With 3 months remaining to react to the results of sustainability reporting season and develop a plan for next year, the looming challenge is to temper a desire to do whatever is necessary to improve on next year’s report against the need to take measured steps towards your long-term strategic goals.
Here’s 5 specific places you can invest your energy to get the best return on scores while building towards your long-term strategic priorities, along with links to the best resources on that topic.
|What||Why It Pays Off||Where To Start|
|Both GRESB and CDP request disclosure of company policies such as bribery and corruption, climate change policy, and executive compensation. With relatively few points coming from a single policy, many companies routinely submit incomplete documentation, or fail to provide it altogether.|
Since company-wide policies are usually established once every several years, and many are good to have for reasons far beyond sustainability, a catalogue of basic policies on company letterhead approved by the executive committee will guarantee points for the life of the policy. Even the smattering of points gained here can be difference-makers in an increasingly competitive environment.
|Performance Data||Many companies are locked in an annual struggle to collect and organize their utility data. A mishmash of manual entry and semi-automated systems invariably leads to frustration, errors and lost points.|
Don’t overreact to annual reporting requirements with an attempt to achieve real-time data nirvana across every owned or leased building, or every plane flight taken by your employees. A step up from manual data entry is automation systems like Measurabl that pull utility data and roll-it up into GRESB or CDP. Where data is unavailable, tried and true estimation methodologies are deployed by these same software systems – plugging holes in what would otherwise be an insurmountable and expensive challenge. Not only will your annual reporting requirements be satisfied, but day-to-day data visibility becomes possible as well as informed target setting, which kills 3 birds with 1 stone.
|Stakeholder Engagement||Stakeholder engagement is an increasingly large chunk of your CDP and GRESB scores. GRESB, for example, just increased the weighting of this category in its 2015 Survey. Since stakeholders are a day-to-day reality of your business, you’re probably already doing many of the things that earn you credit, but simply failing to do so in a systematic or well documented fashion.|
A fully-documented process for engagement with both employees and customers increases ESG transparency and wins points. Careful – this is not merely a set of aspirational goals or a broadly written strategy. It’s a set of regularly recurring steps. Often engagement programs, processes and goals already exist in the customer-facing side of your business and simply need to be re-stated or adapted to reflect their sustainability implications in order to win recurring, long-term points.
|Building Certification||Building energy and water usage is under increasing scrutiny from national, state, and local governments, but many companies see this as a pure compliance matter, missing the opportunity for pursuing green building certifications created as a by-product of fulfilling regulatory requirements.|
When satisfying energy and water reporting requirements in the US, most laws ask that the data be put into the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. Consequently, by virtue of complying with the law, many buildings are already getting benchmarked and on the path towards potential certification. While certification is not yet a matter of legal compliance across the US and Canada, it is in the UK and other European countries. Here’s another chance to turn a regulatory pain point into a sustainability win by getting buildings benchmarked before ensnared by the law. It will reduce the friction of reactive compliance and boost your GRESB score.
|Budgeting||Ambitious non-financial goals like carbon reduction or water neutrality are guiding more corporate decisions each year. The increased focus on business responsibility, efficiency, and transparency means ESG programs are a key differentiator for companies, and the investors who lend them money.|
Creating a budget for ESG activities that reflects the heightened emphasis this function plays in driving down cost, risk, and for endearing the company to investors means the sustainability department’s budgetary ask needs to go up. Do this by expanding the scope of departmental responsibility to include supply chain, energy projects, and investor relations – the bigger value drivers of corporate administration. Make sure to quantify ROI not only on efficiency projects, as is the norm, but intangibles like brand equity and access to investor capital.