GRESB 2022 is almost here! Are you ready?

At EVORA we are already preparing our clients and ourselves for the next GRESB cycle. Because, like spring, it is just around the corner.

Every year, the GRESB portal opens its doors on April 1st and closes them on July 1st. During this time, the wires to Amsterdam run hot and there are many sleepless nights for some participants. “If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done”, as Mark Twain said.

So, what are the challenges and key deliverables of a GRESB submission?

Data. Data. Data.

Data Coverage is a big deal at GRESB and nearly one-third of the points are linked to consumption data such as energy, carbon, water and waste data. Even if data collation sounds simple, it is not in real life. Data coverage on asset-level can be particularly challenging, especially in the absence of AMR (Automatic Meter Reading). However, data collection alone is not enough. It is crucial to understand the data and to identify inconsistencies. This is where our in-house developed software SIERA enters the scene; not only for GRESB submissions but generally to better understand how efficient buildings are within a portfolio.

SIERA was specifically developed for the real estate investment market. It is a platform that enables a highly effective collection of quantitative and qualitative GRESB data, including comprehensive automated verification and intelligent modelling to achieve accurate and transparent disclosure of asset-level performance data. The SIERA GRESB module enables direct submission to the GRESB portal.

GRESB started requiring asset-level performance data (in the sense of consumption data such as energy, water, greenhouse gases, and waste) last year. Previously, this was at the fund level, which of course means that the data reported to GRESB is now much more detailed. This has not changed anything for SIERA users. However, we at EVORA believe that this is not the end of the journey. Our gut feeling tells us that GRESB will increasingly cover the topic of resilience in the future. And here, too, the Net Zero Carbon Module of SIERA offers the opportunity to create simulations that are aligned with the science-based targets of the Paris Agreement, for example.

But GRESB is not only about performance data, and neither is SIERA. When it comes to providing data on efficiency measures taken in terms of water, energy and/or waste, SIERA offers another very helpful feature: the software collects data by using surveys specifically aligned to the GRESB question set. The surveys can be sent individually for each building to, for example, the responsible property manager who may answer the questions online. The responses are sent directly to SIERA so that the overall picture of the condition of an asset becomes more and more complete.

But coming back to the GRESB cycle.

The picture is as complete as possible, which means all available and relevant data is checked, prepared and verified and finally pushed through the GRESB portal. What happens next? The adrenalin level drops, and we wait until October. But do we really?

In fact, in October, the GRESB results are released, providing not only an overview of how the submitted fund is positioned from a GRESB perspective but – and this is where it gets exciting – also where the fund stands relative to its peers.

Additionally, strengths and weaknesses, as well as potentials, are made comprehensible not only through figures, but also through a series of descriptive graphics.

And what happens in the meantime? We at EVORA will provide our clients with an outlook of the predicted score (as far as it is possible) and an overview of the identified gaps and potentials so that the client has the chance to decide about possible improvement measures in terms of ESG at the half-year. It is important because the same applies to GRESB: standing still leads to falling behind.

However, an ESG strategy should not be a reaction to the GRESB results alone but should exist and be implemented across the board. The GRESB results will help to stay on track and SIERA can support your decision making.

So, the “plan – do – check – act” wheel for ESG measures ideally rolls on continuously and independently of GRESB deadlines. In this way, an ESG strategy can be implemented effectively so that it again has a positive impact on GRESB scoring.

As well as being a GRESB Global Partner, EVORA is also a GRESB leader. In the 2021 cycle, we were supporting over 150 submissions, which is equal to 20% of all Europe’s submissions.

We at EVORA are happy to support you in optimising the ESG & GRESB performance for your fund and your company, and in getting your ESG wheel rolling!

Interested in finding out more? Contact our experts today.

Software as the foundation for investment grade data (IGD)

ESG is here to stay. Momentum is gaining to improve data quality and consistency. Regulations such as Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) are clearly helping to drive this. The perceived distinction between financial and non-financial data is not helpful one when ESG data, which might conventionally be seen as non-financial, is used all the time to inform investment decisions.

Clearly those who are managing data for ESG strategy implementation and reporting rightly need to focus on aspects, which London Stock Exchange highlighted, such as:

  • Reporting boundaries: ensuring data aligns to the fiscal timeframes and financial structure
  • Comparability and consistency: employing best practice in terms of methodologies
  • Provision of data: qualitative and quantitative for vital context and narrative.
  • External assurance: adding credibility to ESG reporting by following the principles of an independent auditing of the process.
  • Accuracy: establishing robust systems to bolster the collection and quality of ESG data.

Historically there’s been underinvestment in the systems and processes in the real estate sector to address data accuracy and quality. This can be said in relation to the adoption of technology but also from a resources and experience perspective. The requirements and expectations of ESG reporting in real estate has evolved rapidly and perhaps faster than the pace many companies are going at to address these gaps. Key to success in this is engaging those involved in the foundations of ESG data and with the tools like SIERA and SIERA+.

Take for example Net Zero Carbon (NZC) as a relevant ESG theme. Many real estate companies have made public commitments to reaching NZC by 2050. NZC is now firmly on the radar of Asset and Investment managers who are getting their heads around a new lexicon and learning how they begin to develop asset business plans and investment strategies that mitigate these transition risks.

A necessary first step is to get a baseline of performance to understand the current energy and carbon intensity of assets and funds/portfolios and what the impact of current action plans will be on NZC pathways.

