Last week, Sustainability for Housing (SfH) hosted a webinar for housing providers, lenders and investors to discuss the benefits of adopting the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing (SRS).
The Standard now has more than 150 adopters and endorsers (122 adopters and 30 endorsers) and the webinar provided an opportunity to hear from existing housing association adopters about how they had found the reporting process.
SfH Chair, Brendan Sarsfield, spoke at the event which was chaired by SfH board member Julie McDowell. The SfH members were joined by Russell Smith, ESG Lead at Orbit housing association and Kelly Saban, Assistant Treasury Manager at Southern Housing and Andy Smith from The Good Economy.
Around 120 people attended the session and the discussion covered a number of key themes listed below. To rewatch the session play the video below.
The direction of travel for the Standard
Brendan explained the reason the SRS was created in the first place was to reduce the burden of bureaucracy on HAs that were receiving more and more questions from potential investors around sustainability.
Providing a singular, consistent document which all HAs could produce and show to investors has allowed the sector to move away from answering individual questionnaires.
Now, he said, the trend is moving towards measuring the impact your organisation is having. So adopters need to be prepared for this next wave.
What the SRS means to customers?
The webinar heard from Russell Smith on how Orbit had found the process of ESG reporting so far. He said that the HA has not looked to raise sustainable finance yet but that the Standard has stood the organisation in good stead for when it does.
He also gave insight into conversations Orbit has had with its customers on ESG. Interestingly, he noted that Orbit has primarily opted to use the term ‘sustainability’ when discussing ESG as Orbit found the later did not resonate with its customers.
Similarly, Kelly Saban from Southern also highlighted the fact that customers had said they want ESG work to be communicated to them clearly.
Who is responsible for ESG reporting?
Kelly said the process of ESG reporting has been a useful exercise in bringing all kinds of existing and new data into one place.
She suggested year one was the most difficult but after the initial effort, adopters can use the previous years’ report to build on.
Kelly explained the importance of getting buy-in from leadership figures and suggested that ESG reporting should be a cross-organisation effort, rather than being the responsibility of one department.
Who is ESG reporting for?
As Brendan explained, ESG reporting is moving towards demonstrating impact. He also highlighted the ongoing negative reputation of the sector and the importance of showing the good work that is being done by HAs.
Kelly said the intended audience for Southern’s ESG reporting has also developed. She said that initially the report was aimed at funders but that HA was now looked to produce reports that work for customers as well.
The need for adoption
Consensus from the speakers was that the SRS has helped bring the sector together while providing a useful tool for investors to analyse.
Brendan noted that the move towards ESG finance is gathering pace and HAs need to keep up. Part of the increased demand for ESG reporting is being driven by external standards which are being introduce include those by the Task Force of Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Andy Smith, Head of Housing Impact Services at The Good Economy, explained that adopters sometimes don’t report against all of the 48 criteria which is not a problem. Instead, SfH is keen to encourage a ‘best efforts’ approach with a viewing to building on your annual report every year
Six big reasons to adopt the SRS…
- Join a growing community that is supporting the sector and its residents on the ESG journey
- Help to lead and shape the reporting of the sector’s sustainability performance
- Enable lenders and investors to assess the ESG performance of housing providers, enabling access to finance
- Support work with residents and other stakeholders to create positive social and environmental outcomes
- Feature in the SRS Directory to enhance visibility and connectivity in ESG and social housing
- Gain access to our exclusive series of webinars and events
Would you like to adopt the Standard and join the SRS community? If so click here.