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The State of Corporate Sustainability Reporting in the EU

The legislation for sustainability disclosures in Europe will be reformed in 2021, as part of a major overhaul of financial market regulation. Importantly, these reforms include plans to create accompanying reporting standards.

Similar to financial accounting, sustainability reporting is essential for improved corporate management of risks and opportunities. Focusing on relevant and meaningful disclosures is key to produce high-quality and decision-useful reporting for organisations and investors alike. Using information reported on risks and impacts connected to climate change and broader sustainability matters, investors can best understand an organisation’s activities and strategies.

The European Commission will present a proposal for a reform in early 2021, while the EU Parliament will vote on the issue in Autumn.

EU Commissioner for Financial Services Mairead McGuinness clearly stated in December 2020 that “the rules of the game must be transformed to fully integrate sustainability at every step of the financial value chain” and identified the reform of the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive as “one of the priorities to strengthen the foundations for sustainable investment”. 

Other reporting proposals have also recently stirred the reporting landscape, including:

  • Statement of Intent to Work Together from five reporting framework and standard-setting organisations that emphasises alignment and harmonisation;
  • proposal from the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation to create a new Sustainability Standards Board (SSB) that would develop global sustainability standards;
  • The World Economic Forum International Business Council white paper that puts forth a common metrics for consistent reporting disclosure, building on existing sustainability reporting standards and frameworks.

These developments imply future changes to an organisation’s reporting structure and process. They lay the groundwork for framework that has close linkage to financial reporting, ultimately meaning that companies will need to treat sustainability information with a higher level of rigor, akin to information included in financial reporting.

EVORA works with companies all along the reporting journey, from those working on their first sustainability report to expert reporters who need help developing a long-term reporting strategy. By reporting, they capture numerous external and internal benefits, including meeting regulatory requirements, improving relationships with stakeholders, enhancing trustworthiness and reputation, clarifying on ESG performance, and identifying sustainability risks and opportunities.

EVORA sustainability consultancy services for UBS Asset Management

PRESS RELEASE – 14 September 2018
Download the full press release here.

UBS Asset Management appoints sustainability specialist EVORA to deliver sustainability consultancy services on a three-year instruction.

EVORA, the independent pan-European sustainability consultancy is pleased to announce its appointment by UBS Asset Management (UBS) Real Estate & Private Markets-Europe (REPM) business on a three-year basis to provide consultancy support to its UK and European funds.

UBS has an established and leading approach to sustainability. This is clearly demonstrated through recent GRESB benchmark results, where all four participating European funds achieved 5 green stars with two sector first places.

Over the next three years, EVORA will support UBS to progress benchmarking and reporting results and assist in the development and roll out of asset and fund level sustainability improvement programmes.

Chris Bennett, Managing Director, EVORA said: “We are delighted to secure this important mandate from UBS. It is extremely exciting to work with a recognised front runner and have the opportunity to be part of their future success in driving forward their sustainability agenda.” 


Contact us to see how we can support your organisation.

Why sustainability cannot be ignored by the real estate industry

A key motivation when we started this business was for sustainability to be seen and accepted as a valuable asset management tool by the property industry. Seven years on, has our goal been achieved? Read on!


What is sustainability in Real Estate?

Sustainability can mean many different things to many different people so to keep it simple, I see sustainability in Real Estate as delivering enduring value. For the real estate industry, ultimately, for a building to be sustainable it needs to be occupied both now and for the foreseeable future, delivering an acceptable return to the investors.

Delivering value comes down to the key drivers of occupancy, rent, lease length and covenant strength so if a sustainable approach can enhance any of those key elements it will deliver value, in the same way as any other asset management tool. That has been my approach for the last seven years although I hope some of our methodologies have matured!

Sustainability is far more than managing energy, water and waste. Don’t get me wrong, these are important aspects, which can reduce the operating costs of a building and improve its resilience, all of which should be attractive to the occupiers.

Does this deliver quantitative returns?

The answer is not obvious in Europe, although the award-winning study entitled “Decomposing the Value Effects of Sustainable Real Estate Investment: International Evidence” measured the impact of sustainable investment on the value and performance of listed real estate investment firms (REITs) and found that strong sustainability practices are associated with superior investment performance.

