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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.

Getting ready for GRESB season – Reporting tips and tricks

GRESB is imminently approaching! Which for a lot of us in the ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) industry, it means getting ready to report all the relevant activities that have been undertaken by funds over the course of the past year. In order to smoothen your reporting process and evidence collection, I have looked to outline some tips and tricks which will hopefully help you successfully deliver this year’s submission.

Establishing what’s new

GRESB, as you would suspect, is not a static survey, with improvements and updates added each year which seek to adapt to and follow the rapidly changing ESG market. As such, the first tip I can give you is to start with the basics and review what has changed. Once you have identified high-level changes both in evidence requirements and topics covered, you can then begin to look at establishing the evidence available in order to answer each of the questions. If you are unable to sufficiently support your answer with available evidence on current practices or perhaps are not achieving the marks you would expect, then you can begin to plan ahead for next year. Remember, if you are reporting on calendar year, we are already a few months into the GRESB 2021 reporting period, so you might have limited time to establish and develop new policies and practices!

Getting organized

Good organization is the epitome of so many things in life, and GRESB is no exception. It’s very easy to have a quick skim read of the GRESB survey and think that you send out a couple of emails and all will be rosy. That’s not the case I can assure you! An approach I have found successful is to identify at an early stage who your key stakeholders are and set out the information that each stakeholder will be required to provide. Early engagement will be helpful for your colleagues, as they will have oversight of information that will need to be provided further down the line, it also helps you avoid that last-minute panic over missing information. Using project management techniques, such as Gantt charts or online systems such as Microsoft Project can also help you get organized and keep track of everyone’s tasks and deadlines.

Gathering asset information

The performance section of the 2020 GRESB submission is worth a whopping 70% of the total marks, and therefore deserves plenty of attention. A key element is the coverage questions focusing on, asset-specific energy, water and waste efficiency measures, technical audits and Green Building Certificates, that have been implemented and carried out in the past three years (Note that Green Building Certificates are not time-bound). Logically, the smaller the portfolio the easier it will be to keep track of asset-level activities, but for those with high asset numbers it becomes increasingly difficult. Gathering asset information is often conducted by sending out spreadsheets, although this can result in multiple versions of spreadsheets floating about, which is something to be careful about. An alternative approach is utilizing online surveys that mitigate the risks associated with multiple spreadsheets.

Figure 1: Using a Data Management System to collate and store asset level initiatives

A hot tip is focus in on some key assets, for examples those that have recently undergone refurbishments, where a lot of asset initiatives are likely to have taken place. Remember to think ahead to next year’s submission and how you can utilize information collected for previous submissions.

Getting savvy with utility data

GRESB has a range of requirements in relation to how utility data is reported, and you can easily feel overwhelmed when dealing with large data sets where it’s vital that the outputs are accurate. Its good practice to review utility consumption at the most granular level time permits. I recommend reviewing utility data at a meter level, as it enables you to clearly identify gaps and inconsistencies and presents you with a clear picture of consumption patterns for each supply and building area. Automatically, this greater visibility will benefit you when having to provide a clear explanation to GRESB on sector-level variances and unusual intensities.

Figure 2: Using a Data Management System to automatically alert variances at meter and asset 

In light of all these observations, a data management system is proven to be able to simplify and demystify the whole utility reporting process and can help monitor, track and review consumption throughout the year. Why do the heavy lifting yourself when a computer can do it for you after all?

Hopefully, I have conveyed some useful tips for approaching GRESB this year and I will leave you with a parting quote to motivate you to get organized!

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Arthur Ashe

This article was originally published on GRESB Insights

GRESB 2018: A Call to Arms!

Following the release of individual respondent-level GRESB results on Friday 7th September, overall results were presented by GRESB in London on Tuesday 11th September. Results presentations will continue to be delivered by GRESB around the world throughout September.

Headline figures presented demonstrated both the increased level of interest in GRESB and the positive impact the survey is having on real estate sustainability performance. In summary:

  • Participation has increased. In 2018 there were;
    • 903 survey responses (207 of which were from publicly listed entities)
    • From 64 countries
    • Covering 79,000 assets and $3.5 trillion in gross asset value.
  • A continual improvement in ESG performance was reported – where average GRESB scores increased to 68, up from 63 in 2017.  GRESB state that this continued improvement reflects the industry’s commitment to further integrate ESG best practices.
  • Australia maintains its regional leadership position but the performance gap between geographies is narrowing.
  • Of the 79,000 buildings covered by GRESB, 50,000 submitted data at ‘asset level’ (74% of all participants).
  • 83% of reported energy data was subject to a third party review.
  • Like-for-like energy, GHG and water data all demonstrated a year-on-year reduction (a good thing).
  • 11% of reported floor area benefits from some form of green building certificate.

