Inside Housing – Commentary – Sustainability standards are key to helping us leverage private finance to achieve our goals

All sectors of the economy want a piece of the ESG pie, but we are at the forefront and in a unique position to report well on the metrics that matter. This can lower the cost of borrowing, increase the pool of investors and increase the social and environmental impact of your organization.

The benefits of adopting the norm are already apparent, with industry peers using the stats to secure great loan deals – well-priced financing that achieves social or environmental goals, in addition to providing money to pay for much-needed social housing.

We know we have a great story to tell about ESG, but we haven’t always told it well until recently. The standard helps address this by helping landlords tell their great stories in a consistent way, making it easier for lenders to provide sustainability-related loans.

Most importantly, for housing associations, they will already have most of the data they need to report on the core criteria – the standard just brings it all together in one place. The metrics are in a broad box and include all the great things organizations are already doing.

Housing associations large and small should be the natural home base for good investments, which is why I can’t wait to get started.

†[Investors] actively seek opportunities to get involved in environmentally and socially responsible, well-governed organizations that have a demonstrable impact on people’s lives. That’s us”

As chairman of the board of Sustainability for Housing, one of the things I’m eager to do is make sure the metrics and standard are always evolving and fit for purpose. That means they need to ensure they continue to meet the needs of financial institutions, as well as align and reflect changing regulations and the activities of housing associations.

I see a time coming when ESG metrics will be an essential part of getting the funding needed rather than an optional ‘nice to have’ extra stream of cheaper funding. They will become the norm and part of the standard credit assessment process of financiers and rating agencies across the board.

So the risk then becomes that you will be left behind and unable to access well-priced financing because you have not adopted the standards that financiers want to see. The question then is: can you afford not to adopt the standards as soon as possible?

For more information about the reporting standards or the Sustainability for Housing board, click here, or contact me.

Brendan Sarsfield, Chairman, Sustainability for Housing board; and outgoing chief executive, Peabody

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