To achieve this companies must get the fundamentals right in terms of having visibility of and centralising information to answer some key questions: where are the gaps in data coverage?, which are the best and worst performers in the portfolio?, What’s the current status of asset action plans?, Where in the portfolio should action be prioritised for improvement on each of these?

Example Portfolio dashboard, SIERA+

Undoubtedly technology plays an essential role here as a tool to drive efficiency and consistency in the data collection process and to centralise that data. However, ultimately this comes down to providing an easy and simple means of engagement and collaboration between Asset & Investment management and Property Managers.

We have developed SIERA+ to better equip property managers in engaging with ESG and addressed the priority needs; provide a simple view on performance against targets, ability to manage data quality and keep on top of actions. Notifications prompt when action is required and it’s generally set up to let users focus on the most material issues.

Example Action Plan dashboard, SIERA+

We also recognise that the culture of Property Managers can vary across diverse portfolios and English is not always the first language. Since this is about improving engagement we have made SIERA+ available in 5 languages.

Get in touch to know more.

ESG Data is Growing Up

We are entering a new era of ESG data. Historic market failures regarding our negative environmental and social impacts, and the resulting climate change, nature loss and social inequality, are starting to be corrected with structural changes to the market.

In the financial sector, we are seeing both dynamic and double materiality becoming an integral part of decision making. The WEF introduced the concept of dynamic materiality in 2020, where an ESG topic which is financial immaterial today can become material tomorrow. That is coupled with double materiality, which considers both the inside-out view of ESG, that is what impact does an asset have on the environment and society, as well as the outside-in view of what impact environmental, social and governance issues have on the asset.

Climate change and carbon pricing is a good example. In terms of dynamic materiality, an increasing number of companies are adopting an evolutionary internal carbon price to drive low carbon investment in real assets and to mitigate the risks of cost increases as climate change externalities are corrected in the economy – this price will increase over time making financial materiality more likely across all sectors. There is an obvious point of connection here with double materiality, which is that real assets create emissions and will inevitably face more regulations over time – see the PRI Inevitable Policy Response Forecast Report. As our climate changes we will see an increase in severity and/or frequency of extreme weather events which can damage and disrupt real assets. All of these aspects of potential materiality have to be considered in financial appraisals and investment-grade ESG data can provide insight on trends and relative performance of assets.

Investment and Asset Managers are using ESG data from assets to make investment decisions: choosing the right assets to acquire and dispose of; deciding how to finance improvements to those assets; and investment & credit risk management processes are now incorporating ESG data. 

Those processes and decisions are becoming more transparent to the providers of capital, so the quality of ESG data has to become investment grade.

The expectations from investors, and their asset managers, of ESG data is closing the gap with the financial and commercial data captured in asset management software, but the budgets invested in ESG data management software and processes is vastly different. ESG data is now more valuable than it has ever been before and financial regulations are going to increase that value. 

The EU Action Plan for Sustainable Finance, and similar changes to UK financial regulations, means that the duties of asset managers & lenders and the decision they take about ESG risks and opportunities are no longer optional.

Without investment-grade data about ESG performance and sustainability actions then it is not possible to understand the full impact on asset value. ESG risk, in particular climate risk, is a financial risk and this data should be incorporated into every financial decision. 

That wasn’t the case last year, so this change is happening quickly. 

ESG data was being used in-house to monitor performance, as it has been for the last decade or so. It was used for annual reporting and for voluntary disclosure. There was a small minority of investors asking about ESG at the start of 2020, but throughout the pandemic this has changed quickly. Last year, there was not a fiduciary duty to be discharged based on ESG data. Nor staff incentive programmes based on ESG measurements. That has all changed as the market has grown up to take a more sophisticated view of how our economy relies on natural and social capital, not just financial and manufactured capital. The materiality of ESG has been recognised across the financial sector.

The financial markets are undergoing a structural change. Sustainable finance, and particularly climate-related finance, is now a global priority. This has led to changing investor requirements and regulatory changes for banks, institutions and fund managers, such as SFDR, MiFID ii and mandatory TCFD reporting are all combining to bring about structural change. We now have to consider dynamic and double materiality and make financial decisions accordingly.

It is slowly, but surely cascading down to real assets: real estate, infrastructure and land.

For those experts in sustainable real estate and infrastructure, it is clear that assets are likely to be mispriced and that the transparency provided by these regulatory requirements for ESG data will make that clear. Without ESG data on performance and actions, it is not possible to assess the cost of transition. For real assets, there is not a trading solution to disperse all of these liabilities by disposing of them to others. There is a need to retain, rethink, invest and dispose based on early knowledge of ESG risks. The later this happens the most likely it is that asset owners will see value erosion through reduced income, defaults, decreasing exit values and cap rate compression.

ESG transparency will also influence tenants and the users of real assets. There is a reputational risk of not taking sustainability performance seriously enough. Now that people have more choice about where they work and live, this risk could be more material to income and asset value than ever before.

At EVORA Global, with our SIERA and SIERA+ software, we are making these risks more visible and manageable. This is enabling our clients to make proactive decisions about their assets and funds, and to effectively engage with investors and other stakeholders.

It is time to approach ESG data in a new way. The historic policies, processes and procedures may no longer be fit for purpose. Most of them are only backwards-looking and there is now mandatory requirements to be forward-looking, which has its risks and uncertainties. In choosing an ESG data management platform ensure that it is future-proof, aware of this rapidly changing financial landscape.