More importantly, if you ignore sustainability you marginalise your ability to attract the broadest scope of occupiers, potentially those most likely to have the best covenant strength who often also have the strongest CSR credentials. We have experienced, on a number of occasions, corporates matching this profile, willing to commit to longer leases for buildings which have excellent green credentials. This is of course not a one size fits all.

What does this mean?

At a regulatory level, in the UK it is now unlawful to let a building if it does not have a minimum EPC energy rating of an E. In addition E rated properties may still be at risk from MEES regulations. This is significant. For the first time we have energy efficiency regulation that impacts rental income and value. It will be interesting to see if this transitions into Europe in the future.

Interestingly though, we have seen greater uptake of sustainability through voluntary reporting than enforced regulation. GRESB, the global sustainability benchmark survey has mobilised the real estate industry over the last few years with 850 portfolios participating in 2017, representing more than USD$3.7 trillion in assets under management. GRESB is investor driven, to assess the environmental, social, governance (ESG) performance of their investment managers, where many see ESG as a fiduciary duty to protect and enhance future value of their investments. It is also interesting to note that research in July 2017 by Dirk Brounen and Maarten van der Spek identified a return premium of 3% between the highest and lowest GRESB scoring participants.

What practically should we be thinking about for the future?

So there appears to be some quantitative correlation to performance if enough research is done. But what practically should we be thinking about for the future?

For me, the three big impacts to plan for will be climatic change, technological advances and a generational shift in behaviour. I’m not going to dwell on climate change but the combination of rapidly advancing technology with a changing work culture will see a move away from honest work for honest pay to meaningful work in a meaningful environment. The advent of health and wellbeing to deliver a ‘meaningful environment’ is already upon us and my instinct tells me this will be the new face of sustainability, which will mobilise the industry far more quickly than just measuring energy.


To speak to a member of the team about how we can support you, please contact us.

Introducing EVORA Giving – Our New Series of Charitable Initiatives

No one has ever become poor by giving.”
― Anne Frank, diary of Anne Frank: the play

Charity: we all know that this is the concept of ‘giving back’, but how many of us can say that the business we work for is actively involved in doing good and promoting social responsibility? Well, I am proud to announce that EVORA has implemented its own charity initiatives, which we are calling EVORA Giving.

EVORA Giving logo

For us at EVORA, when deciding which approach we wanted to take, we had to think about what we are passionate about collectively and individually, as charity means something different to all of us. We also had to consider how our approach will not just benefit humanity but also the business and our employees.


Below I have listed the four main initiatives of EVORA Giving:

1. Employee Volunteering Days: All employees have been allocated 2 days per year that they can take off work to volunteer for a charitable cause of their choice. Volunteering makes a difference, you can see real changes based on your actions, and this not only makes the recipient feel good but makes you feel good also.

2. Payroll Giving: EVORA will offer each staff member Payroll Giving to a charity of their choice. Payroll Giving, also known as Give As You Earn and is a way of giving money to a registered charity in the UK through PAYE without paying tax on it. Therefore, the charity gets the maximin benefit. The Employee decides on the amount and the charity/charities that should receive it.

3. Ad-hoc Fundraising: We will be holding one-off fundraising events for various charities throughout the year. This can be anything from Macmillan Coffee mornings, wearing red for Red Nose Day, or joining an organised event such as Race for Life.

EVORA Giving BetterBanksideThis December we have already kicked things of by getting involved in Better Bankside’s (business improvement district) Together at Christmas campaign. This involved hosting a collection box where our lovely employees donated warm clothing, festive foods and toiletries to the homeless. Once we had collected the gifts we decided to host an in-house gift wrapping session where we had some yummy mince pies, mulled wine and wrapped all the gifts to some cheesy Christmas music. The gifts are then collected by Better Bankside and go out for delivery to a variety of charities.

Next week, we will be getting involved in Christmas Jumper Day by donning on our ugliest, silliest and woolliest jumpers in order to raise money for Save the Children. Keep an eye on our social media channels for photos of our staff in their festive attire.

4. Corporate Sponsorship: Corporate sponsorship of a chosen charity for a 12-month period. Starting in January 2018, we will be sponsoring one UK registered charity through corporate sponsorship for a 12-month period. We have put together a working group to help set up fundraising events and come up with some fun and inventive ideas to raise money for a worthy cause. At the end of the year we will then choose another charity that we can support and keep this going on rotation basis.


