Times Higher Education to rank Universities on their contribution to the SDGs

Times Higher Education (THE) has announced that it’s launching a new global ranking that aims to measure institutions’ contributions and success in delivering the UNs’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We look at how this ranking has been developed and consider some of the implications for the sector.


How has the ranking been developed?

The ranking seeks to evaluate how an individual institution contributes to society by evaluating three main factors:

  • Research – creating knowledge to address the world’s problems;
  • Stewardship – managing resources and teaching well;
  • Outreach – direct action in society.

This understanding has been used to assess the relevance of all the SDGs for the higher education sector and to identify a set of metrics that provide insight on progress. SDGs were prioritised and metrics identified through consultation and by assessing data availability.


How can Universities respond and what is the methodology?

In 2019, the first year of ranking which is being treated as a pilot, THE will collect data on 11 of the 17 goals from universities that participate by providing data through the portal. The ranking for each university will be based on one mandatory goal (goal 17 – partnerships for the goals) plus the best three scoring SDGs for that specific institution. This means that universities can demonstrate their performance in the areas that are most relevant to them.

THE will use provided data to produce:

  • An overall ranking of universities based on the top three SDGs for each individual university, plus SDG 17
  • Individual rankings of universities for each SDG

In the first year 11 of the 17 SDGs will be assessed with Universities having to respond to a minimum of 4

Only universities that submit data for the goal 17 and three other SDGs will be included in the overall ranking, but those that submit to individual goals will be included in the ranking for the goals that they have responded to.

Data will come from a variety of sources, including direct submissions from institutions and bibliometric datasets from Elsevier. As with the World University Rankings, THE will normalise for university size where appropriate and ensure equity between countries and universities.



The ranking gives the sector, for the first time, a global standard for showcasing contributions to sustainable development. It enables a university to explore whether sustainability is at the heart of its strategy, to put in place goals and initiatives to contribute meaningfully to the SDGs, and it offers a common lens through which progress can be evaluated.

The overall ranking has the potential to affect an institution’s reputation. Clearly there’s an opportunity for a good news story, either in a specific area that is closely linked to an institution’s focus or in the overall ranking. Equally, by not responding or by scoring poorly, universities may lose their ability to claim leadership and break commitments to transparency.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which the ranking influences the choice of students, researchers and staff. According to a 2017 survey of 60,000 students, the position of a university within rankings came third, with 23.5% of respondents stating that this was the most important factor when choosing a university.

With an increasingly competitive sector in the UK, could this be a much-needed opportunity for differentiation and help universities to attract new students?


What should you do now?

With the THE portal now open for data collection until the end of December 2018, now is the time for Universities to determine if they will respond to the first ranking.

  1. Conduct a gap analysis by evaluating the relevance of the 11 SDGs included in the first year of reporting and investigating data availability for the metrics associated with relevant goals.
  2. Confirm if your institution will respond.
  3. Respond by logging in to the THE portal, accessing the full methodology from the portal and providing data for the period January 2017 – December 2017.


Find out how we help the Higher Education Sector

Contact Us:

If you are working in higher education and have any queries about how your institution will be affected by the rankings and would like to understand how we might leverage our expertise to guide you through the process please contact

What does SECR mean for my business?

 A change in regulation can disrupt Business As Usual; however from disruption new breakthroughs can occur. 

Following on from the webinar Carbon Credentials recently hosted with Gary Shanahan, several interesting trends emerged from participants responding to questions about how they thought Streamlined Energy and Carbon (SERC) reporting may impact their business.

Nearly 100 webinar attendees responded to survey questions on topics ranging from what motivated increased disclosure on energy reporting to the perceived challenges of the new SERC requirements.

There are many benefits for improving energy efficiency for business—cost savings is often a strong driver for shifting practices. Improving transparency on energy reporting is another. Companies also position themselves to gain market share by highlighting their commitment to energy efficiency.

 Most of the survey respondents, over 40%, welcomed the new reporting requirements as a way to improve senior leadership awareness of the company’s progress


For company management, there is value in information visibility.  Stakeholder access to information helps guide decision and improving cost-benefit analyses, allowing that energy demand reductions maximise other benefits. Board members and shareholders will likely respond positively to information on measures that will lead improved understanding of the interconnectedness between energy and other company resources. Peter Drucker’s maximum “What gets measured gets managed” is relevant here, as participants ranked measurements as a key benefit for reporting to SERC.

