09/09/2013 | by Carisa Chappell

The real estate sector has improved its sustainability disclosure practices and environmental performance, according to the 2013 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey.

The report, released Sept. 5, noted that the global real estate sector as a whole cut its energy consumption by 4.8 percent from 2011 to 2012. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2.5 percent. Water consumption fell by 1.2 percent.

“Evidence from the report indicates that companies and funds now see sustainability as an essential part of their day-to-day management practices,” said Phillipa Shire, GRESB’s operations manager. “This means that they examine sustainability issues regularly. All participants in 2013 confirmed that they undertake risk assessments. The effect of taking sustainability issues more seriously looks to be improved performance including energy reductions.”

The 2013 GRESB report, based on sustainability data gathered from April to July from 543 property companies and funds, covers 46 percent of the FTSE EPRA/NAREIT Global Real Estate Index. NAREIT merged its Leader in the Light sustainability program with the GRESB platform in 2012 to encourage respondents to benchmark their organizations’ sustainability achievements against those of real estate companies around the world.

Australia continues to be the top performing region when it comes to sustainably performance, according to the 2013 GRESB report. The report indicated that significant differences exist between regions in terms of energy reduction. Europe lagged behind other regions, with a small decrease of 0.7 percent in energy consumption from 2011 to 2012.

“Interestingly, despite significant amounts of regulation, there was less of a reduction in overall energy consumption in Europe than elsewhere,” Shire said. “Some European regulatory measures have been recently introduced, and it will take time to see their impact.”

Shire also said an examination of voluntary measures to encourage disclosure would be worthwhile. She added that improving disclosure levels in the United States and Asia indicate that there could be effective alternatives to mandatory measures intended to boost transparency.

“It could be that tenant pressure also plays a role, and this is something that we do look at in the GRESB Survey,” she said.