Sustainability for Housing loading now
Skip to Main Content

Reflections from the NHF Finance Conference

SfH board members Sarah Smith, CFO at Southern Housing and David Cleary, Head of Housing at Lloyds Banking Group,  recently attended the National Housing Federation’s annual finance conference in Liverpool to discuss all things ESG and social housing.

Sarah appeared on the panel for a session entitled “Investment and funding: What impact will the new Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing have on secure borrowing?”. David spoke at the session called “Working strategically to strengthen the sector’s credit rating”.

Below are their key takeaways from the conference:

Sarah Smith

How boards engage with ESG

Attendees discussed the level of board engagement in an organisation’s ESG report. There was recognition that while board may not be heavily involved in the reporting there are other ways they engage.

For example, boards will keep a close eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) that themselves are linked to metrics in the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing (SRS).

Making the SRS work for you

It was good to hear from a number of housing associations about how they are getting on with the SRS.

There were some interesting discussions around how HAs are making the SRS useful to the business as opposed to something that is done to satisfy lenders and investors.

Data collection

With HAs now having a few years of ESG reporting experience, many are now looking to improve on their data collection. HAs discussed how they could look to improve data collection practices to make the process easier.

Additionally, we talked about assurance reporting and the likelihood of investors will begin to ask for this against a top 10 set of metrics.

Smaller HAs

Questions were raised about the challenges that smaller HAs face when trying to report against the SRS.

To date we have had several smaller HAs adopt the SRS. Attendees acknowledged that the SRS is a useful tool even if a HA is not looking to access the capital markets as the metrics can still be used to drive improved performance.

The SRS is unique

In a time where more and more sustainability reporting frameworks are appearing, attendees acknowledged that the SRS is quite unique in that it has been designed with a specific sector in mind.

To ensure that the SRS remains a valuable tool, many suggested more regular briefing on updates to the Standard would be welcome.

David Cleary

Investor confidence

The panel session I took part in was open and honest about the financial pressures being experienced and the impact on the credit standing of the sector.

However, it also highlighted recent capital markets issuance and the confidence long term investors have in the sector, despite “storm clouds gathering over the River Mersey”.

Collaboration between stakeholders

At the end of day one, SfH board members attended a drinks reception which promoted Crisis and Lloyds Banking Group’s call for one million new homes for social rent.

Matt Downie, Chief Executive of Crisis, called for housing associations and finance partners to work collaboratively to use their voice and influence to help make the case for social housing investment.

Can do mindset

This year’s NHF Finance conference was superb and well attended. It is always great to have so many housing professionals in one place to discuss the challenges and potential solutions the sector is facing.

I left with a strong sense of the sector’s ‘can do’ mindset, despite the challenges it faces, with housing associations keen to make significant progress in 2024 with their financing, risk management and sustainability plans.