If you would like to get in touch with the EVORA team, you can do so by filling in our form or by emailing contactus@evoraglobal.com

Forward-looking ESG data

To integrate climate risk and sustainability into financial decisions, we need to standardise metrics, improve data quality and ensure that it is forward-looking as well as measuring past performance. For climate risk, this is an essential part of the TCFD Recommendations for integrating climate risk as an investment risk.

Climate risk is divided into three categories:

  1. Transition risk
  2. Physical risk
  3. Litigation risk

They all have forward-looking components. In ESG data terms, we can use historic data and data models to project future implications. We can do this more easily for the E in ESG because we know that we’re operating within planetary boundaries so we know there are limits. The Stockholm Resilience Centre (2015) monitors the nine planetary boundaries shown below.

Whilst this illustration doesn’t show us overshooting the climate change planetary boundary, that is because we haven’t yet. We are on track to do so with our present rate of greenhouse gas (GHG or carbon) emissions. That is why, in 2015, the UN Paris Agreement was signed by 195 states. This Agreement set us on a course to reduce emissions to Net Zero Carbon (NZC) by 2050, which keeps global warming well below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C, to prevent catastrophic, non-linear climate change.

Over the last two years, many real estate companies and investors have committed to a Net Zero Carbon target and some have a pathway to get there. For most fund managers, they have not yet had time to project out a NZC pathway for their fund and real assets.

A science-based NZC pathway can show a clear route to reducing emissions each year. We need to be over halfway to NZC by 2030. However, local markets will move at different speeds depending on their starting point today; the local regulations; the cost of energy and carbon emissions; and, to some degree, the local awareness of a changed climate and how this forces climate adaptation. Climate adaptation will be required to protect against extreme weather events, which have become fiercer and/or more common over the past decade increasing insurance losses and premia.

These climate risks are the reason why ESG data needs to be forward-looking.

At EVORA Global, we have developed our SIERA software to be forward-looking on climate risk. We have worked on two new modules. The first is focused on NZC and transition risks and this is already available. The second builds on our partnership with Moody’s 427 physical climate risk assessment, which is used by our consultancy team. This will enable users to see both sets of climate risk in one place, associated with each asset and fund.

The screengrab below shows the NZC module, shows a real estate portfolio and the fund’s NZC pathway. This uses asset energy data from the last 9-12 months to calculate carbon emissions for the whole building. Based on asset type and location, it then automatically projects a science-based NZC pathway out to show the required emissions reduction. The tool can then be used to run different scenarios for emissions reduction based on what is know about each asset.

There are other features within the NZC module so do get in touch if you’d like to organise a demo

GRESB + SIERA = Success

Sustainability data can be complex. It can show many interesting patterns and insightful trends about energy usage, but at the same time be hard to manage.  The ability to use sustainability data to reduce energy usage by seeing the impact of actions is one of its most powerful features. Connecting those patterns and trends to actions leads to results.

GRESB provides a way of thinking about sustainability data which focuses effort on certain areas and types of energy consumption. SIERA is the sustainability software solution by EVORA for managing asset portfolio data to help achieve sustainability goals. SIERA provides a way of seeing those areas and types of energy consumption by organising consumption, meters, properties, and funds to make it easier to understand. That’s why EVORA sustainability consultants use it get the best out of the data, and easily see patterns which otherwise would be hidden.

But GRESB provides its own challenges. Submitting data to GRESB involves making sure the data is correct, accurate and above all reflects the performance of a property and ultimately a portfolio.

GRESB can be challenging to get right

For those who submit to GRESB, there’s a lot of data to prepare – a lot of ducks to get into rows if you will. One of the first hurdles is making sure that your asset data is correct, that floor areas add up correctly and that the consumption, waste or emissions make sense to GRESB. There’s wide range of categories and ownership to consider, and things like where emissions are generated and who consumes them.

In short, it can easily become somewhat of a mountain of information to organise. GRESB provide a website and a spreadsheet you can use to upload data. The website points out where things don’t add up correctly and you work through the errors until they’re all gone.

GRESB also provides the ability to use software to upload your data. This method is very similar to the website except errors are sent to the software instead of the GRESB webpage. SIERA uses this method to direct the wealth of asset data it contains about assets in the portfolios and funds managed by EVORA consultants.

This connection means SIERA can take advantage of its own intelligence to make it easier to prepare for GRESB.

SIERA makes things clearer

SIERA is a platform whose main aim is to make sustainability data more manageable and the intelligence within it easier to see. It shines at tasks like GRESB mainly because it already contains a lot of the data required for a GRESB submission. SIERA uses this data to show the patterns, monitor the impact of actions and to look for potential improvements.

SIERA has a wide range of different ways of showing the data, each taking a different slice of the data to show a pattern. Having so many different views on the data makes it much easier to understand the data which gets sent to GRESB.

Asset-level reporting becomes easy

This year GRESB changed how data is reported. Before it was fund-level, meaning the total consumption and usage of all assets in a fund was submitted. This year it became asset-level. This means the energy and performance of each individual asset is submitted. As you can imagine, this means much more detail is needed and a finer grain of accuracy than before.

Luckily for SIERA users this didn’t pose a problem. SIERA already recorded data at the meter level so this change didn’t cause a problem.

Qualitative survey answers add colour

GRESB doesn’t just focus on utility readings. It also asks a range of questions about the social initiatives, engagements and technical assessments done for each asset. This qualitative data helps to show how a building is being managed and what social programs are taking place to increase the sustainability of an asset.