After the Christmas holidays, we will be announcing our chosen charity in a new blog post, so please stay tuned for the big reveal!

I hope you have enjoyed this post. We will keep you updated with all our fundraising events so please watch this space for more information…!

Sustainable web and graphic design: An introduction

Sustainable web and graphic design – has it ever crossed your mind? I think it’s ok to admit that up until now, the sustainability of your marketing collateral isn’t something you’ve thought much about, if at all. But with climate change and sustainability climbing further up the agenda, now might be a good time to start.

I’ve been an in-house designer for a number of years now, but it wasn’t until I started working in the industry almost five years ago that I even gave sustainability a second thought.

Beyond asking your staff to go ‘paperless’, adding that footer to your emails, and having a recycling bin, is there much that you can do? The answer is yes!

In this blog post, I endeavour to introduce you to the idea of sustainable web and graphic design, and give some top tips to get you started.


Change your approach – form, function and usability

For many of us, the thought process behind a new piece of collateral is simple. A client or a colleague says, “We have a new service to talk about, let’s create a brochure” or “we need a poster about the Christmas Party” and we go straight to design ideas.

Taking a ‘back-to-front’ approach that starts with visualising our end goal allows us to find a creative way to solve the problem.

Let’s use the example of the poster. Think creatively and ask questions: What is our end goal? Is a poster necessarily the right solution? How and where is the poster used? Is there another option that might be more effective?

If your goal is to inform staff about the Christmas Party, could your poster actually be a banner that is on your Intranet home page? Or a short internal email campaign? If you want to ensure something tangible is getting in front of your staff, could a postcard work?

Thinking about the answers and working with your agency or in-house designer, it might be clear that an alternative solution might have a more positive impact.

Once you have your perfect solution, it’s time to follow some top tips for design and production.


Top Tips to get you started

Sustainable web and graphic design

Design: Optimise!

  • Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper.
  • Use less ink coverage in your designs. The more ink on a page, the more difficult it will be to recycle.
  • Reduce the bleed when possible. Keeping the bleed white where you can reduce the amount of waste.
  • Think about how you work. Do you print out your design drafts? Can you reduce that number? Or stop doing it altogether?

[clickToTweet tweet=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design, you reduce the demand for paper” quote=”Be size-ist – go for substance over size! By optimising your design and downsizing, you reduce the demand for paper”]

Print: Know what to ask for

There will always be situations where printing is the correct solution, which is why your print supplier is also an important consideration. What should you be asking for to ensure that your projects are being printed as sustainably as possible?

Paper:

  • FSC certified – find out more here
  • Recycled paper – at least 30% Post-consumer Waste (PCW) recycled fibre
  • Processed chlorine free (PCF)
  • Consider using a lighter weight paper
  • Use uncoated paper stock

Ink:

  • Vegetable/plant-based
  • Low VOC levels

Other considerations:

  • Use a local printer
  • Choose a printer with a formal environmental and energy reduction policy
  • Consider digital or waterless printing
  • Choose PDF over print proofs
  • Reuse and recycle – have a strategy and make sure your printer has one too

Digital: There’s still things you can do

While printing contributes to pollution through the usage of materials, digital design contributes to climate change through the usage of electricity but there are still some things you can do to reduce your impact.

  • Streamline website image size to reduce download times (and you’ll also make your site faster, giving your visitors a better experience and giving you a welcome SEO boost from Google’s algorithms!)
  • Offer print-friendly web pages – that really lovely scrolling page might drop over to three or four pages if someone decides to print it
  • Have a strategy to offset the carbon used by your electronics

What does sustainable design look like at EVORA?

Since I joined EVORA in June, we have already made a start on improving the sustainability of our design process and there are things that we’re really excited to be doing in the year ahead.

  • Switching print suppliers. The first (and most simple) thing I have done. EVORA’s preferred printer is Seacourt ‘planet positive printing’, a Net Positive print company.
  • Identifying our standard paper stock. The next step is a switch in our paper stock for all work going forward. We will work with our supplier to identify a paper stock which is as sustainable as possible while maintaining a corporate image in keeping with our brand guidelines.
  • Being more creative with our designs. A revamp of our marketing materials for 2018 provides the ideal opportunity to be more innovative with our collateral – watch this space!
  • Optimising digital. EVORA’s new website, which launched recently, offers us much more control of the design of the site. We have already worked on image optimisation to reduce our site load speed and in the new year we will be working on print friendly versions of our most visited pages.

