Changes to GRESB 2018 Real Estate Survey Part 1 – The Headlines

The GRESB pre-survey was published today (15th February).  As expected, a number of changes have been made to both the question-set and the process.

Over the course of the next couple of days we will review these changes in detail, before coming back to you with a more comprehensive summary in a separate blog. For now, please see the headlines below.

Changes to the questions for GRESB 2018

  • Enhanced validation – The three tier validation process (All Participant Check; Validation Plus; and, Validation Interviews) continues, however, from this year the All Participant Check will be extended and will be applied to all responses for a select number of questions (previously only 25% of responses were subject to this level of check).
  • Reduced reporting burden – There are a reduced number of mandatory open text boxes (but with more opportunity to provide context).
  • Green building certificates – There is an expansion to the scope of the Green Building Certificate questions, including a requirement to provide certification levels/scores achieved (in addition to portfolio coverage).
  • Scope 3 – Mandatory reporting of scope 3 emissions is introduced, covering emissions associated with tenant areas and/or indirectly managed assets.
  • Like for like consumption – There is a requirement to define the floor area associated with like-for-like portfolios.
  • Asset level data – GRESB continues its increased focus on data quality, by making additional points available for respondents submitting asset-level energy, carbon, water, waste data.
  • Health and wellbeing – 2018 will be the final year of the Health & Wellbeing module.
  • Resilience – A new resilience module is launched.

Changes to the process

  • Fee – There will be a participation fee introduced for non-members. This will not be applicable to first time participants submitting under the ‘Grace Period’ or participants from non-OECD countries.
  • Scorecards/Benchmark Reports – All participants will receive a Scorecard and Benchmark Report for all of their submissions.
  • Response Check – The Response Check is available on request from April 1 to June 8, 2018 subject to available resources.

The changes have been implemented to improve accuracy of data collection and to push the industry further towards sustainability performance improvement.  EVORA already supports its clients in both of these areas. Our expert sustainability consultants and engineers advise clients across the piece – from strategy through implementation to reporting. Furthermore, we use our proprietary software platform SIERA to collect and validate client data at meter and asset level.

What next? Tips to get you started

If you are involved in the GRESB process, we recommend that you start planning for the submission process now. Some practical tips to get you started:

  • Changes to GRESB – Review the new question set as soon as possible. Consider the changes (there is an overview at the start) and how you will develop your response to address these –  now.  GRESB 2018 includes text boxes to provide additional context to your answers – how and where will you use this option?
  • Changes to your entity – For previous participants consider last year’s results – responses should truly reflect the processes, procedures and performance of the funds and portfolios you manage.  Was anything missed from previous submissions?  Have you changed any processes and procedures relevant to the GRESB survey?
  • Evidence – Identify what evidence is required (including, but not limited to, audits and assessments, implementation of improvements, performance data and building certification). Establish how this can be collected and liaise directly with property management teams.
  • Plan, Do, Deliver – Establish and follow a detailed submission plan.

As mentioned, we are in the process of reviewing the new question set in detail and will publish more information shortly – so keep an eye out for updates.

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.

The full survey can be found here.


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.

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?

EVORA is a GRESB Premier PartnerAbout 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!