SIERA captures this data using surveys. SIERA surveys capture exactly the qualitative data that GRESB asks about. Surveys can be sent out to building and property managers for each asset and contain a range of questions about the asset and its management.

SIERA automatically prepares the answers for the GRESB questions which focus on the building management. Where it can, SIERA also uses data it already has to save time for anyone submitting data to GRESB. For example, rather than ask every property manager if a building uses automatic meter readings, SIERA simply looks at the meters in the asset and checks itself.

No GRESB errors doesn’t always mean correct

Once the asset data has been checked for any updates, SIERA displays the whole GRESB submission in one page. This table makes errors or unexpected variances stand out so you can quickly correct any potential mistakes.

EVORA consultants use SIERA to prepare submissions for clients. On top of that, because they’re experts in their field, they use it to see where adjustments might be necessary.

GRESB show where data doesn’t add up using errors and outliers. This helps to make sure data like floor area coverage is correct, but it doesn’t highlight poorly organised data. EVORA consultants know to look for variances which may indicate problems like consumption data that has been incorrectly allocated to the wrong area of the building.

EVORA uses SIERA to achieve higher GRESB scores

Using these SIERA features make GRESB easier to get right, but they also make it easier to get higher scores. EVORA consultants use the fine-grain control of SIERA and the data visualisations and views to get the most out of the data, and correct issues before they get to GRESB.

Whilst other sustainability software can also prepare submissions for GRESB, SIERA ensures that the data is both in its best form, and used to get real results. Once the GRESB period is over EVORA consultants use the data to feedback to clients to help guide which actions will achieve an asset’s sustainability goals.

This combination of EVORA + SIERA explains how EVORA helped a number of our clients achieve GRESB global sector leadership and Hines Europe to achieve 100% in its Resilience score.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch with the team at contactus@evoraglobal.com.

How difficult can it be to develop software?

Back in 2011 Paul, Ed and I founded EVORA Global, a niche sustainability consultancy focussed on the real estate investment market, driven by a passion to make a difference.

A year later we were winning more clients, gathering an abundance of data and our spreadsheets started bursting at the seams. Although there was a proliferation of energy management software around, sustainability software was thin on the ground. After a very brief relationship with a small outfit, which went bust even before the ink had dried on our agreement, we made the bold move of deciding to do it ourselves – I mean, how difficult could it be?

It’s worth noting at this point none of us had any software experience but when you’re budding entrepreneurs why let a minor point of naivety and ignorance get in the way of a great idea and enthusiasm.

My friend Pete, a software developer who had recently been made redundant, and had kicked off a mobile app business, was keen to support us. So, with a hefty budget of £30k supported by a ‘detailed’ design sketched out on numerous bits of paper, Pete launched off to create the best and latest sustainability software to wow our clients. And amazingly it was pretty good. How and why on earth do companies spend millions on software development we thought.

Ok, so we did more than double the budget that year to add a few bells and whistles and for at least 12 months all was looking good. But nothing is ever that straight forward. Our business was growing, our clients were getting more demanding and the software had been built on a simple (and cheap) framework to speed up development, which quickly hit a ceiling of scalability and functionality.

After a swift Board meeting the decision was made to up the investment in the software to create release two. In reality, this actually meant starting again from scratch but since we thought we knew what we were doing now, what could go wrong.

With a bigger budget Pete built Version 2 in a new framework and with some outside help. Again, it was impressive what we achieved but it was very much a tool for our consultants, rather than a client facing software product. This was not a necessarily a bad thing. It was driving internal productivity and ensuring the quality of data, something we’d become recognised for. But keen to engage and excite our clients, we designed some impressive reporting formats, outsourcing the development to a third party. We learnt a lot at this stage, most of it painful and costly.

Having negotiated what seemed like a great deal with the outsourcing company, the reality is you get what you pay for. The ineptitude of one of their staff highlighted this, when we happened to stumble upon a tweet from one of their juniors saying how great it was to be put in charge of a project having only recently graduated – yes, our project.

Major overruns and a proliferation of bugs, which went untested turned out not to be the major issue. We’d developed an ‘almost’ amazing interactive front end…. which our clients did not want to use – “Just send us PDF prints” was the feedback. The problem was there was no PDF print functionality – somehow, we’d missed this during our market evaluation.

So fast forward several years and we now have a dedicated inhouse team of 10 software professionals who are great at what they do, producing a fantastic software platform, SIERA.

We have now, like the others, spent several millions on the software – all self-funded I might add. SIERA is used by our consultants (all 47 of them) to deliver tech enabled solutions to our clients – and it does it amazingly well. And it has helped us win some major instructions with leaders in the industry such as Schroders, LGIM, UBS, Hines and The Crown Estate.

Until recently, our investment has been predominantly under the bonnet, rather than client facing. In simple terms, if other sustainability software  products are like a getting into a shiny BMW, SIERA is like getting into the cockpit of an Airbus – you need a pilot to fly it, but you’ll get way further. SIERA is different to its competitors, and better.

Investing in SIERA is a continual process and we work with experts to create the optimal experience for the many types of users who engage with SIERA. Most recently we released our Climate Risk functionality that supports investment managers in setting and tracking their energy and net zero carbon targets, whilst highlighting high energy intensity buildings with poor energy ratings. It’s this level of insight that enables us to uniquely support our clients in managing their risks.

SIERA is an incredibly powerful software tool, totally niche to the real estate investment market. It helps our consultants to deliver amazing solutions to our clients, and it helps our clients understand and reach their sustainability goals. This is the essence of who we are.

