation Proclamation was finally enforced in Texas in 1865. This brought to the end the abhorrent practice of “investment” in slaves as “property”, which directly affected three continents and has repercussions around the world up until the present day. 

Today’s Black Lives Matter movement is a tangible reminder of why ethical and environmental investment decisions made today do matter for generations. This has been true for slavery and will be true for our environmental and social governance now and in the near future. If we don’t get it right now, future generations may well look back on us and ask why we didn’t take more responsibility.

If you would like to attend a training session on EU Legislation and Taxonomy, please email where we can provide you with information on dates and times.

No longer optional: Shifting to a more sustainable investment model

Recent months have seen a flurry of articles demonstrating that many sustainable (ESG) investments have outperformed their unsustainable non-ESG rivals during the intense market-downturn caused by COVID-19.

BlackRock – one of the world’s largest investment managers – and MCSI – a leading investment research firm – are amongst those who have published robust analyses illustrating a positive link between sustainability and market performance. Key snippets from BlackRock’s recent ‘Sustainable Investing: Resilience amid Uncertainty’ report, include:

“Although sustainable ETFs [exchange traded funds] comprise just 1% of the total ETF industry, they have had an outsized influence on overall industry inflows. Meanwhile, traditional money market funds experienced outflows of 10% for the month of March, while sustainable options benefited from inflows of 12%”

“We believe that we are still in the early stages of a persistent and long-lasting shift toward sustainability – the full effects of which are not yet included in market prices, given the long transition. This is a transformation that we expect to see through the current pandemic, recovery, and long after” [1]

Of course, not all investment classes have seen the same correlation, but the general message is clear: sustainable investments make for more resilient investments.

Add to this the emphasis being placed by leading businesses and investors on a COVID-19 recovery that ‘builds back better’ [2] – and the case for a sustainable investment strategy has never been stronger.

Mix-in the society’s other persistent, growing, existential threats – inequality, labour exploitation, resource depletion, climate change and ecosystem collapse – and shifting to a more sustainable investment model is, surely, no longer optional.

So-what for commercial real estate and infrastructure investors?

Clearly, all businesses will be evaluating how they have fared during COVID-19 and what strategic changes are required to survive and/or thrive in the new world. Sustainability must be a significant part of this conversation.

We are sustainability (ESG) strategy advisors working with many leading real estate and infrastructure investors to embed sustainability into their business. For us, it’s the G in ESG that’s key: Governance. Governance processes must enable comprehensive identification, assessment and monitoring of present and emerging material risks and opportunities. Get the governance right, and the E and S (environment and social) naturally follow [3].

Of course, we tailor our solution to the client. For those starting out on their sustainability journey or looking for a more significant overhaul of their current approach, we work with them to build a comprehensive sustainability strategy, from scratch. Whereas, for clients already equipped with a strong framework, we enhance and update; not reinvent.

For all clients, we make sure that sustainability ambitions are aligned to [and where appropriate inform] strategic business objectives. We also seek to integrate sustainability within existing investment processes – in order that it becomes business as usual, as soon as possible.

Get in touch with the EVORA Sustainability (ESG) Strategy team today.

[1] Sustainable Investing: Resilience amid Uncertainty, BlackRock 2020

[2] Through the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), over 200 leading businesses and investors have lobbied the UK government for a COVID-19 recovery plan that yields a more inclusive, stronger and resilient UK economy.

[3] …broadly!

Why a zero carbon design is a smart investment

Zero carbon is the buzzword in the industry, with the UK becoming the first major economy in the world to pass laws requiring net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To this ambitious end, all future developments and, importantly, existing buildings will have to take significant strides towards reducing energy consumption.

Some investment managers may hear this and balk, envisioning a world where investment in zero carbon technologies at their assets is prohibitively expensive. This is far from reality. It would be a mistake to consider energy efficiency as divorced from other contributors of a high-performance, high-income yielding asset. Energy efficiency projects confer many additional benefits of interest to investment managers, including improved tenant satisfaction and health and wellbeing, and risk mitigation for the asset – all of which improve the asset’s bottom line.

As an example, consider improvements to the building fabric through high performance glazing or insulation upgrades. Such an improvement reduces energy costs and could increase the asset’s net operating income and therefore market value. A less often reported benefit is that a tighter building fabric is simply more comfortable, fostering spaces that increase tenant productivity, happiness, and health. Accordingly, these two elements – efficient operation and thermal comfort – de-risk elements of obsolescence allowing investment managers to maintain high occupancy at the asset with quality tenants that secure rental income.

Mitigate against future costs

Investment in zero carbon interventions also improve the resilience of the asset and minimise risk. Reducing an asset’s energy consumption mitigates against energy price fluctuations and futureproofs investments against regulatory and market changes, such as the plan under consultation to increase minimum UK EPC ratings from E to B by 2030.

This is therefore a call to action to invest in zero carbon interventions that prioritise enhancement of the occupant experience. Some key asset level strategies include maximising indoor air quality through adequate ventilation and filtration, improving thermal comfort with right-sized HVAC systems, creating tighter building fabrics, installing green infrastructure, and maximising natural daylight opportunities to attune light levels with occupant circadian rhythms.

