GRESB, the global benchmark for environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of commercial real estate portfolios and infrastructure investments, is moving out from the umbrella of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) to establish independent oversight through a new non-profit foundation. The Netherlands-based private company will also pursue benefit corporation (B-Corp) certification to formally verify that it meets performance, transparency and accountability standards for generating profits that benefit society and the environment.
“We’re looking ahead to a new era for GRESB with deeper industry involvement in our governance and greater capacity to deliver the ESG data and insights needed to navigate the transition to sustainable real assets at the speed and the scale that is now required,” says Sander Paul van Tongeren, GRESB co-founder and managing director.
Under the new structure, GRESB investor members will make up the foundation board, which will be tasked with annually reviewing and approving the benchmark’s standards. Some major Canadian players — including Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo), Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP), Ivanhoé Cambridge, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, Oxford Properties Group and Presima — number among this group of more than 100 financial and institutional investors now relying on the data collected from a steadily expanding base of reporting entities.
Notably, 957 private real estate companies and funds, and 272 publicly traded companies and REITs participated in the 2020 real estate survey, representing more than 96,000 assets located in 64 countries. Results will be released later this month.
“We welcome the establishment of a truly independent GRESB foundation to govern the GRESB standards and continue their development as investor needs evolve. This is an important evolution to reinforce that GRESB is a by-industry, for-industry, mission-driven and investor-led organization,” maintains Patrick Kanters, managing director global real assets, with the GRESB investor member, APG Asset Management.
ESG champions in the Canadian commercial real estate industry likewise commend the new independent foundation, saying it will safeguard against outside parties influencing GRESB standards.
“This is global best practice now, and will make GRESB even more relevant going forward,” observes Michael Brooks, chief executive officer of REALPAC and a former GRESB board member. “The pivot to a benefit corporation reflects the fact that GRESB very much is a change agent for a better world, allowing real estate companies to compare themselves with each other on a number of metrics, so everyone can be a better corporate citizen on this planet.”
GRESB management teamed with the alternative investment firm Summit Partners to reacquire its independence from GBCI, which has held GRESB in its portfolio of green building and business standards since 2014.