4 Tips to Ace the 2020 Sustainability Reporting Season

March 13, 2020 Jenna Bieller

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sustainability reporting, but several key practices distinguish those who lead from those who struggle. Reflecting on the 2019 GRESB Real Estate results, there are over 1,000 responding property companies, and overall scores continue to rise as competition grows. To better your chances of coming out on top, here are a few tips to keep in mind throughout the reporting process – for this year and the next.

TIP #1: Brush up on assessment changes

As we push into Q2, reporting bodies such as CDP and GRESB will open their online platforms for company submissions. While these questionnaires have not been finalized, utilizing pre-releases and change logs will give your company a head start to successful reporting in 2020.

While looking back at prior year submissions is crucial in understanding room for improvement, focusing too much on the past could cause companies to miss out on new point opportunities. Some of the topics introduced in 2020 include life-cycle assessments of buildings, embodied carbon and community engagement in the context of ESG issues, helping the assessment align with emerging sustainability trends in commercial real estate.

In addition to these new indicators, GRESB made previously optional facets of the assessment mandatory – most notably asset-level reporting. This year, GRESB participants need to disclose with much more detail, drilling down into the performance of individual assets rather than just at the portfolio. By placing these changes on the radar now, sustainability teams can prevent being blindsided by substantial new data asks and plan their resources accordingly.

TIP #2: Start early and utilize project management tools

The nature and granularity of these new asks require data from stakeholders that have likely not been engaged with sustainability reporting in the past, including downstream tenants, upstream builders and those sitting at the executive level. To obtain their necessary buy-in, start now by touting the many benefits of sustainability – including monetary savings, reputational gains, and improved health and well-being.

Including all expected contributors in an early kickoff meeting can help establish rapport and cooperation throughout requests for information. Utilizing project management tools, such as Gantt charts or Kanban Boards, will also help your team stay visually organized and on track to meeting disclosure timelines. Heads up: they’re due on Wednesdays this year, with the GRESB portal closing July 1st and CDP July 29th.

TIP #3: Establish a repeatable data process

Due to the cyclical nature of sustainability reporting, companies may be tempted to compile their energy, emissions, water and waste inventories as quickly as possible without regard for the next reporting cycle. After all, why worry about the future if the deadline is now?

But investing the time and effort up front to ensure all data pieces are collected helps with accuracy and resilience in the face of questionnaire updates, organizational changes, and the addition of new sites. Consider drafting an inventory management plan and utilizing external data partners to aid in constructing thorough and accurate portfolio footprints.

TIP #4: Keep your expectations realistic

Ultimately, go into this year’s reporting season with a keen understanding of your organization’s current progress and what’s possible to achieve. If your company is new to GRESB or sustainability, understand that building a relevant report takes time, and this year may not reflect where your organization wants to be in the future. By focusing on sustainability progress with a reasonable momentum, year-on-year progress will be met with steady climbs in rankings and scores.

These four tips can help lead your company on a path toward success in the 2020 reporting season. Another helpful resource we encourage you to explore is the 2020 Reporting and Compliance Calendar – access it now and never miss another deadline! If you’re interested in learning more about how these reporting frameworks affect you, contact us.

Contributed By:


Benroy Chan, Sustainability Associate, Schneider Electric ESS


Stephanie Durairaj, Sustainability Associate, Schneider Electric ESS




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