I am heartened by progress to-date and continue to believe that GRESB remains a powerful mechanism that can help drive change in the real estate industry. However, I also believe that as an industry we must change-up a few gears.

However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error.

We have been talking about data – coverage and quality – for years, and yet it is still a problem. This must be addressed ‘globally’ and soon. EVORA developed our proprietary software tool SIERA to support the process of data acquisition and validation.  The decision to do so was and continues to be transformational for us and our clients. It has helped simplify and speed-up data collection and analysis at meter, asset and fund level. However, as an industry we must rapidly progress further towards automated collection and transfer of ESG performance data to speed-up the process and also reduce potential for human error. The technology exists to automate data acquisition but adoption remains low, in simple terms, data collection is still a bottle neck and the source of many errors, even in 2018!

Furthermore, wholescale adoption of new technologies and investment in retrofit of domestic and non-domestic buildings is needed, especially if, as an industry, we are going to contribute to our fullest ability to the internationally agreed commitments to mitigate climate change.

Rapid progression is needed!


EVORA Global GRESB Premier PartnerWe 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.

GRESB 2018: over, not done with!

With GRESB over we talked to a number of staff across our business to get a view on experiences faced, whilst it was still fresh in the team’s mind.


Supporting the team for our busiest ever GRESB season.

Paul Sutcliffe – Director

I’ve lost count of the number of GRESB submissions I have supported over the years. I do know that this year at EVORA we supported around 70 submissions, from a broad array of clients (covering sector Number 1s through to first time participants). Our busiest ever GRESB season!

Whilst we represent a broad array of participants with different fund structures and objectives, we do see some common themes. Our clients universally want to ensure that:

  1. Sustainability policies and practices are effective and appropriate for their organisations
  2. Their GRESB submission correctly and accurately reflects their true sustainability position.

There is a clear recognition and acceptance that GRESB is a one size fits all approach. To use a sloppy analogy – sometimes the shoe fits perfectly, other times it’s a bit loose, sometimes too tight, but everyone can still walk in it.

With the GRESB deadline of 12 noon Eastern US time fast approaching, I prepared myself for some long nights. I needn’t have worried though. Our team and clients mobilised, focused, used SIERA (our sustainability software platform) and worked hard to get everything in on time. Final confirmation, of the last submission (for me) came from the last of my clients early on Saturday morning. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had a weekend to enjoy!

One last thing. GRESB has been able to galvanize the industry and drive forward the sustainability agenda. Our industry should work with this and in particular, reflect when the results come out in September. I am a strong believer that GRESB should be used to inform, not drive individual organisational ESG agendas.


Time flies when it’s your first GRESB year!

Katie Brown – Junior Sustainability Consultant

As this was my first year supporting GRESB, there was a lot to grasp and a lot to learn, fast! The time flew, and on reflection preparation is key. Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it. It was important to plan well and communicate early – time well invested should be reflected in an accurate (and higher) GRESB score.

Some elements of the submission would have been extremely challenging and time intensive to complete without the help of our SIERA software. We would not have been able to support so many submissions without it.

I have been impressed that despite the focus on environmental performance of assets forming a core element of the survey, there is a broad spectrum of the sustainability agenda covered, with attention also on social and governance topics including health and safety, management, policies, and supply chains, just to name a few! Also, the inclusion of the health and wellbeing module, and this year a new module on resilience, brings to the forefront important and emerging ESG trends.

The GRESB survey promotes much needed transparency of the sustainability efforts by businesses in the real estate sector, both as a benchmarking tool and providing greater visibility for investors, but also provides a great opportunity to guide and inform more ambitious and rigorous ESG strategies going forward.


It’s all about the data.

Nick Hogg – Associate Director (SIERA Software)

As those that have participated in the GRESB submission process will know, the amount of information and effort that can be required to provide a seemingly straight forward number in answering a GRESB question can be sometimes underestimated. The Performance Indicators is an aspect where this can challenge participants due to sheer quantum of data that might need to be handled across all the impact areas for an entity, not least with more participants submitting data at asset level.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone. We have blogged before that GRESB have allowed the automated transfer of Performance Indicator (PI) data from sustainability management software systems, such as SIERA, directly into the GRESB portal for the last few years. We found this automated transfer of data through SIERA vital, not just in trying to make the complexity of reporting more efficient but essential in establishing a robust and transparent method of reporting asset level data.

