Unlocking the key to ESG for Build to Rent

Through its working group and recently launched survey, the BPF aims to identify a clear and suitable way forward for measuring and comparing ESG performance.

Buildings and green balconies - ESG | BPF | BTR News

The Build to Rent sector is uniquely placed to deliver on ESG. It is changing the face of renting through an unparalleled renting experience with high-quality homes, secure and long-term tenures, and accountable and present property management. It delivers highly energy efficient (and more cost-effective to run) homes, often net-zero and net-zero ready developments, and new green space. It creates renting communities and 20-minute neighbourhoods. Build to Rent is in many ways already leading the way – but has a huge opportunity to go even further in delivering positive environmental and social impact.   

By James Simondson, Assistant Director of Policy, British Property Federation

But a clear and fit-for-purpose pathway to accurate reporting, tangible outputs and identifiable actions across the building lifecycle has not yet emerged. The absence of a uniform solution has left providers to identify individual pathways and solutions that best fit schemes and portfolios.

In 2021, the BPF established a Residential ESG Working Group, ably stewarded by Alex Notay, Placemaking and Investment Director at PfP Capital, and with a range of members with diverse portfolios. Our task was – and still is – to identify a clear and suitable way forward for measuring and comparing ESG performance.

The working group set about mapping the existing ESG landscape, culminating in the publication of our ESG Guidance for the Institutional PRS released late last year. What our guidance shows is that the ESG field is crowded, with many tools now at the disposal of residential real estate to start or expand their ESG strategies. These include industry benchmarks, certifications and accreditations and frameworks – which are distilled into digestible summaries and categorised via a ‘suitability matrix’.

But are all of these tools and services fit-for-purpose? Several of them have been retrofitted from the commercial sector and our members tell us that these products cannot quite capture the nuance and bespoke features of Build to Rent. Others target specific design or operational features – or specific stages of a building’s lifecycle. At best, each Build to Rent company has to piece together a number of them to achieve some form of whole-life cycle framework – or develop a full in-house ESG/Sustainability strategy.   

It has become clear that in order to find a uniform ESG solution for Build to Rent, we have to be able to understand the individual ESG/Sustainability approaches being taken across the sector on a level deeper than just anecdotal. We also need to be able to clearly recognise the challenges that Build to Rent has had with all of the ESG tools and services available for use. Understanding both of these experiences should help us clearly identify where the barriers to ESG progress and implementation lie.  

To do this, the BPF has launched a Residential ESG Sentiment and Experience Survey. Our hope is that through collecting as many responses from the Build to Rent sector as possible, we will be able to paint the very first picture of where the sector is on its ESG journey. This will mean that we will, for the first time, be able to articulate what Build to Rent’s specific ESG credentials are – and perhaps even clearly show a market opportunity for a bespoke Build to Rent ESG solution.  

To help turn talk into action, industry participation in the survey is vital. Here’s to a greener, fairer future for people, communities, towns and cities – delivered by Build to Rent.