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The 2017 GRESB Reporting Cycle and Five Tips for GRESB Survey Submission Success!

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:

  1. Start early.
  2. Remind yourself what went well and less well last year – consider both the process and individual question responses.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?


About Us

Why firms choose us for GRESB survey submission support

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.

For more information, please sign up to our newsletter and remember to look out for our upcoming GRESB Masterclass!

How Can GRESB Help to Deliver Fund Performance? Key Highlights from Our Exclusive Event

Read this post for some exclusive updates from GRESB that were announced during the event, and to find out how you can make sure you don’t miss out on attending our future events.


Background

On Tuesday 15th November 2016, EVORA ran an important industry event considering the impact GRESB (the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) is having on the real estate industry. Over 60 attendees from more than 50 commercial real estate firms attended.

As a business that works solely with the real estate sector in providing practical sustainability solutions, EVORA has seen the meteoric rise of GRESB since its initiation six years ago. In fact, we have been working with GRESB and supporting our clients in the completion of the survey since 2011 – we are also a GRESB Premier Partner – and this year we were involved in the completion of 41 submissions. So it’s fair to say that GRESB is a subject that’s close to our hearts!

There is no doubt that GRESB has had a major impact in mobilizing the real estate industry to embrace the issues of sustainability. From its humble beginnings in 2010, 2016 saw 759 participants complete the survey representing US$2.8 trillion of asset value. However, the benchmark survey is complex and challenging to complete and GRESB pretty much has a monopoly in this area of benchmarking the sustainability performance of real estate portfolios.

[clickToTweet tweet=”There’s no doubt @GRESB has mobilized the CRE sector to embrace the issues of sustainability.” quote=”There is no doubt that GRESB has had a major impact in mobilizing the real estate industry to embrace the issues of sustainability.”]

And it was with this in mind, that we decided to run this exclusive invitation-only event, kindly hosted by TH Real Estate and chaired by Sarah Ratcliffe, Programme Director at the BBP, which considered ‘How Can GRESB Help to Deliver Fund Performance?’.

Great representation from industry leaders

We had five outstanding speakers from the industry, each with their own experiences and opinions of GRESB: Abigail Dean, Head of Sustainability at TH Real Estate; Dan Grandage, Head of Sustainability at Aberdeen Asset Management; Mathieu Elshout, Investment Director at PGGM; Erik Ruane, formerly Head of Development and Head of Sustainability at a leading pan-European, real estate fund management group; and last but by no means least, our own Paul Sutcliffe, co-Founder and Director at EVORA.

The results of our pre-event survey

Paul presented the results from our pre-event survey completed by the participants, which provided some interesting findings.

Firstly, the majority agreed that GRESB is both investor-driven and important to investors, which should be no surprise, since this was the original intention of GRESB.

Of greater note, was the far smaller proportion who thought their GRESB rating fairly reflected their sustainability performance and accurately reflected the key issues, highlighting that many respondents feel that greater alignment is required.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Does your @GRESB rating fairly reflect your overall #sustainability performance?” quote=”Do you think your GRESB rating fairly reflects your overall sustainability performance?”]

Opinions of the Speakers

1. The Benefits

Paul kicked off by re-enforcing that GRESB is a force for good, driving change and focusing on participation. He also highlighted the alignment of the survey to a best practice management system approach (Plan/Do/Check/Act), which from our own experiences, support in driving performance – see our well-received thought leadership piece by Ed Gabbitas on this:

Environmental Management Systems: Plan-Do-Check-Act…Deliver?

Abigail highlighted that GRESB had pushed the industry to improve, whilst enhancing investor insight. Dan and Mathieu also said it supported fund strategy and post-performance evaluation, helping in year-on-year objective and target setting for the funds. Importantly, Erik highlighted that at a more practical level, GRESB had promoted wider utility data collection enabling the funds to better understand performance both at portfolio and asset level.

[clickToTweet tweet=”@GRESB has promoted wider utility #data collection enabling funds to better understand performance.” quote=”GRESB has promoted wider utility data collection enabling funds to better understand performance both at portfolio and asset level.”]

2. The Challenges

What did the speakers see as the challenges? Paul and Abigail highlighted that scoring rewards the wrong behaviour by being more about coverage of data than efficient buildings, and year-on-year improvements rather than absolute performance. Another key issue was the risk of chasing GRESB points, which may not add value to the fund.

A consistent theme from all the presenters was that one size did not fit all, with specific reference to opportunistic and value add funds that can struggle to perform well in the survey, a key area Sander Paul of GRESB picked up on in the Q&A – keep reading!

A Lively Q&A Session

Presentations were followed by a lively Q&A discussion with a panel that included Sander Paul van Tongeren, Head of EMEA and co-founder of GRESB, and Olivia Muir, European Analyst at UBS. Olivia, highlighted from an investor perspective the importance of GRESB to provide a due diligence tool for the capital markets, but accepted that the GRESB performance data had to be re-worked to provide appropriate outputs.