Across all the submissions we were supporting on this year we found that SIERA handled over half a million datapoints through the Asset level interface alone.

We introduced additional functionality in SIERA this year to further automate the calculation of energy, GHG and water intensity and have plans to continue expansion of SIERA’s GRESB capability over the coming months.


Submissions are done, but it’s not over!

Louise Russell –  Senior Sustainability Consultant

This will have been my fourth year supporting GRESB clients. I support a variety of clients each at a different stage on their sustainability journey.  Existing clients who are already hot on sustainability continue to maintain leading positions principally due to their wider sustainability programmes which we support during the year. For them, GRESB is useful to benchmark the position of their various funds against peers and internally. However, GRESB is not the driver and broader sustainability as well as responsible investing is something that is taken very seriously.

For my clients that were newcomers to GRESB this was the first time that they as an organisation considered what sustainability means to them. Clients are often surprised by what is already in place within their organisations albeit via an unstructured approach. Where we assist is coordinating the various stakeholders to collate the responses. Whilst we never advise that a sustainability strategy should be GRESB driven it does act as a gateway for those approaching sustainability for the first time.

The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

Now that we are post-GRESB these same clients are looking to build on their existing processes, formalise their sustainability strategy and put in place a sustainability programme that will deliver an improved score in 2019. The key to this is starting early especially for those clients that report in calendar year, waiting until the results come out in September will only allow just over three months to December to make improvements before the GRESB reporting year is over.

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.


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.

GRESB Survey: We answer your questions

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.


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.

GRESB Infrastructure Survey: What is it?

EVORA is now entering its seventh year of helping entities produce GRESB Real Estate Survey submissions, and with each passing cycle we have accrued more expertise, expanded our client base, and become leaders in the field. Last year we provided comprehensive support to 26 funds and general support to many others, and this year the figure is set to get even higher as we gain greater recognition for our expertise.

But GRESB offers more than just the Real Estate Survey, and for 2018 we have expanded our scope of services to include the GRESB Infrastructure Survey.


What is the GRESB Infrastructure Survey?

Much like its real estate equivalent, the GRESB Infrastructure Survey is an investor-driven assessment of ESG (Environmental-Social-Governance) performance for entities.

Much of the content is also very similar, however the setup of the Infrastructure Survey is quite different from that of GRESB Real Estate, as it is broken down into two sub-surveys: 1) the Fund Assessment and 2) the Asset Assessment.

The Fund Assessment is a relatively small element of the overall survey, and focuses on ESG policies and principles, persons responsible for ESG issues, and the monitoring and mitigation of ESG risks, at the entity level.

Meanwhile, it is the Asset Assessment that is broken down into the familiar Management, Policy & Disclosure, Risks & Opportunities, Monitoring & EMS, Stakeholder Engagement, Performance Indicators, and Certification & Awards modules, albeit with differences in the questions themselves and the distribution of points compared to GRESB Real Estate. Additional content includes questions relating specifically to biodiversity and air pollutants in the Performance Indicators section, whilst there is for example less focus on certification.

An optional Resilience module has also been introduced for GRESB Real Estate and GRESB Infrastructure in 2018 – you can read more about it here.


Asset Assessments – Weighted Asset Average

You are free to submit a standalone Fund Assessment without asset-level evaluation if you wish. However, to get an overall GRESB Infrastructure score you must also complete the Asset Assessment for at least 25% of your portfolio (usually weighted by GAV). Furthermore, there is an advantage to completing Asset Assessments for as many assets as possible, as your scores are collated into a Weighted Asset Average (WAA) where assets that did not complete an Asset Assessment score zero.

Your WAA is worth 70% of the final GRESB score, with the Fund Assessment making up the other 30%. A simple example calculation is provided below:

GRESB Infrastructure Survey - WAA table

Combined with an example Fund Assessment score of 76, the overall GRESB score would be:

(56   x  70%)   +   (76  x   30%)   =   62

Which represents:

(WAA Score x Asset Assessment Weighting) + (Fund Score x Fund Assessment Weighting) = Overall Score

The GRESB Infrastructure Survey is comprehensive in its coverage of ESG content, whilst also allowing a wide range of infrastructure assets, from airports to schools to toll roads to windfarms, to be compared. ESG issues matter for all forms of built infrastructure, and GRESB provides an ideal platform to meet investor and public demand for improved sustainable performance.


