Environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs focus on nearly every major company and organization globally. In the face of a continued and escalating climate crisis, rising energy costs, new greenhouse gas (GHG) and carbon regulations, and a growing customer base concerned about the footprint of the buildings they are living in, the multi-residential sector is asking itself how it’s possible to do good while doing well.
Yet, with all this enthusiasm and passion for more responsible governance, good data is at the heart of it all. Consistent, well aggregated, actionable information is central to ensuring all ESG initiatives are built on the right foundation and set at the right trajectory to work sustainably and ultimately drive the results each organization is looking to achieve short term and long term.
ESG requires a commitment – of time and technology
As we well know, ESG is no fly-by-night undertaking. These initiatives take time to build, deploy and deliver meaningful results. To be successful, these initiatives need to happen in well-planned, well-timed stages, with well-informed teams working collaboratively towards many micro-goals that drive macro impact. It takes groups of specialized individuals, visionary leadership and committed teamwork to identify, build and roll out initiatives that not only work but make a lasting impact and difference.
In addition, comprehensive data collection, proper organization, meaningful correlation and dynamic visualization helps to accelerate ESG initiatives within a company. At any stage of ESG planning, data provides the transparency, insights, and metrics to guide the necessary decisions to move every team and initiative forward and deliver consistent results.
So, you and your team are committed to ESG goals, but where do you start? Let’s look at a few relatively simple steps:
Who’s in? To begin any ESG initiative, you need buy-in from your organization’s leadership team, operational teams, investors and stakeholders. When talking about real estate management, groups connected to a property or portfolio need to know what data they can collect and how it will help them make better decisions.
Assessing performance. Next up, begin with an energy assessment that clearly articulates how each property in your portfolio is performing. An evaluation helps identify the precise amount of energy required to optimize a building’s HVAC system, as well as the gaps in performance leading to energy waste and negative environmental impact.
Good Data = Greater Success
Similarly, one of the key considerations in developing an ESG program is to know how and when you have access to the data your team needs. The more data gathered, the easier it becomes to monitor and effectively just the building’s systems in real-time. For this reason, it is important to identify and select technology that provides the right mix of transparency and correlated visualization to help inform early-stage decisions on where to begin with, energy efficiency and carbon compliance efforts. Data from disparate, siloed sections of the building doesn’t help build a holistic energy management strategy. Instead, look for platforms that visualize and display as a composite, making it easier to see how a system is performing at any given time.
Building. At this stage, the goal is to continue to build out the framework and foundation for what to accomplish and how to measure it. Once you understand how your portfolio is performing energy-wise and where you can create efficiencies, you need technology designed to calibrate your building system in real-time to meet the real energy needs of the residents and occupants in any season. This helps set the trajectory for energy savings and where these savings can be invested for maximum impact across all your ESG initiatives.
For instance, cloud-based platforms can adjust HVAC system set points in real-time by learning the energy use patterns. In this way, HVAC costs can be reduced by up to 30% and GHG emissions by 50%, depending on the fuel source.
Likewise, this technology works best when easy-to-access dashboards offer property managers, condo board members and mechanical vendors a comprehensive view of energy performance, whether in one building or across an entire real estate portfolio.
Benchmarking. Good data provides full transparency for how you measure what’s working, what’s not and why. Technology helps you understand where you stand with your initiatives – where you are overperforming and where you are falling short. It’s important to have technology that will grow with your needs over time; look for technology that you know will still be relevant five years from now to provide you with the data and insights you need to continually drive successful business decisions and cost savings that support strategic innovation.
Moving beyond. Beyond Benchmarking, it is all about following the data to find what’s next, identify where it’s possible to meet and exceed the goals set, and set a course to continue to evolve sustainably as an organization. Again, invest in technology that grows with you and ensure that technology not only has the software but a smart and accessible and responsive team equally invested in supporting your success all along your ESG journey.
When contemplating implementing an ESG program, understanding your company’s sustainability goals, along with the strategies necessary to achieve them, requires a thoughtful gathering of operational data. Not only that, but when that data is analyzed by a knowledgeable and forward-thinking team of experts, it becomes the cornerstone of a smart, stepwise approach to ESG planning and success. Having the right technology in place is tantamount to success in creating and driving ESG efforts, especially regarding energy efficiency and carbon compliance for properties and portfolios. When it comes to achieving ESG and sustainability success, it’s all in the numbers.
Brad Pilgrim is CEO of Parity (paritygo.com), the North American software solution driving innovation to transform building automation tech, eliminate energy waste, reduce CO2 emissions, and advance ESG initiatives for real estate owners and operators.