Our industry is engaged in an important dialogue to improve sustainability through ESG transparency and industry collaboration. This article is a contribution to this larger conversation and does not necessarily reflect GRESB’s position. Please refer to official GRESB documents for assessment related guidance.
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!
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.
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.
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