Goby Insights

Best Practices Sustainability Reporting

Frequently asked GRESB questions & answers

  • January 24, 2018
  • Helee Lev
Frequently asked GRESB questions & answers

Frequently asked GRESB questions and their answers

During a recent webinar hosted by Goby and GRESB, we discussed several of the most frequently asked GRESB questions. The questions and answers below are not ranked in any particular order.

We’ve never submitted to GRESB before, and we’re worried about our results being public if we don’t perform well. Is this a requirement for reporting?

GRESB does not release any scores publicly. For private firms that submit, the data and results are yours. No one will receive your scores or be able to see your performance unless you allow them to.

How can we stay competitive?

Looking at your answers to GRESB questions is a good first step toward identifying the best areas to enhance your competitive edge and increase performance. A few ways you can improve your performance:

  • KPI Data: broaden the scope and quantity of KPI data you collect and report during the GRESB submittal process; most likely, that data already exists, and it’s usually simply a matter of locating & aggregating it for reporting.
  • Answer “yes”: if you already have vast data coverage and scope, instead focus on the questions that you answered “no” to during the previous GRESB reporting period. Being able to answer “yes” to these will help boost your score and increase performance.
  • Low-hanging fruit: if available, focus on low-hanging fruit, such as employee or tenant satisfaction surveys, and other changes that you can implement without debilitating time or financial inputs.

Should we focus on improving KPIs or policies? What has the largest impact on performance?

Questions in the annual GRESB assessment that ask about your KPI data make up over 70% of the assessment itself, so focusing on this side of the reporting is crucial for achieving a higher score.

I’m having a hard time getting other stakeholders engaged in this process and it’s limiting our impact on KPIs. How can I encourage them to get involved?

A few ways to encourage your stakeholders, employees, and tenants include:

  • Recognition: people like to be recognized for their efforts; implementing a system for publicly recognizing well-performing properties and those who contributed their efforts and time will help encourage further participation.
  • Automation: alleviating the burden of manual data aggregation and entry from disparate sources for your teams will save time and money and lessen the requirements on your teams.
  • Start at the top: getting executives and other high-level members of your organization interested and involved in your sustainability efforts is a great way to move the needle and really create momentum behind your strategies.

We’re getting all of our ducks in a row and still trying to understand what GRESB is and if it makes sense for us this year. What do you recommend?

The data you gather for GRESB increases transparency within your organzation, and allows you to gain business intelligence and a valuable understanding of your current performance. Data also allows a new line of dialogue throughout your company, from your sustainability teams all the way to executives and stakeholders, which in turn can pique the interest and involvement of those people who can help enact your strategies.

I need to create a sustainability strategy for my fund or portfolio; how does GRESB fit into that?

GRESB is not an ESG strategy in and of itself; it provides a framework that gives you tools, knowledge, and pathways to help refine and enhance your own strategies as you implement sustainability-focused business practices.

If I prepare for GRESB but decide not to submit, what’s the benefit of going through the process? Can I use the data to create value in any other ways?

There’s simply no reason that, after you’ve gone through the time-consuming process of collecting the required data, that you would want to refrain from submitting it to GRESB. If you’re worried about under-performing and thus looking bad, you don’t need to be; the results are private, and you’re the only one who receives the results of your submittal.

My investors aren’t currently asking me to do GRESB; what would be the compelling reason to start now?

Having a track record of sustainability-focused business decisions is becoming very attractive to investors in the current industry. Transparency and voluntary reporting of your ESG data and policies is has become increasingly common and may even be expected by potential investors. Collecting and reporting this data also grants insight into the state of your operations and efficiencies and helps identify areas for improvement across your portfolio.

I have been participating in GRESB for three or more years. I make small improvements year-over-year but feel like I have plateaued. What can I do to keep moving the needle and drive value for my properties and not just “buy points”?

This is the time for you to make business decisions based on your circumstance and around your company’s vision. GRESB is a framework meant to challenge an organization on an annual basis with a series of questions, and these questions have evolved since its inception and are continuing to do so now. The Health & Well-Being Module was introduced within the last several years, and GRESB will soon be introduing a new Resilience Module. These new sets of questions open up new avenues for your performance to increase. There is no one best practice for this, since different companies will take different roads and utilize alternative strategies that best fit their specific needs and organization. It’s important to figure out the best fit for your own strategy, portfolio, and goals.

Why am I put in this bucket? I consider myself an X, so why does GRESB consider me a Y?

GRESB assigns you to a peer group based on the property type composition of your portfolio. The threshold is 75%, which makes assigning a portfolio of only office properties, for example, easy. This sorting and assignment is more difficult for some other types of portfolio. For example, mixed-use properties are difficult to sort into a specific peer grouping, since part of a property may be designated as hospitality and another part is office space or retail area.

I know that performance indicators are a substantial part of my score, but many of the assets in my portfolio have NNN leases and I do not have access to utility and waste consumption information. How can I successfully report within this category?

The short answer: get as much of the data as you possibly can, by whatever options you have available. Even if the only data you can access is from common areas or parking lots or other similar, shared spaces, collecting this data sets you along the path to increasing the range, scope, and quantity that you’ll have access to. Even within just these available spaces, you’ll likely find improvements to implement that result in positive outcomes; for example, you may discover that you should replace the lighting in your parking lots and common areas with low-cost, high-efficiency bulbs, resulting in lower energy usage and decreased utility fees. These changes and new operational direction will also help to open new dialogue with tenants and utility companies about transparency and access to data, moving your properties toward increased transparency and hopefully improved results.

Are you considering disclosing your portfolio & property data to GRESB? Already reporting and trying to improve your performance? Download our best practice guide for GRESB reporting and start turning your ESG insights into actionable results.

Ready, Set, GRESB

Helee Lev

Helee joined Goby in 2012, overseeing strategic account management, new business, and industry alliances. In 2015, she participated in raising $5M of venture capital funding for Goby. As CRO she leads sales and business development, HR, and Goby ESG, Goby's strategic consulting group.

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