A panel discussion jointly hosted by BREEAM and international assessment body GRESB at Ecobuild in London this week looked at the increasing importance of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) as a key focus when measuring investment risks and sustainability in the infrastructure sector.
The event saw international industry experts and senior executives including institutional investors, fund and asset managers and operators discussing the business case for sustainability assessment in infrastructure and the need for comprehensive standardised global frameworks and standards.
The audience heard from industry experts on how new tools for assessing infrastructure projects on their ESG credentials have now been developed to assist investors with engagement and performance monitoring. Chris Broadbent, Director of Infrastructure at BREEAM described how a standard currently under development will combine two leading sustainability rating schemes BREEAM Infrastructure and CEEQUAL to create a single best practice standard for the next generation of civil engineering projects.
Chris Pyke, Chief Operating Officer at GRESB told the audience how the new GRESB Infrastructure Assessment tool will address investor and fund managers’ need for global standards and benchmarking of the ESG performance of their assets, portfolios and funds.
GRESB comprises over 175 members including pension funds and financial asset managers and is committed to assessing the ESG performance of assets globally, including real estate portfolios and infrastructure. Members benefit from GRESB data in optimising the risk/return profile of investments in ESG terms.
David Dahan, Managing Director, Infrastructure & Structured Finance at Aviva Investors gave a keynote presentation which strongly demonstrated infrastructure investors’ need for ESG tools and standards for due diligence and benchmarking. He referred to the strong evidence from real estate that commitment to ESG adds value, and the growing realisation of the importance of this to the infrastructure sector.
Case study presentations gave leading real-world examples of sustainability performance measurement in a range of infrastructure projects, including consideration of ESG. Darren White, Environmental Compliance Manager, Thames Tideway Tunnel looked at how this major utilities project is measuring sustainability across the project roll-out, Jaideep Das, Partner at ERM described how the financial advisory firm is Enhancing Value through Embedding ESG Considerations, and David Symons, Director, WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff told attendees how WSP’s Future Ready Programme is imagining the potential future-scapes and challenges for mankind and infrastructure of the future.
Chris Broadbent commented:
“Third party certification and awards schemes can make a significant contribution to achieving improved project and ESG outcomes at the practical level. We are delighted that these ratings are seen as an important part of the GRESB evaluation process. Of particular importance is the recognition that evaluating and improving the sustainability of assets is key to enhancing and protecting shareholder value.”