In concert, these interventions not only position the asset to be zero carbon, but also contribute considerable value to the asset. It is well known that zero carbon interventions confer savings that will result in a larger return over the life of the project. Less well known is that research indicates that a zero carbon building can be constructed with no added upfront cost compared to business-as-usual construction.

“A zero carbon design with minimal upfront costs and additional savings through the asset lifecycle is simply a smart investment”

A meta-analysis completed by the US Green Building Council, Massachusetts, entitled “Zero Energy Buildings in Massachusetts: Saving Money from the Start” suggests that, with an integrated design team working towards a zero carbon goal, a cost transfer is possible where the increased cost for a higher performing building envelope is balanced by less costly, simplified mechanical systems. Such collaboration therefore results in little or no additional capital cost for whole-building zero carbon developments.

Hence, a zero carbon design with minimal upfront costs and additional savings through the asset lifecycle is simply a smart investment. Cost savings are further amplified by the price of carbon, projected to increase owing to increased demand and constrained supply of offsets. Asset business plans and investment financial models should increasingly account for the lifecycle benefits associated with projects supporting zero carbon ambitions.

Gaining competitive edge

These interventions are also crucial for getting ahead of legislative requirements that will soon make business-as-usual construction obsolete. The Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor is a tool developed especially for the EU and UK commercial real estate sector that forecasts the carbon emission trajectory that real estate portfolios will need to follow in alignment with Paris Agreement targets (below 2°C of warming from pre-industrial levels). The CRREM model can therefore be used to quantify potential real estate investments at risk of poor carbon performance and hence obsolescence owing to failure in meeting future market expectations.

The pathway to zero carbon is an ambitious challenge, but also a wonderful opportunity that should be embraced.  Targeting an asset towards zero carbon is not just good for the planet – it is crucial for remaining competitive in the marketplace.

This article was originally published by Estate’s Gazette

Sustainability Report Post-COVID-19

As COVID-19 coincided with our spring peak reporting season, our reporting clients have had to consider adjusting their reports to suit. Despite the focus on the 2019 reporting calendar, many have chosen to acknowledge COVID-19 within the introduction or even a dedicated full chapter, allowing stakeholders to considerately judge the effectiveness of the organisation’s response.

This crisis has also placed an emphasis on social criteria. We have observed more reports focusing on the treatment of employees, suppliers, and relationships with local communities. Changing stakeholder priorities means that organisations are increasing attentions on social issues to demonstrate responsiveness to the highest priorities at the present time.

We perceive next year’s reporting to be the most changed by the disruption has caused. Accordingly, EVORA is developing aspects of reporting, including:

  • Re-examining materiality assessments to ensure the true identification of sustainability issues that are important to both stakeholders and business continuity.
  • Presenting further disclosures, to provide effective insight into an organisations COVID-19 response.
  • Continuation of reporting on standard, year-on-year ESG data and performance, which will allow readers to evaluate the organisation’s resistance to shocks.
  • Backing data with contextual explanations. We perceive that there will be significant reductions in environmental performance data reported, such as energy and travel. This fall in carbon emissions will undoubtedly accelerate the attainment of sustainability goals. However, this distortion will require a full narrative with expectations for future trajectory.

Stakeholder scrutiny of how organisations are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing heightened attention to the importance of corporate transparency on sustainability issues. EVORA design reporting strategies for organisations, enabling them to apply frameworks, communicate meaningful sustainability outcomes and impacts to key stakeholders and use reporting as a tool to improve sustainability performance. Get in touch with the EVORA reporting team today.

EVORA become signatories to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment

We are delighted to announce that EVORA Global has joined nearly 100 other organisations in signing The World Green Building Council’s Commitment.

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) is a global network leading the transformation of the built environment to make it healthier and more sustainable. Their Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment calls for companies, cities, states and regions to reach Net Zero operating emissions in their portfolios by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be net zero in 2050.

The aim is to drastically reduce operating emissions from buildings, and in doing maximising the chances of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees.

Sixty-two of the 96 Commitment participants are businesses and organisations, and collectively our action alone will reduce more than 3.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions. Additionally, 28 cities and 6 states and regions have signed the Commitment, signalling a shift in political will towards net zero policy.

“Since launching EVORA in 2011, I’ve seen a monumental shift in opinion. Not just in the real estate industry, but the whole conversation of suitability, responsibility to the environment and climate change. We are excited to join and promote this important initiative. We shall continue to use our influence to challenge traditional approaches to demonstrate both the necessity and business case for ensuring climate and ESG related risks are systematically assessed throughout the investment process. ESG is here to stay and we intend to be at the forefront of tackling climate change and ensuring a sustainable future.”

Chris Bennett, EVORA Managing Director

The WorldGBC’s Commitment for zero carbon buildings places energy saving at its heart. This approach is completely aligned with EVORA’s commitment to reducing operating emissions from buildings and belief in building a more sustainable future.