I’ll keep you updated on SIERA’s continued evolution, in the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more about SIERA please let me know.

cbennett@evoraglobal.com

Climate Risk Readiness White Paper

1.   Why is climate change such an important investment risk for investors in real estate & infrastructure?

A summary of the factors driving change in the real asset markets.

In early 2020, before the pandemic hit, BlackRock’s Larry Fink called out the fact that “Climate Change is Investment Risk”. Three paragraphs of his annual letter stood out, highlighting the connection between material climate risk, their impact pathways, and the drivers of asset value:

“Will cities be able to afford their infrastructure needs as climate risk reshapes the market for municipal bonds? What will happen to the 30-year mortgage – a key building block of finance – if lenders can’t estimate the impact of climate risk over such a long timeline, and if there is no viable market for flood or fire insurance in impacted areas? What happens to inflation, and in turn interest rates, if the cost of food climbs from drought and flooding? How can we model economic growth if emerging markets see their productivity decline due to extreme heat and other climate impacts?

“Investors are increasingly reckoning with these questions and recognizing that climate risk is investment risk. Indeed, climate change is almost invariably the top issue that clients around the world raise with BlackRock. From Europe to Australia, South America to China, Florida to Oregon, investors are asking how they should modify their portfolios. They are seeking to understand both the physical risks associated with climate change as well as the ways that climate policy will impact prices, costs, and demand across the entire economy.

“These questions are driving a profound reassessment of risk and asset values. And because capital markets pull future risk forward, we will see changes in capital allocation more quickly than we see changes to the climate itself. In the near future – and sooner than most anticipate – there will be a significant reallocation of capital.”

On its own, this proclamation from the CEO of the world’s largest asset manager might have created a few ripples in the investment markets, but not create a wholesale market transformation. However, the letter sandwiched an unprecedented period in the history of mankind’s battle with climate change. At the end of 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) published a Special Report on the impact of global warming of 1.5°C, which provided a stark warning about the consequences of inaction on climate change. In the period between these two events, several other activities took place which reinforce the market change:

  • Public opinion about the need to act on climate change shifted significantly in favour of action, in no small part to the meteoric rise in popularity of Greta Thunberg’s ‘Fridays for Future’ school children protests and the disruption caused by other campaign groups, such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests, and legal class actions brought forward by student groups around the world.
  • Climate science and the quality of climate modelling continues to improve, with recent work showing that the likely outcome of global warming will be between an average global warming of 2.6°C and 3.9°C. This is well above the low-risk threshold of 2°C agreed at the 2015 Paris Climate Summit (COP 21) and the preferred target of 1.5°C.
  • Significant capital reallocation towards delivering ESG objectives happened during 2019 and continued into 2020.

These factors, combined with new and forthcoming government regulations, would suggest that climate change and broader sustainability (or Environmental, Social & Governance) issues are here to stay for investors. Their material impact on financial returns is starting to become better understood as more time and money is invested in improving our knowledge and its application in real asset investment markets. Ignorance of these issues is no longer an excuse.

The way in which climate risks are being understood is in 3 categories:

  1. Physical risk
  2. Transition risk
  3. Litigation, or Liability, risk

For physical risk, the first step is to understand which climate-related hazards present a material risk, both now and over the period of an investment, including the disposal value. For instance, the materiality of a flood hazard could increase over time as climate change creates the conditions for more frequent and/or more severe floods causing damage or disruption to an asset. The impact pathway for that hazard could be that the repair costs and frequency of the floods means that an asset becomes uninsurable. Another impact pathway could be that the flooding makes it impossible to access an asset, which in turn reduces occupancy and the related revenue that generates.

The complex nature of the changes brought about by our warming climate means that the risk hazards and impact pathways could influence the drivers of asset value in multiple ways.

Whilst some of these material risks are apparent today, there are many others which will become much more visible over the coming decade. The trends that we see which could accelerate changes to asset value include: increased environmental & social disruption; increasing government regulation; and the internalisation of these costs to mitigate climate change and to adapt to the consequences. Companies and asset managers need to be prepared to avoid the risk of litigation.

2. What are the expectations for how investors and asset managers will respond to climate risks?

There is increasing certainty about how to be prepared to action.

Climate-related financial risk is a new topic for investors. In 2015, Mark Carney, as the Governor of the Bank of England, gave a speech which warned of the threat of climate change to financial stability. He spoke of the “Tragedy of the Horizon” where inaction on climate change today imposes a cost on future generations that the current generation has no direct incentive to fix. Meaning that the time horizon for decision-making in typical business and investment cycle is not suitable for tackling the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Earlier in the same year, the G20 asked the international Financial Stability Board (FSB) to report on how climate change risks could be accounted for in the financial sector. Both of these events were precursors to the UN Climate Summit (COP21) in Paris later that year. The international political agreement reached at COP21 was a watershed for international climate policy as governments agreed that a target of limiting global warming to 2°C is a necessity to avoid catastrophic changes and that getting well-below this figure was desirable, so 1.5°C is the stretch target. To achieve this target collectively, we need to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent, by 2050 – also known as getting to Net Zero Carbon or being Carbon Neutral by 2050. Failure to do this will mean that the Earth will continue to warm and the financial losses will be much greater.

This growing recognition that climate change and the related financial risks have to be considered in the financial markets led to the announcement during COP21 to establish a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) under the auspices of the FSB and chaired by Michael Bloomberg. The TCFD will develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies and asset managers in providing information to investors, lenders, insurers, and other stakeholders. Considering the physical, liability and transition risks associated with climate change.

