When you hear the word resilience you might think of an activist like Martin Luther King, an explorer such as Ranulph Fiennes, or an athlete akin to Mo Farah.
In all walks of life it is an admirable and desirable quality, but the meaning it carries in the field of commercial property is perhaps not as well defined or understood as it needs to be given the increasing role it is expected to play in securing long-term success.
GRESB is recognising the importance of resilience in real estate portfolios by introducing a brand new module for the 2018 GRESB survey. Much like the Health & Wellbeing module that came before it, the GRESB Resilience module will standalone and evolve over the next 3 years with the intention of subsequently integrating it into the main GRESB survey.
But what is it that makes real estate resilient?
What is it that makes companies and funds resilient?
And what is it that will make you GRESB resilient?
What is resilience?
The exact definition of resilience in a sustainability context is not yet fully agreed, however the IPCC defines it as:
“The ability of a system and its component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions”.
Meanwhile, GRESB defines it as:
“The capacity of companies and funds to survive and thrive in the face of social and environmental shocks and stressors”.
In short, how well equipped is your organisation to deal with big events that disrupt systems (floods, fires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks etc.), and the stressors that make you more susceptible to harm when events do occur (poverty, environmental degradation, aging infrastructure etc.)?
The GRESB resilience module
The GRESB Resilience module has been kept fairly simple this year, asking basic-level questions on the involvement of management and stakeholders in resilience-related decisions, on asset and business operational risk reporting, on strategies for the management of risk, and, interestingly, to “describe your response to three illustrative, disruptive, extreme, or catastrophic events or near misses during the reporting period”. I am intrigued to see what kind of responses come in for this last one.
I am confident that the Resilience module will follow the projected path of the Health & Wellbeing and ultimately become a part of the main survey. Firstly, because the probability of these system shocks is indisputably growing for many issues (e.g. climate change, terrorism, I.T. security) and secondly, because of the potentially huge environmental, social, and financial consequences that could result from failing to invest in resilience.
Exactly how the module will look in a few years’ time is hard to say, with GRESB using this year to gauge the current state of play in the industry. I doubt it will progress to any kind of individual asset-level evaluation any time soon given the multitude of uncertainties in resilience modelling and the unique situation every asset is in with regards to external shocks and stresses. Instead, I expect it will likely remain procedural, focussing on how organisations go about identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks in their portfolio, and how they are communicating these risks to different parties. However, we wait with intrigue to see how this new reporting element develops.