EVORA supplier Seacourt logoSeacourt ‘planet positive printing’ is a green printing company. Seacourt is known for its radical approach to protecting the environment, is one of the very first printing firms to achieve EMAS certification in 1999, an accreditation renowned for its high standards and stringent demands. The company has been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world’ by a worldwide printing association, and has gone onto win THREE coveted Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development. In 2017, they were also awarded a European EMAS Award.

Healthy Buildings Are Here to Stay

This post is authored by Dr. Paul Toyne, and it originally appeared on the Building4Change website. It has been reposted here with permission.


Good engagement, a strong business case backed up by data and a sense of shared responsibility were all on show at the Healthy Buildings conferences, suggesting health and wellbeing is not just a fad.


Earlier this month I chaired the Healthy Buildings conference which explored ways to improve health and wellbeing in existing commercial properties. Organised by BRE in partnership with EVORA, the day featured a stellar cast of expert speakers who spoke to a packed audience at ARUP’s London HQ.

The programme gave a platform to developers, landlords, architects, building services engineers, fit-out contractors, as well as occupiers, with detailed specifics on biophilic design, indoor air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics, water and thermal comfort. There were lots of fascinating presentations – more than I can do it justice to here. Instead, I will share my three main observations of the day.

Health and wellbeing (H&W) resonates with people on many different levels

I was struck by the high level of audience participation and how most people stayed until the end of the day, rather than leave after the lunch as is often the case at conferences. Why is this? Because in my view the H&W agenda resonates with people, engaging them on many levels, be it technical or emotional; H&W is a global trend that is not likely to go away. And rightly so, because who is not interested in their own wellbeing while working in an office and the impact that an office environment can have? Another subject of interest to the audience environment professionals was being able to understand their role in the value chain that provides these improvements – be it through design, product innovation or behavioural change. This I hope bodes well for wider adoption of H&W solutions.

Business case evidence for H&W is strong and expectations will increase

The day demonstrated the strong evidence that shows clearly the benefits of a healthy building for office occupants and how that translates to commercial benefits for employers and the landlord. It is stating the obvious that no-one wants to design and operate unhealthy buildings, but knowing what elements are essential to H&W and measuring their positive impacts is necessary to convince those who are solely influenced by the bottom line. Various speakers made reference to an array of studies that demonstrate just that. There is no longer the argument that the data is lacking or not market specific enough. Furthermore, I believe that it will be important for commercial office developers and landlords to act and demonstrate how they are improving their stock to their customers to protect their brand and reputation and their market share.

Collaboration and shared responsibility is driving the agenda

Finally, it was clear throughout the day how delegates and speakers felt a shared sense of responsibility for delivering better buildings and a genuine show of collaboration between developers, building managers and the occupiers to achieve this. Landlords and developers were acknowledging their responsibility, arguing that H&W was more than just the building but extended to improving the public realm. What, for example, is the point of improving indoor air quality if the moment you go out of the building for a break or for your commute, you are hit with air pollution. Developers talked about creating the right social infrastructure both within and outside the building, dealing with not just environmental concerns but social concerns such as homelessness. Throughout the day examples were given on how the different stakeholders were working proactively together and with their supply chains to deliver H&W outcomes.

So what does this all mean?

All this suggests that H&W is not a fad or a trend that will go away in a few months. If you consider it as a global trend, covering lifestyles, diet, exercise and technology to monitor performance, then there is no reason to exclude buildings from being part of the mix. Next time you are in your office ask yourself are you in a healthy building? If you don’t know the answer ask your landlord and soon you will open up a discussion that can only lead to better buildings. That is after all the goal we all want.

Watch all the presentations on the BRE Conferences YouTube channel.


Author

Dr Paul Toyne is an independent adviser on the sustainable built environment and professional chair of conferences and events. Find out more about him on www.paultoyne.com or follow Paul on Twitter @Paul_Toyne.


To talk to us about improving health and wellbeing in your commercial properties, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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