If you think GRESB Infrastructure might be for you, then get in touch and our team of experts will be happy to help.

 


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.

Changes to GRESB 2018 Real Estate Survey Part 2 – The Detail

Last week, my colleague Paul Sutcliffe penned a blog briefly setting out the headline changes to the GRESB 2018 Real Estate Survey.  Having had a bit more time to digest these updates, below I provide a detailed look at how the survey has changed this year. I also outline some key practical considerations.

Unlike Paul’s blog, this one is very much aimed at those working closely with the GRESB RE survey. For those that fit this bill (btw, lucky you/us!), please do read on and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these changes further.


Entity and reporting characteristics – Composition of the entity’s standing investments during the reporting period (RC5.1)

Change: It will no longer be possible to report in units. Rather all property types will need to report in sq. ft. or m2.  

EVORA comment: This may present a challenge to many respondents as for certain property types, floor area surveys are often not available (e.g. hotels, student accommodation and car parks). In some instances, there may be other sources of information that can be used. For buildings (i.e. not car parks), this can include the EPC certificate. In most cases an area is also likely to be stated on insurance documents. Where necessary, entities may need to make assumptions to convert units into areas. For this, we suggest looking to country-specific planning regulations, which may have minimum space requirements – e.g. for car parks.


Management – Inclusion of ESG factors in annual performance targets of employees (2017: Q6)

Change: An additional sub-question has been added to this indicator, asking whether performance against these targets have ‘financial’ and or ‘non-financial consequences’. The list of possible ‘employee’ types has also been reduced from nine down to four (remaining options: ‘All employees’; ’Board of Directors’; ‘Senior Management Team’; and, ‘Other’). A requirement for a supporting evidence upload has been added.

EVORA comment: According to the pre-release, the scoring of this question has not changed, suggesting that the new ‘financial’ / ‘non-financial consequences’ differentiation is for information only. Therefore, we do not anticipate this question causing additional stress for respondents compared with last year. However, this change does hint at a wider trend seen across the ESG industry towards favouring a link between sustainability performance and financial incentives. Perhaps this is something we will see GRESB adopt in future versions of the survey.


Policy and Disclosure – Policies in place that address governance issues (2017: Q9)

Change: The list of governance issues that could be covered by an entity’s policies has been expanded; new options include data protection & privacy, fiduciary duty, fraud, political contributions, and whistleblower protection. The number of points awarded to this question has increased, from 1 to 2 points.

EVORA comment: Our expectation is that for larger reporting organisations few if any of these options will present a significant challenge. However, for smaller investment houses we wonder if for one or more of these new selections it may be difficult to provide the necessary documentary evidence to demonstrate that such issues are covered by a formal policy. We note that the full question includes an extensive list of options and it is not necessary to select all in order to obtain full marks. For anyone with particular concerns, we suggest doing a gap analysis against the full question.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Monitoring diversity (i.e. C-suite, Board, Management Committee)

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if and how respondents monitor diversity amongst its governance bodies. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: As with the previous indicator, we anticipate that larger (particularly listed) respondents will already be doing some or all of this – e.g. for certain countries / organisations this may already be a legislative requirement (e.g. EU non-financial reporting directive). For other, likely smaller, entities this indicator may require additional work and raise questions around the sensitivity of this information. We recommend engaging the relevant stakeholders (e.g. C-suite, HR department) as early as possible to work through any sensitivities and, if determined appropriate, a strategy for collecting this information. It is worth noting that for GRESB the pattern is often that new questions are introduced as ‘optional’ or for ‘reporting purposes only’ in year one, but from year two or three, they often become scored.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Commitments to ESG leadership initiatives

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks which third-party standards or groups respondents are members of / signatories to (e.g. IIGCC, PRI, RE 100, science based targets, TCFD, UNGC). The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: We have mixed feelings about this indicator because as worthy as these initiatives are, we feel that many are more appropriate for larger organisations that typically have more resources available to manage membership/alignment to these schemes. As mentioned above, ‘reporting purposes only’ questions often become scored in subsequent years.

