12 Days of ESG – 12 Actionable Tips to End Your Year

It’s that time again: the end of one year and the beginning of the next. During this season of transition, we often find ourselves in reflection mode, taking stock of our accomplishments and planning for the new year ahead. 

As things start to wind down and the “out of office” notifications begin to pile up, let us help you close out the year on a high. We’ve put together 12 daily actions for real estate ESG professionals to take to reduce energy, get organized, and prepare for a new ESG disclosure season in 2022. 

Day 1: Take Stock of Portfolio-Wide Performance

Now is the time to assess how your portfolio is performing in aggregate. Quickly scan through to identify the percent changes in energy consumption for the following two time periods:

  1.  Rolling year-over-year period (December 2020-December 2021), and 
  2. Your ESG disclosure reporting periods (i.e. for GRESB: January 2020- December 2021).

Reviewing performance over these periods will give you a good idea of how your buildings are performing compared to last year during the winter months, and will also provide insight into how your buildings might score in the 2022 disclosure period.

Day 2: Review Building-by-Building Performance and Make a List of Utility Data Gaps For Follow-Up 

Once you have reviewed overall portfolio trends, it can be helpful to drill into each individual building’s performance to identify any anomalies. We recommend you start by isolating buildings with year-over-year performance changes that are greater than 20 percent. With this group identified, you can then work building by building to review performance and identify the cause of any anomalies. Maybe there is a data quality issue that needs to be addressed before reporting season, or maybe something happened at a building that you should be aware of. 

Day 3: Confirm Your 2022 Reporting Boundaries 

While you evaluate individual building performance and search for anomalies, note which buildings (and their relative consumption) should be included in your reporting boundaries for which ESG framework. 

For GRESB, you will want to be sure to differentiate projects under initial development from buildings currently undergoing renovation from buildings that are fully operational.

Day 4: Create a Plan to Harvest “Low Hanging Fruit” 

As you review individual buildings, you will likely come across opportunities to improve performance and save energy.  Always start with the low-hanging fruit: lighting upgrades, scheduling adjustments, heating and cooling systems maintenance, BMS systems and controls and energy audits.

Day 5: Coordinate Basic Maintenance of Heating and Cooling Systems 

To aid with energy efficiency, especially in the colder winter months, be sure to schedule cleaning and/or replacement of building HVAC filters so that equipment isn’t working harder than it needs to be. Some filters can be cleaned and reused, but others must be replaced entirely, so check your model’s maintenance requirements. Adding layers of insulation around your HVAC, heating and cooling pipes, and electrical outlets can also help maintain efficient energy levels and reduce energy waste. 

Day 6: Set Building Schedules for the Winter Months and Holidays 

Take stock of projected occupancy and tenant office closures over the next few weeks and remind property teams to adjust HVAC systems to save on energy use. Consider using employee badge access information and/or tenants’ official open office hours to inform occupancy with the following template: 

December 24th, 2021

My first tenants arrive at ________ am.

My start up is from ______ am to _____ am.

* Ensure Optimal Start sequence is limited to no more than 3 hours ahead of scheduled occupancy.

Day 7: Research State and Local Incentive Programs to Help Fund Efficiency Projects 

To fund some of these low-hanging fruit projects and other potentially larger retrofits, be sure to take some time to learn about the rebates, tax credits and other financing options through your city, state or utility company.  For a comprehensive list of incentives see the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE).

Day 8: Prep Your ESG Disclosure Documentation

To help kick off the 2022 reporting season, spend some time on document management now – your future self will thank you. Gather all of the supporting documents you might need (e.g. environmental policies; materials from tenant engagement programs; ENERGY STAR certifications) and organize them in dedicated folders for easy access. 

Day 9: Revisit and Update Your ESG Gap Analysis

After you have organized what you have, it might be time to evaluate what you still need.  Revisit your handy ESG gap assessment and identify which data points for which KPIs you still need to collect.  

Day 10: Prioritize ESG Disclosure Gaps

After you have identified your disclosure gaps, prioritize them.  Consider referring to your materiality assessment if you get lost and remind yourself of the most relevant topics to your business. 

Day 11: Create an Action Plan to Fill Gaps in the New Year 

Now that you’ve prioritized your gaps, it’s time to put together a plan to fill them. You will need to know the kinds of data you can easily access, what the source is, and the data that you currently cannot access. Assign a source to each data point and put together an outreach plan to collect the data in the new year.

Day 12: Draft or Update Written Policies for ESG Disclosures 

Almost all ESG disclosures require written policies that demonstrate how an organization integrates specific ESG practices into the business. Review the policies requested for each ESG framework and identify the ones you already have in place, the ones you may need to draft next year, and the departments you will need to coordinate with to get needed information and approvals. 

Pat Yourself on The Back 

Whew – good job! You’ve done a lot this year. Spend your last day thanking yourself and others for the tireless work that all ESG professionals do. It takes a village to integrate ESG into the workplace – and it can be quite intense. So take a breather and close out the year on a positive note. You deserve it!

Learn more about how Aquicore can help you manage your portfolio’s ESG program.