While the majority of webinar participants saw clear value in increased reporting they also expressed anxiety around public benchmarking.  Increasingly global companies setting Science  Based Targets, and stating goals which are reported by CDP, are driving an uptick in investors making decisions based on energy efficiencies.

Investor confidence is driving companies to change policies to promote a low carbon future.  With the new SERC regulations, approximately 11,900 companies will share transparency and “decision-useful” disclosure (TCFD) providing increased visibility to stakeholders.


Most companies surveyed already have schedules of reporting on ESOSor a partnership under the CRC. Currently, over 1,000 companies report annual to CDP, and with the new SERC requirements, starting April 1, 2019, all UK registered quoted companies and large unquoted companies and LLPs will be required to report UK energy use and emissions, many for the first time.

Replacing CRC with this new streamlined framework, SERC will simplify reporting and make it uniform across all industries.


As the government finalizes the guidance, companies can position themselves for these enhanced reporting requirements by reviewing the content in Carbon Credentials recent blog, and speaking with the team of experts directly, to develop strategies.  These new reporting guidelines provide opportunities for business to demonstrate ambition and drive forward a cleaner smarter and more energy efficient future.

If you want to learn more about SECR and what it could mean for your business then get in touch and allow our experts to guide you through the process

CDP – Silver Climate Change Consultancy Partners

Carbon Credentials is pleased to announce a new science-based targets partnership with CDP.

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, runs the global disclosure system for investorscompaniescitiesstates and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

The global reach of  CDP means that it has the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world. We are proud that Carbon Credentials will continue to be a CDP silver climate change consultancy partner, and we are the first science-based targets partner to CDP in the UK.  Our status as an accredited SBT partner to CDP recognises the high standard of our work  in helping clients set science-based targets and develop strategies to achieve those targets.

Setting a science-based target allows a company to determine the level of carbon reductions that they need to achieve to limit the impact of global warming.  The benefits of target setting include reducing costs through increased efficiency, strengthening reputation within the industry, and creating further opportunities for business growth and development.

“We are delighted to have Carbon Credentials on board as our first science-based targets partner in the UK. With experience helping a number of large and complex organisations across a variety of sectors to set science-based targets, we are confident that their expertise will be of great benefit to companies looking to set science-based targets.”
– Alberto Carrillo Pineda, Director of Science-Based Targets at CDP.

In 2017 Carbon Credentials helped the following companies achieve an A-Grade rating with CDP: Keller, Jupiter Fund Management, British American Tobacco and British American Tobacco Water, Prudential, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Taylor Wimpey Water, Segro, Communisis, ISG, and 3i.

“We are looking forward to the next CDP reporting cycle to help maintain our clients A-Grade status and are happy to work with new clients in setting their targets to achieve similar results.”
-Paul Lewis, Chief Executive Officer at Carbon Credentials.

If you would like to find out more about setting science-based targets and demonstrating your commitment to reducing emissions, please download the infographic on our website.

Contact Us

If you would like to find out how we might be able to leverage our expertise to support your company in setting science-based targets please contact

Increasing attention being placed on ESG performance for Infrastructure

Carbon Credentials attended the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) European Infrastructure Results 2018 event on Tuesday, hosted by Macquarie Bank.

What is GRESB?

GRESB assesses the sustainability performance of real estate and infrastructure portfolios and assets worldwide. As a consultancy we have a depth of expertise in supporting real estate clients and those with real assets to submit to this global benchmark, and applaud the ability it has to drive sector improvements in sustainability.

GRESB has three separate assessments covering Real Estate, Debt and Infrastructure.

The Real Estate assessment results were released last month (see here for our blog) and are followed this month by the Infrastructure assessment results release. The Infrastructure assessment is still in its relative infancy, 2018 marking its third year, but is growing rapidly.

Strong growth in GRESB Infrastructure assessment participation this year

An increasing focus on ESG in infrastructure

The focus on ESG for infrastructure has been steadily rising in response to regulatory changes, the development of frameworks such as TCFD (Task-Force for Climate Related Financial Disclosures), an increasing awareness of pressures from society and the need for long-term risk management for improved climate resilience. Rick Walters, Director of Infrastructure at GRESB, noted that much is yet to be done to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and infrastructure plays a key role in bridging this gap. Therefore, it may be of no surprise that 2018 saw a 75% increase in total assets reporting to the GRESB Infrastructure assessment, Real Estate’s lesser-known little cousin.