Our attendees heard it first! Exciting updates for 2018, direct from GRESB

Sander Paul agreed that one size fits all is not ideal. He advised 2017 would be a period of stability for the GRESB Real Estate Assessment with minor updates, but that there would be changes going forward. GRESB is exploring property type supplements, where ESG-performance would be aligned to the specific nuances of different property types, and potentially regional supplements as well.

New industry working groups will be set up in early 2017 to support in the development of the 2018 GRESB Real Estate Assessment.

However, he did highlight that GRESB also offers a Developer Assessment, which might be applicable to some of the opportunistic and value add funds that consider development activities to be their core business. It is a stand-alone assessment that contains a selection of questions from the Real Estate Assessment.

Sander Paul also spoke of the importance of optimising property portfolios to reduce their environmental impacts to counter the significant risks of climate change. He expressed the need for disruptive technologies to help achieve this, including innovative software solutions, an area we have majored on with the development of our unique real estate focused sustainability management software, SIERA.

Comments were also made that the GRESB scoring had been opaque. Sander Paul advised that the GRESB validation process and scoring model is now available here, and also on their website.

[clickToTweet tweet=”The @GRESB validation process and scoring model is now available on their website.” quote=”The GRESB validation process and scoring model is now available on their website.”]

A great wrap-up by Sarah Ratcliffe

In summing up, Sarah Ratcliffe provided a fantastic analogy of the evolution of GRESB, comparing it to a child growing up and currently being a teenager; slightly spotty, with a number of imperfections and a bit awkward, but with lots of potential!

I’d agree with this and I certainly do believe in GRESB’s potential. However, as an industry, the onus is upon us to ensure that GRESB not only transforms through mobilising the real estate sector, but also that the content – and hence the scoring – is absolutely aligned to material sustainability issues that can impact on fund performance both now and in the future.


This was an invitation-only event to those on our mailing list.

If you did not receive an invitation but would have liked to attend, please click here to join our mailing list now.


To talk to us about GRESB support in 2017, implementing an EMS, or to request a demo of SIERA, please get in touch.


Further reading:


GRESB also offers an ESG Masterclass which focuses on interpretation of the annual GRESB Real Estate Assessment results and the various reporting and benchmarking tools available to real estate investors, companies and fund managers. The program addresses all material aspects of ESG in real estate investment portfolios as covered by the GRESB Real Estate Assessment.

Why Firms Choose EVORA For Expert GRESB Support

The Rising Interest in GRESB

GRESB (Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark) is proving to be the survey of choice to benchmark real estate portfolio performance, but it is also one of the most challenging to complete.

Interest in GRESB has continued to increase since it was founded in 2009, as demonstrated by the Google Trends report below. As you can see, global interest peaked in September this year when the 2016 results were released.

In addition to interest increasing, average GRESB scores are improving. As my colleague Paul Sutcliffe said in his 2016 GRESB Results blog:

“Our findings appear to reflect UK wide results. The average GRESB Score of UK companies and funds improved from 58 in 2015 to 63 in 2016. Furthermore, GRESB states that companies and funds in the UK continue to outperform those in Europe (although Australia and New Zealand lead with an overall score of 74).”


3 Reasons Firms Choose EVORA For Expert GRESB Support

1. GRESB Premier Partner

As a specialist commercial real estate sustainability consultancy that is driving broad uptake of sustainability best practices in alternative asset classes, it made perfect sense for us to become a GRESB Premier Partner.

2. Sustainability Consultants With Deep Expertise in Commercial Real Estate

Our team of sustainability consultants have a phenomenal wealth of experience of sustainability for commercial real estate firms.

Ed Gabbitas, for example, is a leader in sustainability strategy and policy development in the commercial real estate sector. He is a Chartered Environmentalist with a passion for promoting and delivering best practice solutions to clients. He has a depth of understanding concerning GRESB and environmental legislation across the EU. His clients include Deutsche Asset Management, Hines and AEW Europe.

Contact Ed today.

3. SIERA – Sustainability Management Software for Commercial Real Estate Firms

And last but not least, there’s SIERA; our proprietary sustainability management software.

In 2016, SIERA delivered the automation of data transfer into GRESB for 41 submissions and more than €20bn of assets, with clients including Deutsche Asset Management, Schroder Real Estate, Rockspring, and AEW.

The chart below shows that the most widely used data entry approach is where participants aggregate their consumption data and then manually enter it per sector, line-by-line, in the standard GRESB Portal. This is time consuming, requires a lot of manual calculations and is subject to human error.

The beauty of SIERA is that it can auto-generate an asset data spreadsheet that’s fully aligned to GRESB’s template, which can be swiftly uploaded directly into the GRESB portal. This process takes less than a minute and populates the Performance Indicator questions for all sectors reported by a portfolio.

Our MD, Chris Bennett, has already written a great blog post on SIERA’s automation capabilities and the benefits of using it for GRESB submissions. Here’s that post in full:

GRESB Data Automation: Ensuring Seamless Does Not Result In Senseless


For expert GRESB support and to improve your GRESB scores in 2017, please get in touch with our experts today.


GRESB Premier PartnerAs 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.