On your marks, get set… GRESB!
According to the time stamp on Tuesday’s Newsletter from GRESB, 01:51pm marked the starting gun for the GRESB 2017 reporting cycle. The race is on…!
Within the Newsletter, GRESB provided a link to the ‘pre-release’ of their Real Estate and Developer Assessment surveys. Review of the pre-release offers early insight into changes to the 2017 survey. Understanding the changes may unveil potential impacts on your organisation’s ability to maintain/improve its GRESB score and illuminate possible logistical challenges regarding gathering the necessary evidence and data in order to complete the survey.
I have written this blog to help you unpick these changes and explore the potential impacts on your business. Loosely, the contents of this blog boil-down as follows:
- very brief reminder of the purpose and importance of GRESB and key dates for your 2017 diary
- outline of the key changes for the 2017 survey and reflections on the impact of these changes
- some humble tips on how to achieve GRESB and, more generally, ESG success.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The @GRESB 2017 reporting cycle. The race is on…!” quote=”The GRESB 2017 reporting cycle. The race is on…!”]
What is GRESB?
In their own words, GRESB (or Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) is “…an investor-driven organization that is transforming the way we assess the environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of real assets globally, including real estate portfolios and infrastructure assets.”
With over 250 investor members and having assessed more than 1,100 property entities, GRESB continues to dominate the ESG rating industry for commercial real estate, globally.
Key dates for your calendar:
- March 1, 2017 – Release of
- Assessment Reference Guide
- Health & Well-being Module and Reference Guide
- April 1, 2017 – GRESB Portal opens
- June 1, 2017 – Response Check request deadline
- July 1, 2017 – Assessment deadline
- September 6, 2017 – Results day
[clickToTweet tweet=”Here are 5 key @GRESB dates for your calendar…” quote=”Here are 5 key GRESB dates for your calendar…”]
Key changes identified in the ‘pre-release’
Overall, the changes this year are relatively minor and thus if you are familiar with the GRESB format I think it would be justified for you to breathe a sigh of relief at this point. That said, it is important to bear in mind that larger changes are pipped for 2018, which GRESB Managing Director Sander Paul van Tongeren confirmed at our GRESB event in November 2016.
Scoring and weighting changes
Perhaps the most significant change is the increased emphasis on completing technical building assessments covering a broader range of sustainability impacts (Q16). ‘Piloted’ in the 2016 survey, from 2017 technical building assessments of impacts other than energy will be scored for the first time. This includes:
- water (up to 1.5 points)
- waste (up to 0.5 points)
- health and wellbeing (up to 0.5 points)
Critically, the increased emphasis on assessment of improvement opportunities has been balanced by slightly reducing points available for actual implementation of efficiency measures for energy (Q17) and water (Q18).
We at EVORA have mixed feelings about this particular change. On the one hand, we worry when attention is taken away from making real and tangible interventions to improve asset sustainability performance. As such, we speculate as to whether the points should have been ‘balanced’ through reductions in points associated with a different section of the survey.
On the other hand, we do welcome the increased emphasis on other sustainability issues beyond energy. Energy has rightly been the emphasis of action for many organisations to date as it typically contributes the greatest environmental impact and is attributed with the highest operational cost of buildings, after security and M&E. However, water, waste and health and wellbeing matter as well and also present real opportunities for operational improvements that can benefit tenants, asset owners and investors. This is something EVORA strongly supports and on which we have a strong track record of advising clients. For example, we have competed more than 300 sustainability audits over the last six years.
Increases in reporting requirements
A small number of questions have been bolstered in order to increase the robustness of their assessment.
- Increase in data granularity: Portfolio coverage for energy (Q17), water (Q18) and waste (Q19) technical building assessments must now be reported as a precise percentage of the whole portfolio. Previously, drop-downs were provided at 25% increments (e.g. >0 – <25%, ≥25 – <50%).
- More supporting evidence: Monitoring property/asset managers’ compliance the sustainability-specific requirements (Q41.1) must now include upload of supporting evidence.
Reduction in the reporting burden
Several questions have been streamlined, generally on the basis that they will make the survey more straightforward and / or less resource intensive to complete, without compromising data and therefore rating quality. For example, a number of open text boxes and evidence upload requirements have been reduced or removed.
As long as the robustness of the assessment is preserved, we welcome improvements in the efficiency of GRESB’s reporting requirements.
Five Tips for GRESB Survey Submission Success!
As I write this blog, there are about 163 days left until the 2017 deadline.
In some respects this feels like a long time, however – and you will know this if you have completed an investor survey of this nature before – it is easy to underestimate the importance of planning when it comes to GRESB delivery.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Do NOT underestimate the importance of planning when it comes to @GRESB delivery!” quote=”Don’t underestimate the importance of planning when it comes to GRESB delivery!”]
As you look to start plotting out your programme, we recommend that you consider the following:
- Start early.
- Remind yourself what went well and less well last year – consider both the process and individual question responses.
- Engagement and education of people that will support you in delivering GRESB. Keep in regular touch with these people, particularly if they will be providing you with information.
- Data automation – our propriety software, SIERA, delivered 41 GRESB submissions in 2016, helping clients to seamlessly acquire and report data. Why not take a look at the following blog post: GRESB Data Automation: Ensuring Seamless Does Not Result in Senseless.
- Seek external support / advice. EVORA will be holding a masterclass on responding to GRESB, in March 2017. Keep a look out for this in our e-newsletters and be sure to sign up early.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Here are Five Tips for @GRESB Survey Submission Success!” quote=”Here are Five Tips for GRESB Survey Submission Success!”]
Tips for ESG management and performance success
For more general advice on how to implement practical and tailored sustainability solutions, please refer to the following blog post: Environmental Management Systems: Plan-Do-Check-Act…Deliver?
EVORA is an independent, pan-European sustainability consultancy and software provider, specialising in (but not limited to) the commercial real estate sector. We are a GRESB Premier Partner Consultancy.
We have helped a large number of funds complete the GRESB survey, including Schroder Real Estate, AEW and Moorfield. Our experience and relationship with the GRESB team has enabled us to provide comprehensive client support – and in all cases improved results.
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.