Please note: We have experience support client’s alignment to various such initiatives and would be very happy to provide you with a complementary briefing on the opportunities and challenges presented by each of these initiatives. Contact us.


Policy and Disclosure – *NEW INDICATOR* – Process for communicating ESG-related misconduct, penalties, incidents or accidents

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents have a process for communicating ESG-related misconduct, penalties, incidents or accidents and if so, which stakeholders are included in the process. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018. However, according to GRESB this information may be used “as criteria for the recognition of 2018 Sector Leaders”.

EVORA comment: We anticipate that this indicator will be acceptable to most respondents.


Risk and Opportunities – Asset-level environmental and/or social risk assessments of standing investments during the last three years (2017: Q15.2)

Change: This indicator now requires reporting of ‘percentage (%) portfolio covered’ for each type of risk assessment. This indicator also now requires reporting of the third-party standard to which risk assessments are aligned (e.g. ISO 31000). Responses will be scored according to the issues selected and their respective % portfolio coverage. The open text box will no longer be scored and alignment to a third-party standard will not be scored (only required for reporting purposes).

EVORA comment: We can understand the rationale for this change, however, we have concerns over the additional reporting burden this will present for entities with larger portfolios. We note that some options are likely to be easy to determine a % coverage e.g. ‘GHG emissions’ and ‘regulatory risk’. Conversely, other options may require asset-by-asset consideration, such as ‘contamination’ and ‘flood risk’.


Risk and Opportunities –  Implementation of measures during the last four years to improve waste management (2017: Q19)

Change: This indicator remains the same as last year, however, it will be scored (whereas last year it was for reporting purposes only). This indicator will attract a maximum of one point.

EVORA comment: We agree with the principle behind this update, which increases the importance of and therefore focus on implementation of waste management improvement measures. This brings waste and resource management in line with the energy and water versions of this question and further shifts the overall balance of GRESB towards measuring / incentivising green ‘walk’, as well as ‘talk’.


Stakeholder Engagement – Employee and tenant satisfaction surveys (2017: Q34.1 & Q37.1)

Change: An additional sub-question has been added to this indicator, asking if and what ‘quantitative metrics’ were included in the surveys (e.g. overall satisfaction score). This new sub-question will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: This is a logical evolution to this question and should be borne in mind by anyone designing a satisfaction survey. Ultimately, it should improve quantification of what has historically been a largely qualitative issue.


Stakeholder Engagement – Monitoring of compliance with sustainability-specific requirements in lease contracts (2017: Q39.2)

Change: An open text box has been added to enable GRESB to further validate the approach taken by respondents to monitoring compliance with green lease clauses. Last year, this question was for reporting purposes only; however, this year it will attract a maximum of one point.

EVORA comment: In our view, this is another logical evolution to the survey. However, we do note that the process behind tracking green leases may not provide sufficient information on the number, depth and strength of green clauses in place.


Stakeholder Engagement – *NEW INDICATOR* – Engaging with supply chains to ensure ESG requirements are met

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents engage with supply chains to ensure ESG requirements are met. If ‘yes’ is selected, respondents are asked to describe the process in an open text box. The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: We anticipate that this indicator will be acceptable to most respondents and note an overlap with a subsequent question on monitoring supply chain compliance with ESG requirements.


Stakeholder Engagement – *NEW INDICATOR* – Stakeholder grievance mechanism

Change: A new indicator has been added that asks if respondents have a formal process for stakeholders to communicate grievances. If ‘yes’ is selected, respondents are asked to select from a list of ‘characteristics’ of the grievance process (e.g. rights compatible, transparent) and stakeholders that the process applies to (e.g. community, contractors). The indicator will not be scored and will be for reporting purposes only in 2018.

EVORA comment: As with most of the other new indicators, we anticipate that larger respondents will already be doing some or all of this. For other, likely smaller, entities these processes are less likely to be formalised and therefore demonstrating compliance may require additional work.


Performance indicators – Landlord versus tenant data collection and coverage (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: Although tenant energy/water consumption data is still requested, GRESB have committed to reducing the weighting it receives within the scoring and benchmarking of the ‘data coverage’ element of responses. Correspondingly, they will shift the emphasis onto data coverage of the landlord-controlled energy and water supplies.

EVORA comment: We fully support this update and have been lobbying GRESB on the issue for a while. For us it makes complete sense to focus scoring on what the landlord has control over, rather than their tenant activities, which they often have little ability to influence (particularly for certain property/portfolio types – e.g. industrial/logistics, FRIs).


