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How will COVID-19 and other factors impact your GRESB score in 2020?

By Sam Carson
8th June 2020

Performing well in GRESB requires year on year improvement and engagement in your sustainability programmes, the consequence of complacency could be losing stars. GRESB found that 40% of investors put climate risk and disclosures as their most concerning ESG issues over the next 5-10 years, their decisions will be influenced by GRESB scores as a reflection of a company’s sustainability commitments. 

Since the GRESB ratings were introduced our analysis shows that the typical increase is about 5 points every year. So if you had a score of 80 in 2018, you’d have a 5 Star rating. Keep that score at 80 in 2019 you’ll have 4 Stars. Stay still again and be facing 3 Stars. Staying still is moving backwards. 2020 has presented fresh challenges to organisations and there is uncertainty around what this might mean for GRESB scores this year. 



GRESB Ratings are always a contentious issue as clients are seeking to increase scores but avoid box-ticking. The GRESB Rating, introduced in 2015, has been an effective way of motivating the industry towards green buildings and portfolio programmes, but the way the rating system works can be confusing and can result in missed opportunities to reflect your organisation’s ambition.

GRESB ratings are out of 5 Stars. This isn’t to be confused (though often is) with the GRESB Green Star, which is the older indication of performance, scoring in the top right quadrant of the survey. In 2015 the average rating for all of GRESB became Green Star rated, so GRESB had to find a way to differentiate performance while keeping the survey stable and globally applicable. The GRESB Rating was born. 

Last year the total global population of GRESB was 1005 entities. These all had ratings which are a composite of the Management and Policy axis and the Implementation and Measurement Axis. 




The Rating is defined by the quintiles, 20% bands of participant performance. So every participant will influence the scoring of the others in an incremental way. This means the ratings are always changing as collectively the GRESB universe gets better. It also means staying still is moving backward, so to maintain Ratings participants need to continue to develop their sustainability programmes. 



But 2020 isn’t a normal year by any stretch, so this model may be challenged. There are some unknown variables that will influence this year’s scores, and we don’t know what the result will be:

  1. This year has had a restructuring of the survey to emphasize asset level data. This may affect funds where this data hasn’t been presented at the asset level before and possibly lower the scores of a number of funds. The more granular asset level data means the highly weighted Performance Indicators are more open to scrutiny and validation. 
  2. The COVID-19 crisis has presented a huge challenge getting data, especially from tenants. Not getting this data will lower the asset level data coverage for a number of funds and this is likely to have an impact across the GRESB universe. 
  3. On the flip side, there has been increased investor pressure to perform well, and participants are putting more effort into ESG programmes as a result. This will maintain or accelerate increases in GRESB scores as ESG gets more real and embedded, the middle of the pack is getting better.
  4. Another interesting impact is the adoption levels. New entries typically come in at 20-50, which lower the ratings. We believe the adoption levels are rising, 
  5. We also know that funds have dropped out due to the asset level data requirement. As GRESB is global, there may be markets where the drivers for GRESB aren’t enough to warrant this level of data collection. Some asset classes such as residential build to rent find the challenge in getting data for every unit is too much and possibly a privacy challenge so they will be unlikely to perform well. If these are mid level funds who drop out as funds are added to the bottom means a net shift downward.


We believe GRESB should be treated as a year-round improvement programme which is integrated into how we support our clients with sustainability matters. By using the GRESB results as an annual report card and creating plans for targeted improvement, we believe that this is the best way to use GRESB to drive actual improvement beyond compliance and box-ticking. Our methods are proven to help our clients use GRESB as a part of their overall strategy to integrate sustainability into their operations. 



The first step is our GRESB Gap Analysis which is aligned with our 6D Strategy Diagnostic, and helps to set out a multi-year programme of improvement that will deliver results. Get in touch today to see if we can help you with your GRESB and Sustainability Strategy needs, info@carbon.ci.