With many of us currently knee-deep in spreadsheets for this year’s GRESB submissions, we took some time out to speak with one of our Consultants and ask your questions about the GRESB survey.
About the survey
GRESB is an investor-driven assessment of sustainability performance, that gives Real Estate and Infrastructure funds of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to measure and showcase their performance on a range of environmental, social, and governance issues, and compare themselves to similar entities in the industry.
Real Estate and Infrastructure funds participate in two separate GRESB Surveys which, whilst having a different set of questions, have a similar structure and cover many of the same core ESG issues. At EVORA we have in-house experts on both surveys, so if you’re looking for assistance with your submission or just want some more information, then give this blog a read to get the basics and feel free get in touch if you want to know more.
Q. How long is the overall submission process to the GRESB portal? Is there a timeline for the submission process?
The final GRESB deadline is July 1st, but a submission doesn’t come together over night! I would say that, to allow time for careful completion of the portal and a proper review, you generally need to have started collating data and evidence in March and you want the pieces in place by early June.
GRESB also offer a ‘Response Check’, where a GRESB employee will evaluate your response and help ensure you’re not going to miss out on points through mis-completion or insufficient evidence. The deadline for this is June 8thso, whilst you don’t have to be finished at this juncture, you want to be most of the way there to get the maximum benefit from the Check.
Q. What kind of evidence do I need to prepare before the GRESB portal opens?
To uphold the credibility of GRESB, a large amount of supporting evidence is required throughout the Survey, and rightly so. Certain indicators are entity specific, such as tenant surveys, risk assessments and completion of technical building audits, whereas others do allow responses from the Organisation / investment manager, such as employee and governance issues.
The key thing here is to make sure people on all levels are well-informed of what GRESB entails for them and that, linking back to the previous question, you start getting organised early!
Q. What is the most efficient way of collating and submitting to the GRESB portal if I have an international portfolio?
At 25.6%, the Performance Indicators section carries the greatest weight of all the Aspects. Therefore, whilst it is often a challenge to organise, the hard work is heavily rewarded by GRESB. I would highly recommend that you get some purpose-built environmental data management software such as ours, SIERA, which is designed with GRESB in mind and can produce an import sheet which can be uploaded straight onto the GRESB Portal. Data collection programmes can be at all levels of temporal granularity, from a one-off annual request ahead of GRESB, to half-hourly data imports into our M&T module.
Q. How can I improve my GRESB scores?
Each entity is a little bit different and will be stronger and weaker in different areas, however these are some general areas that you can target:
- Get an EMS – Having an Environmental Management System in place not only scores points directly on the GRESB Survey, but has the indirect effect of planning and guiding your ESG strategies to be as effective as possible.
- Sort your data – As outlined above, PI data is a huge part of the Survey so it’s worth the effort of organising it. EVORA’s bespoke environmental data management software, SIERA, is perfect for minimising effort and maximising performance in these elements of GRESB.
- Green Building Certifications – with a global average of just 46 out of 100 last year, the Certifications aspect is a common weakness for participants. At EVORA, we have in-house BREEAM, WELL, LEED and Fitwel Assessors, so get in touch if you’re interested in certification to bolster your GRESB score and reap the wider benefits of certification.
Read more about our research and how to improve your score in this blog.
Q. Can you make a submission without disclosing the results?
A cornerstone of GRESB, as an investor-driven sustainability assessment, is that the results can be made visible to investors. However, there is a “Grace Period” for first time participants allowing them to opt-out of sharing result whilst they get to grips with the Survey.
Q. Can I only submit my evidence and responses in English?
Responses do have to be made in English, however, GRESB will allow you to submit foreign language documents as evidence. In these circumstances, be sure to clearly indicate in the open text boxes provided exactly where in the document the relevant information is held, along with a thorough summary of content. This will help ensure nothing is missed or misinterpreted.
Q. What happens after I make my submission?
GRESB’s response validation process takes place in July and August, with the official results released at a series of events across the world in September. You will also receive your Benchmark Report at this point, which gives you the full breakdown of how you did on each Dimension, Aspect, and Indicator. Off the back of this, EVORA offers a “GRESB Gap Analysis” to new and existing clients, where one of our in-house experts will evaluate your performance and pick out key opportunities for improvement, and can then help implement them. In truth, for top GRESB performers, the process never really stops! The Survey really rewards comprehensive, sustained sustainability programmes.
Year-on-year the GRESB survey is becoming increasingly comprehensive. This year increased scrutiny has been placed on some existing questions, such as asking that Green Building Certification ratings be provided, some new questions have been added, and every participant will be subject to at least a low-level of validation. Furthermore, the currently optional Health & Wellbeing and Resilience modules are set to be built into the main Survey next year and in three years respectively. I expect this trend of increasing complexity and moving goalposts to continue as investor demands expand and change, so having an experienced GRESB consultant to provide support will become increasingly important.
Here at EVORA, we are entering our seventh year assisting with GRESB submissions, and have acquired a great knowledge base in this time to help maximise your GRESB performance. We have experience of delivering more than 150 submissions, including a number of 5 Star submissions and Sector Leader status.
In conclusion, I think the key takeaways for a successful GRESB submission is to: make sure everyone on all level is well informed and knows their role, start your submission early, use SIERA, and get an experienced consultant on board to help out.
If you have anymore questions about the content of this blog or GRESB in general, get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.
As a GRESB Real Estate Premier Partner, we are perfectly positioned to provide GRESB support. View our official Premier Partner profile.
We can work with you to complete the submission and understand your scoring, as well as develop a sustainability plan that will improve your future GRESB performance and align with your organisation’s key environmental objectives.