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Social housing leaders and lenders come together to explore the role of ESG in achieving net zero

Major funders and leaders from the social housing sector gathered in Edinburgh this week to discuss how Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing can help achieve net zero while addressing the housing crisis.

At an event co-hosted by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Sustainability for Housing (SfH) on Wednesday (8 June 2022), attendees heard from representatives from the likes of Bank of Scotland along with large and small social landlords including Link Group and Blackwood Homes and Care. The event also heard a tenant give their perspective on the ESG agenda.

The event marked the launch of SfH’s ‘One year in’ report which explores findings from the first year of ESG reporting in the UK social housing sector, which has seen significant pick up so far in England and Wales. SfH oversees the Sustainability Reporting Standard for social housing (SRS) which so far has been adopted by over 100 housing providers, investors and funders.

The Scottish Government aims to reduce emissions of all major greenhouse gases by at least 75% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2045. Improving energy efficiency of social housing stock will be a big part of this push to reach net zero and attracting private finance via ESG reporting will be important going forward.

Julie McDowell, Chair of Blackwood Homes and Care and SfH board member, said: “Scottish RSLs have a strong commitment to doing the right thing for their tenants which was reflected in the high level of interest in ESG that we saw at the conference. I am confident that they will join forces to lead the way in responding to the challenges before us.”

Melanie Russell, Regional Head of Housing at Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Commercial Bank, said: “The sector in Scotland is at a crossroads with the ESG agenda moving at pace from the side-lines directly into the boardroom. 

“It was great to hear from two Scottish registered social landlords, Blackwood Homes and Link Housing that are signed up to the SRS. The event provided a brilliant opportunity to highlight to RSLs of all sizes the benefits of adopting and reporting on the ESG agenda.

“The view from the RSLs was clear that tenants must be central to the ESG journey. For me, the outstanding speaker of the day was David Tares who spoke passionately about his role as an intermediary between the Blackwood Homes board and their tenants.”

Brendan Sarsfield, Chair of Sustainability for Housing, said: “It was great to get so many registered social landlords along at the event. Most are at the start of their ESG journeys and hopefully the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing can help them.

“What was clear from the event was that the political and regulatory environment in Scotland, combined with the central role of residents in Scottish HA thinking, means that net zero implementation will fly in Scotland within the next couple of years. Watch this space.”

SfH’s recent report reviews the way that 50 housing providers have embraced ESG with insights from those that are reporting and the funders alike. It reveals that:

  • 34% of housing providers believe the development of their ESG reports had led them to accelerate the implementation of planned ESG actions
  • More than 50% of lenders and investors said reporting against the SRS is “becoming expected” of housing providers