One year later the TCFD published its Recommendations for consultation, which were finalised by the summer of 2017. Over the last 3 years since the Recommendations were released there has been considerable efforts made by the FSB-TCFD to build support for their adoption by actors in the financial markets. Recognising that preparing an organisation to embed a comprehensive response to climate-related risks could take 3 years.

In parallel to this promotion of TCFD over the last 3 years, GRESB has been piloting a Climate Risk Module as part of their annual disclosure and benchmarking process specifically for real estate and infrastructure. Other international Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG)/Sustainability reporting standards have also promoted more effective consideration of climate risks and preparedness.

Every year the UN published an Emissions Gap Report. In 2019, the report stated that we need to reduce global GHG emissions by 7.6% every year between 2020-2030. If we don’t start that level of reduction now, then by 2025 we will have to reduce emissions by 15.5% every year to hit the target and this will be more costly and still necessary. The later that we leave act to mitigate GHG emissions, the higher the annual cost of mitigation action and the increased likelihood of increase cost of adaptation to a changed climate. Many companies have now adopted science-based targets aligned with the UN to reduce emissions and to get to zero. Governments are following suit.

The Recommendations of the TCFD are not requirements, they provide voluntary guidance intended to help companies acting in the financial markets to better manage and disclose climate-related financial information. There are four key design features of these recommendations:

  1. They can be adopted by all organisations
  2. They are intended to be included in financial filings
  3. They are designed to solicit decision-useful, forward-looking information on financial impacts
  4. They have a strong focus on risks and opportunities related to the transition to a lower-carbon economy

As investors and asset managers consider how climate risks can be considered in their organisations, the TCFD core elements shown below provide a useful structure for getting the organisation ready to disclose the relevant financial information. The TCFD recommendations should be familiar in structure to CFOs and are reinforced by a recent opinion from IASB which recommends that IFRS reporting should include climate risk disclosure. This is almost a precursor to action on individual assets as the structure allows for a strategic approach to be systematically embedded in risk management and then embedded across all levels of the organisation, from corporate through entities / funds, investment, disposal, development and asset management processes.

EY’s ‘Global Climate Risk Disclosure Barometer’, which reviews the disclosure of 500 companies from 18 countries, shows mixed progress in 2019 in the adoption of the TCFD recommendations. Most progress has been made on ‘Metrics & Targets’ and ‘Governance’, whilst the quality of ‘Strategy’ and ‘Risk Management’ are the least developed. Their sector by sector comparison shows that the ‘Real Estate’ and ‘Asset Owners & Asset Managers’ sectors have made the least progress, in terms of coverage and quality. Suggesting that there is significant progress to be made by real estate investors and asset managers to be ready to manage and report on climate-related financial risks.

Whilst the TCFD Recommendations are voluntary, they are a precursor to mandatory disclosure in Europe resulting from the EU ‘Action Plan on Sustainable Finance’. At least for publicly listed companies and funds. Regulations which begin in 2021 will start this process of increasing disclosure.

The EU Taxonomy Regulation has set out a standard set of environmental impact categories, including Climate Mitigation and Climate Adaptation. This Regulation has established the principle of Do No Significant Harm (DNSH) and has set thresholds for what a ‘Significant’ positive impact looks like. It is expected that companies active in the EU will provide disclosure aligned to this taxonomy and it will provide investors with a common lexicon to use in global due diligence and in the scrutiny of fund performance as we experience more capital flowing into ESG funds.

3. How can a company ensure that they are prepared as an organisation to discharge their fiduciary duty?

There are clear steps that can be taken to be prepared to manage climate risks.

EVORA Global advises real estate and infrastructure investors and asset management in Europe and the USA who have global funds, with assets under management in over 30 countries. Our experience with these organisations has shown that there is a broad spectrum of Climate Risk Readiness. From the largest to the smallest they are considering how they respond to climate-related financial risks. They are having to do so now to ensure that they have access to the best capital.

To get ready, an organisation can undertake a Climate Risk Readiness Gap Analysis, which can be displayed on our EVORA Climate Risk Readiness Radar and compared to their peers. This assessment looks at the organisational readiness and is aligned with the TCFD Recommendations and upcoming regulations. It can be supplemented with fund and asset-level scoring of climate risk exposure and management readiness.

The EVORA Climate Risk Readiness Radar provides an evidence-based scoring mechanism to compare progress. Under each of the five categories – Governance; Strategy; Risk Management; Metrics & Targets; and Disclosure – there are five levels of organisational readiness, and each level has an associated set of actions. For instance, Level 1 Governance required all Board member are trained to understand their fiduciary duty regarding climate risk, including their main materials risks and disclosure responsibilities and requirements. The associated set of actions includes a risk materiality assessment of the organisation’s assets; formal training for the Board; and a declaration by the Board that all of its members have confirmed their understanding.

By understanding this gap analysis of organisational readiness, it is then possible to set out a roadmap for the coming years. This will enable the organisation to communication a clear plan to investors and other stakeholders.

Level 1 Strategy contributes to Level 1 Governance as it requires an assessment of material physical and transition risks through the use of climate scenario analysis. This should be segmented by time horizon, geography and/or sector. As this modelling is a standard requirement for getting to grips with climate risk there are several data analysis software tools now available on the market. The EVORA team has been evaluating which specialist data analysis partner to work with.