Performance indicators – Like for like data coverage area (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: Respondents will now have to report on the size of the ‘like for like’ portfolio reported within the energy and water consumption data tables.

EVORA comment: We support this update and note that this should not add additional reporting burden for those using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


Performance indicators – Like for like consumption trends (2017: Q25.1 & 27.1)

Change: The scoring of reported energy and water consumption trends for the ‘like for like’ portfolio has changed. Last year all three points available for this indicator were attributed to the direction and scale of the consumption trends. From this year, one point will be awarded for data availability and only two points attributed to the consumption trend.

EVORA comment: This change should provide investors with greater clarity on the proportion of the portfolio that is driving change. However, as the like-for-like consumption trend is the only truly ‘performance based’ indicator, in our view, stealing points from the consumption trend aspect and giving them to data coverage is not entirely progressive.


Performance indicators – Scope 3 emissions (2017: Q26.1)

Change: Reporting of Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has become mandatory. In the context of GRESB, Scope 3 emissions include those associated with energy consumption in tenant areas and/or indirectly managed assets. From this year, Scope 3 emissions will be included in the scoring and benchmarking of responses, both in terms of data coverage and the ‘like for like’ consumption trend.

EVORA comment: We understand the principle behind this update, however we question the intention to score the Scope 3 like for like consumption trend, as well as data coverage. This is because, as mentioned above, generally tenant energy consumption and therefore GHG footprint is beyond the landlord’s control. As above, we note that this should not add additional reporting burden for those using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


Building Certifications – Green building certificates during design/construction/renovation or operation (2017: Q30.1 & 30.2)

Change: There is an expansion to the scope of these questions to include a requirement to provide certification levels/scores achieved (in addition to the overall schemes applied). This element will not be scored in 2018; it will be for reporting purposes only.

EVORA comment: We are supportive of this update and again, note that this should not add additional reporting burden for anyone using a good asset-level data collection and validation software tool, such as SIERA.


To find out how EVORA can help you to navigate GRESB, whether you are a first timer or an experienced respondent, then please get in touch.

 


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.

 

Greater Automation in SIERA Delivers Even Greater GRESB Reporting Efficiencies

It’s that time of year again; GRESB reporting has the potential to take over your life.

The complexity in pulling together the varied data elements alone can be enough to make you want to pull your hair out! But GRESB continues to gain momentum and there is no doubt it is mobilising many organisations to take action to collate and better understand their environmental data, which should lead to performance improvement.

So is there a magic solution to deal with the complexity of GRESB data reporting?

Well yes, actually!

GRESB has allowed the automated transfer of Performance Indicator (PI) data from sustainability management software systems, such as SIERA, directly into the GRESB portal for the last few years.

SIERA, our proprietary sustainability software developed specifically for the real estate industry, was one of the first software platforms to transfer PI data directly into the GRESB portal, which we implemented for the 2015 reporting year.

The PI automation, together with SIERA’s revolutionary ‘Drag & Drop’ data loading capability has seen efficiencies of at least 70% in delivering GRESB reporting.

Automating the reporting is only one-half of the challenge. The potentially bigger half is the collation of the data in a format that enables the PI reporting. SIERA has revolutionised this process through its highly efficient ‘Drag and Drop’ data loading functionality – never before has loading and validating sustainability data been so easy and efficient.

[clickToTweet tweet=”SIERA’s drag & drop #data loading can lead to efficiencies of >70% in delivering @GRESB reporting” quote=”SIERA’s Drag & Drop data loading capability has seen efficiencies of at least 70% in delivering GRESB reporting”]

Even more GRESB reporting efficiencies for 2017?

This year, GRESB has gone a step further and incorporated additional questions, beyond the PI reporting, into their Asset-level Integration – an asset level template that can be interfaced into the GRESB portal providing semi-automation. These include some qualitative questions around whether the reporting entity monitors energy, water or waste (Qs 23 -24) as well as well as completion of technical building assessments (Q16).

SIERA has already built these into its GRESB Asset Interface template. But we’ve gone a step further with SIERA and automated the responses for R5.1 (portfolio characteristics) and Q31 (EPC coverage) delivering further efficiencies and simplification to the GRESB reporting process.

SIERA: it’s leading the way in GRESB data automation and reporting.


 To learn more about how SIERA can deliver GRESB reporting efficiencies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


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.