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GRESB sees surge in ESG disclosure for real estate and infra

Benchmarks hit $6.4trn after 26% leap

The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) has seen a surge in disclosure of ESG performance data, allowing it to expand by 26%.

The body gathers data on real estate and infrastructure investments for around 140 institutional investor subscribers, with a combined $47trn in managed assets. It bases its benchmarks on entity-level scores and asset-level information for hundreds of ESG data points including emissions, energy and water consumption and waste. The data is collected through its annual real estate and infrastructure manager assessments.

Despite headwinds caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the boost in disclosed information means GRESB now covers $6.4trn worth of assets under management. 

“We are pleased to see such a high level of participation in this year’s GRESB benchmark coverage, particularly considering the business disruptions we have all experienced over the past year and a half,” said GRESB CEO Sebastien Roussotte. 

Roussotte joined GRESB from investment fintech provider Style Analytics in May, soon after its sale to US private equity firm Summit Partners.

Subscribers include some of the world’s largest asset owners, such as Japan’s $1.75trn Government Pension Investment Fund, Sweden’s AP funds, CalPERS, Norges Bank Investment Management, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and South Africa’s GEPF.

Real estate is the third largest asset class for pension funds – averaging about 8.7% of fund portfolios based on data from the last three decades.

Over the past year, GRESB’s real estate dataset expanded to cover 1,187 non-listed funds and 326 listed property companies and REITs – up from 958 and 271 respectively in 2019 – as well as seven governmental entities to cover nearly 117,000 individual assets. A total of 1,520 property companies, REITs, funds and developers participated in the annual assessment.

Notably, the growth in coverage was driven by regional increases led by the Italian market which grew by 329% with the participation of more than 50 new entities and a 68% increase in the German market with 30 new entities.

When combined with publicly available ESG disclosures, GRESB benchmarks now provide full coverage of all major listed real estate indices, the body said.

On infrastructure, the GRESB benchmarks now includes data on 149 infra funds and 558 assets – up 26% and 31% respectively – valued at over $1trn. Asset data saw particular growth in transport and renewable power sectors, around 50% each from the preceding year, with 148 and 134 individual assets now covered by the benchmark.

The Amsterdam-based real estate platform was first launched in 2009 as an industry survey by Dutch responsible pension investors PGGM, APG, and the UK’s Universities Superannuation Scheme to gather standardised ESG data on real estate investments, later merging with the Washington-based Green Building Certification Institute in 2014. Last November, the $21bn PE investor Summit Partners led the acquisition of GRESB for an undisclosed sum.

GRESB is also a member of the EU-funded Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor (CRREM) project which aims to develop science-based decarbonisation pathways in the real estate sector and tools for investors to assess climate risk within their portfolios.

In April, GRESB, CRREM and green banking initiative the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials teamed up on a project to help investors measure financed emissions across real estate which is due to publish its output this autumn.