The majority of data services available today are focused on analysing physical risks, like the extreme weather impacts of heat, flooding and storms. Our approach to assessing the materiality of physical risks, and to answer the question “so what?”, is in three broad phases:

  1. A portfolio or fund screening of a range of weather hazards to prioritise a deeper investigation of the high-risk assets,
  2. An assessment of the impact pathways to create a shared understanding of how the hazard risk could impact the drivers of asset value, and
  3. A detailed investigation and assessment at asset-level of the specific, material hazards which impact value and are prioritised from 1 & 2 above.

These three phases provide a deeper understanding of risk than a high-level screening can provide. The intention is that this provides a detailed evidence base on which to define a credible, effective and appropriate climate risk strategy and the related processes for risk management. Both of these areas of climate risk management are presently considered weak in most company disclosures.

Today, there is not an existing data partner which can deliver on all three of these phases end-to-end so we collaborate with specialist partners to deliver a comprehensive Climate Risk Materiality Portfolio Assessment service for fund managers. EVORA usually extends this assessment to also cover Transition Risks, in particular forthcoming regulations which could affect value.

These two EVORA Assessments on Readiness and Materiality are essential building blocks in understanding the effort and exposure for an organisation’s preparedness on climate-related financial disclosure. The outputs will provide a clear roadmap for integration over the next few years.

Investor expectations of climate risk have moved on quickly over the last few years. Our expectation is that this acceleration in understanding and scrutiny will continue. Reinforced by new regulations, particularly the regulations flowing from the EU Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth and Paris’ climate mitigation goals, ever-improving climate models and continued emissions of greenhouse gases which are not in line with a Net Zero Carbon trajectory. Those investors who are not prepared are much more likely to acquire assets which are at risk, that is not aligned with science-based decarbonisation pathways and/or exposed to a changed climate. The need for organisational preparedness, embedded across all aspects of investment – i.e. asset management; acquisitions; developments; and disposal – is essential portfolio management. Good quality data and information is vital in delivering expected returns in a market which is transitioning to become low-carbon and adapted for a changed climate. 

EVORA is engaging with companies and relevant institutions to better prepare the real estate and infrastructure sectors for climate mitigation and adaptation disclosure. The approach outlined in this paper is difficult to fast-track in large organisations to ensure it is properly integrated. One of the biggest challenges which remains is solving the ‘Tragedy of the Horizon’ as this means that the actions required in an investment portfolio cannot always be taken within the investment lifecycle. The TCFD initiative is designed to address this challenge and, to be successful, this requires early and comprehensive adoption by real estate actors. We would recommend to our clients that early action on climate risk reduces the risk of Litigation or Liability Risk, as well as falling disposal values of asset exposed to Transition and Physical Risks. The steps outlined here will guide substantial and measurable progress.

EVORA’s Climate Resilience Service

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 training@evoraglobal.com where we can provide you with information on dates and times.

A 2050 target but no time to spare!

By Lucy Curtis and Peter Willcocks

We are now in a critical period requiring rapid and urgent action to retrofit our buildings in a bid to address climate change. The Paris Agreement set a global imperative ¹ to restrict global warming to 2⁰C or below. To achieve this ambition, global greenhouse gas emissions need to reduce rapidly today with developed economies ultimately becoming Net Zero by 2050. We cannot afford to bide our time and cut emissions later.

Several policy drivers are now facilitating a step change in emissions reduction not within the next 30 years, but within the next 10 years. For example, under the European Green Deal, the EU Commission has recently furthered its ambition to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2005 levels. Also, the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) aims to improve energy efficiency by at least 32.5% by 2030 with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) setting out regulations to increase the rate and depth of building retrofit programs. Countries are also formulating long-term national strategies to achieve ‘Net Zero carbon’ targets by 2050 including mobilizing significant investment in innovation and sustainable economic activity such as renewable energy and decarbonization of the energy system.

Those leading the way in commercial real estate have signed the BBP’s Climate Change Commitment and will be disclosing plans to achieve Net Zero carbon by 2050 by the end of this year. ² It is today’s actions that will determine whether intermediate and long-term targets are achieved, but it is crucial that immediate action is coupled with longer term planning in order to minimize costs.

Risks & Opportunities

In the transition to a low-carbon economy, investment manager’s fiduciary responsibility will increasingly include assessment of how climate-related ‘transition’ risks, such as the legislative risks described above, will impact asset values. Such considerations will need to be included in future investment strategies and decision making. 

Buildings where energy and carbon performance is not improving in line with emission reduction targets may be exposed to “stranding” risks. These risks could include a reduced investor, market and tenant demand, and exposure to increasing energy costs and carbon pricing. As a result, these assets may require significant capital investment to meet stringent energy and carbon performance regulations.

The recommendations from the Taskforce for Climate Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD), that are currently progressing towards mandatory disclosure, will require investment managers to identify, assess and effectively manage these potentially material financial risks. But it’s not all about risks. TCFD will also require investment managers to identify opportunities as improving energy and carbon performance increasingly serves to enhance and preserve asset value and secure long-term income streams by minimizing associated costs.

To improve forward-looking decision making and aid financial planning, specific tools are becoming available such as the Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) developed in partnership with institutional investors and industry bodies including GRESB. The CRREM tool provides country and property use emission intensity benchmarks that are aligned with global warming scenarios of 2⁰C or below. It projects current building emissions intensity, allowing for factors such as grid decarbonization, and assessment of low-carbon transition “stranding” risks where factors such as future carbon pricing can be analyzed under a number of scenarios. 

