With the New Year only one week old, 2015 already seems like a long time ago. However, I wanted to reflect for a moment on what has been an important year for ESG in real assets. For example, the UN General Assembly adopted the new UN Sustainable Development Goals, with a strong focus on real estate and infrastructure, while the COP 21 meeting led to a broad agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Both these events, while seemingly vague and far removed from day-to-day business, will eventually result in increasing attention to real assets. This reflects the central role of the global property and infrastructure industries in critical global issues including resource constraints, climate change, and urbanization.
For GRESB, 2015 marks the year that we significantly expanded our scope, to include debt and fixed income and infrastructure. We also added new services including an ESG training program for GRESB participants and institutional investors. Online, we introduced GRESB Insights, a global knowledge-sharing platform, featuring innovation case studies and blog posts.
Some more highlights:
- More participants: 707 property companies and funds reporting to the 2015 GRESB Real Estate Assessment, representing 61,000 assets and USD2.3 trillion in value
- New initiatives: The launch of GRESB Infrastructure, jointly with AIMco, APG, ATP, Aviva Investors, CalPERS, PensionDenmark, Mirvoa, OTTP and PGGM
- New data and tools: The release of the inaugural GRESB Debt Report and data, as well as the GRESB Green Bond Guidelines for the Property Sector and Green Bond Working Group
- More members: An increase in GRESB Members to 190, of which 60 are pension funds and their fiduciaries, representing nearly USD7 trillion in assets under management
- More events: GRESB organized 21 events around the globe, attended by 1,261 people
- New training: We trained 227 real estate professionals during 16 trainings on 4 different continents
Most importantly, the results of the 2015 GRESB Real Estate Survey showed significant improvements in ESG performance. For example:
- Better environmental performance: on average, the sector achieved a 3% reduction in GHG emissions, 2.9% reduction in energy consumption, and a 1.7% reduction in water use
- Significant uptake in renewables: on-site renewable energy generation of 445GWh in 2015 (0.5% of total energy consumption) from 296GWh in 2014.
As for 2016: it promises to be an exciting year, again! One trend to watch is the increasing focus on health and wellbeing as a source of both risk and opportunity. We are currently developing the GRESB Health Module, which will be an optional part of the 2016 GRESB Real Estate Assessment. We have established an Industry Working Group on the topic, and we are organizing a series of spring events that will include global thought leaders and innovators from GRESB’s membership.
Other exciting 2016 developments include:
- New products:
- GRESB Infrastructure Assessment – assessment, scoring, and benchmarking for infrastructure investments.
- GRESB Developer – an assessment designed specifically for real estate development companies and funds.
- GRESB Pre-Assessment – an assessment tailored for due diligence purpose that will help companies and fund managers use GRESB at all stages of the investment process.
- More training: An extended GRESB Training Program in spring and fall, coming to you in more than 10 cities on 4 continents
- New automation tools: A streamlined and improved reporting process, with more API connections with more data providers, and further development of the asset-level data tools in the GRESB Portal.
A quick word of thanks to the gifted GRESB team -- I continue to be amazed and proud of the great achievements and the innovations that are being developed! To make our ambitions possible, we are currently hiring three more people, and we are actively looking for great interns. Spread the word, talent is welcome!
To an efficient, healthy, and sustainable 2016!