Tips and Tricks for GRESB Infrastructure Participants: Understanding Evidence & References

Thursday, June 23, 2016

This is the first year for the new GRESB Infrastructure Assessment. The Assessment is not a pilot – it’s the real deal – but we also have a lot to learn about how to create an effective assessment for the diverse infrastructure asset class. Part of the learning process involves creating a practical vocabulary for the assessment of the environmental, social, and government (ESG) performance of infrastructure funds and assets. The GRESB Infrastructure Assessment applies two practical terms that may require contextual clarification: evidence and reference.

What is “evidence”?

In the context of GRESB Infrastructure, “evidence” is concise and specific information that permits an independent validator to find support for the claimed answer to the indicator. The intent is not to provide evidence in the legal or regulatory sense; rather, the purpose of evidence in the GRESB assessment is to provide clear and direct support for the entity’s response to each question. As we describe in the Reference Guide, evidence should be as simple and straightforward as possible. This year, we are validating evidence entirely based on the presence of relevant information. For example, if an entity checks the box indicating that it has a formal environmental policy, then we want to see some tangible evidence that it has such a policy. This could include an official document, a website, an image of company signage, an internal document – anything that provides support for the existence of the policy. Our intent is to maintain flexibility by simply asking for information that an impartial third-party would view as evidence of the existence of a policy. It’s also important to underscore, per GRESB’s long-standing policy, this information is only visible to GRESB team members for the purpose of validation. It is not shared with investors.

How to “reference” evidence?

We hope and expect that many participants will provide concise evidence to support their claims. Concise, specific evidence is the best way to ensure that a validator can provide full credit. However, we also recognize that a lot of existing evidence is in the form of big reports and similar publications. That’s O.K. and there is absolutely no need to create evidence for GRESB – in fact, this is explicitly discouraged. Instead, the GRESB Infrastructure Assessment provides opportunities to provide a “reference” to a specific portion of a piece of evidence. We are not looking for an academic citation (e.g., Pyke et al. 2016. Journal of Irreproducible Results 1(1)10-20). We are looking for a specific indication of where to look for relevant information. This could be a section header, page number, line number, etc. -- something that a validator can use to quickly find the relevant information. Providing a solid reference is good for the participant and GRESB, as a clear reference maximizes the chance the validator will find the evidence the participant intends to share.

Bottom-line

Part of the challenge with infrastructure is that it is fundamentally diverse and this diversity brings an eclectic vocabulary. There are no perfect words to describe the ESG attributes of infrastructure investments, so GRESB will do the best we can to adopt existing and, when necessary, create a practical set of terminology. In this context, we hope that participants will share concise evidence of their activities along with clear references to help us navigate the material they provide. If you have questions, please contact info@gresb.com for help.