Data, data, data

Transition risks will increasingly be associated with whole building energy consumption and emissions intensity. To begin to assess risks, set targets to reduce building emissions and plan for Net Zero, the full picture of the current whole building energy consumption is needed. 

Existing assets will most likely include tenant-controlled areas, which pose challenges for data acquisition especially for those with difficult-to-reach tenants on FRI leases and long-term leases in core strategic assets. ³  In addition to leveraging green lease clauses, building good tenant relationships will be key to unlocking tenant data. The installation of AMRs and partnerships with data collection agencies, will both be crucial to circumvent the inherently inefficient process of collecting data manually from property managers.

The Future is Decided Now

With only two retrofit cycles left to 2050 ⁴, long-term initiatives must be carefully planned to ensure intermediate emission and energy reduction targets are met while aiming towards a Net Zero emissions future. 

Conducting this forward-looking assessment to meet these targets, and assessing the transition risks and opportunities at an asset level, may require changes in the process by which investment managers currently plan renovations and M&E upgrades across the asset hold period. However, by identifying the worst performing assets and implementing programs of Net Zero audits across portfolios, investment managers can begin to identify and plan the required measures to meet this ambition. It is also important to ensure sufficient depth of retrofit as opportunities arise within the retrofit cycle. Initiatives such as long-term Building Retrofit Passports, as proposed under the EPBD, will also help advance this agenda and assist in the planning process.

The usual practice of like-for-like replacements may no longer be sufficient but by making significant investments in energy efficiency and taking maximum advantage of retrofit opportunities in the short and medium-term, these costs can be minimized.

2050 may seem like a long time away, but investment managers need to act now to implement sustainability programs with the associated risks assessments and financial planning to ensure portfolios and investment strategies remain resilient as we transition to a low-carbon economy.


This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

¹ The international community convened in 2016 to sign the Paris Agreement, committing to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.
² http://www.betterbuildingspartnership.co.uk/node/877

³ http://www.betterbuildingspartnership.co.uk/sites/default/files/media/attachment/bbp-low-carbon-retrofit-toolkit.pdf

⁴ https://www.jll.co.uk/en/newsroom/jll-commits-to-making-net-zero-carbon-mainstream

EVORA delivers £373k savings in first year of M&T module

Our SIERA Monitoring & Targeting (M&T) module had its first birthday earlier this year, so we decided to take the time to reflect back on all it has achieved in its first year.

Since the module’s release in February 2018, EVORA has begun driving energy efficiency at 51 assets across eleven clients via SIERA Energy M&T programmes. In the first twelve months, these programmes saved 4.1 million kilowatt hours of energy, equating to a cost saving of £373,00 and preventing 1,862 tonnes of carbon emissions.

The backstory

As our Managing Director Chris Bennett explains:

“We had sought an Energy Monitoring and Targeting platform to meet our specific requirements, but we struggled to identify a system that provided both the functional capability and practical approach we needed as energy consultants. Having developed our own sustainability management software, SIERA, it seemed a natural progression to develop our own M&T platform. The end product has given us the optimal tool to support in delivering energy efficiency in buildings and has gained widespread approval by the industry. At the same time, we now have an integrated sustainability and energy management platform, where one set of data both helps optimise energy efficiency, whilst feeding into external reporting requirements such as GRESB”.

Following a combined product development effort between our Consultancy and Software Development teams during 2017, EVORA began its first Monitoring & Targeting programmes in February 2018. We have since produced M&T reports in 3 languages, at a portfolio which now comprises 51 buildings; totalling approximately 6.7 million square feet. 11 clients across 6 countries are now optimising their buildings with the support of smart meter data and our expert consultants.

EVORA Global M&T statistics

How does it work?

Developed as a module within our holistic environmental data management software SIERA, M&T integrates directly with providers to pull smart meter data from the source and automatically acquire it on a real-time basis. This allows our expert consultants to feedback quickly on trends and anomalies, and to work with the site team to rectify issues and enhance performance, thereby maximising energy and cost savings.

EVORA Global M&T process
EVORA Monitoring and Targeting process

Successes

We have already seen significant improvements at a number of buildings. By deploying M&T programmes for AEW, EVORA have been able to reduce electricity consumption by 144,419 kWh at one of their largest assets in just 10 months, representing 18% of total electricity consumption and equating to savings of 41TCO2e of carbon emissions and £16k on utility costs.

Success has not only been seen on the site level; via a set of targeted M&T programmes EVORA has helped drive efficiency across whole portfolios. Working with JLL on a series of UK DWS multi-let assets, M&T programme has contributed to an approximate 8% energy saving; totalling a costsaving of £58,000.

Building Manager Emma Swan said, “EVORA’s Monitoring & Targeting Programme is working really well at 60 Queen Victoria Street, and we have already identified several improvements within the current plant setup that will help us further drive down electricity consumption and increase our overall sustainability credentials within the building. The monthly call helps to focus our attention on what changes can be easily made and the SIERA platform allows us to monitor consumption in realtime.”.

Across the clients involved in the Monitoring & Targeting programme over the first year, a total of 4.1 million kWh of energy has been saved, equating to 1,862 tonnes of CO2 and approximately £373k saving of utility costs. We’re extremely proud of the service we have been able to provide and the impact we have been able to have. We will continue to strive to improve and enhance the module to further drive efficiencies.

To find out more about M&T, contact us and one of our expert consultants will be happy to help.