Key 2018 Insights from the Infrastructure assessment

  • Australia and North America leading globally
  • Europe experienced a large intake of new participants
  • Investors are now looking for full participation (including assets) rather than simply fund-level reporting
  • 75% of participating funds had some kind of sustainable investment objective
    • Most participants either integrate sustainable investment objectives into their company strategy, review ESG/sustainable investment policies or report and disclose on ESG issues
  • Funds are improving transparency on ESG issues, but not improving the performance of their assets
    • While funds may be improving their disclosure through reporting, there has not been a significant improvement in their actual asset performance
    • Assets, on average, improved year on year but this was not significant
  • On average there has been a more balanced approach to environmental, social and governance issues compared to last year
  • Materiality-based scoring was introduced for the first time this year
    • This meant a reduction in penalisation (as previously entities were being scored on perhaps immaterial issues) and therefore improved scores
  • The assessment is being trialled in the listed infrastructure space with GLIO (Global Listed Infrastructure Organisation)
    • The first phase of a pilot study has begun and is expected to grow faster than that of real estate

Australia and North America leading the pack on average, whilst Europe suffered this year due to a large uptake in number of respondents

Recommendations for improvements

  • There needs to be a stronger focus on increasing asset-level scores
  • Funds should ensure they have set improvement targets
  • These targets should be material, and more importantly, achieved (a surprisingly high proportion of targets were not achieved)
  • A large number of entities are reporting and acknowledging issues that are not relevant to their core business, therefore focus should be placed on material issues rather than wasting time.

What do we expect for 2019 and beyond?

We’re observing and engaging with the infrastructure space with an excited anticipation here at Carbon Credentials as funds turn increasing attention to improving the sustainability credentials of their infrastructure investments, following in the footsteps of real estate.

We expect this assessment to grow in participants once again next year and eagerly await the sector improvements this will bring with it.

Where’s the opportunity?

Infrastructure lags behind the real estate sector in terms of ESG performance and disclosure currently. Therefore an opportunity exists to demonstrate leadership by doubling down on efforts to improve the sustainability credentials of infrastructure investments before it catches up with real estate… which we don’t expect to take very long.

Contact us

If you are in the infrastructure space and you’d like to understand more about how we might be able to leverage our expertise to support you in your endeavours, please contact or

The 2018 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) results are in

Last week marked the September week many in the real estate industry have been eagerly awaiting – the release of GRESB 2018 results.

Last week Carbon Credentials attended the launch of the global Real Estate results for 2018. This event celebrated the companies that are leading in their sector and explored some of the key trends to emerge from this year’s assessment.

How we helped our clients in 2018

Carbon Credentials has a history of supporting its clients to deliver market-leading, all-encompassing sustainability programmes and have observed how these clients are generally recognised and rewarded for their efforts through performance in GRESB . With more and more investors now looking to participation in GRESB as well as fund star ratings in GRESB submission, GRESB has created a clear link between sustainability performance and fund prosperity. For this reason and due to the fact that the assessment develops alongside changes in the market, we recognise its importance within the real estate sector to drive progress in sustainability. We’re proud of what our clients have achieved this year and are privileged to have worked with some of the most progressive sustainability teams in European Real Estate to achieve the following:

  • 37 fund submissions in total
  • 93 green stars across 10 peer groups
  • 4 funds were supported in their first ever submissions
  • A first-timer achieved a score of 70 (3 green stars)
  • 4 funds achieved 5 green star ratings
  • 1 fund maintained its Sector Leadership status

So what are the headlines?

2018 saw 903 participants submit to the GRESB Real Estate assessment with over 79,000 assets and $3.5 trillion in gross asset value.

Overall, it would appear that the real estate sector is improving its sustainability performance – the global average this year increased 5 points to 68/100. This increase of 5 points in score is even more noteworthy given the assessment becomes more difficult each year. Additionally, first-time participants achieved a higher average score of 56 this year, suggesting that there continues to be less excuse for poor performance on sustainability and funds that may not be responding to GRESB have already implemented sustainability initiatives across GRESB’s 7 Aspects.

The key trends from this year’s results are that:

  • Globally, Australasia continues to lead the pack with an average score of 76
  • In Europe, the average score was 66
  • Health and wellbeing will become part of the main assessment in 2019 with 2018 being it’s final year as a non-compulsory module
  • Building Certifications was the aspect with the lowest average score, but still increased by 5 points on average versus 2017
  • Management was the aspect with the highest average score, staying stable when compared to 2017
  • Third party review of sustainability data is becoming mainstream for both energy and water

What do we expect to see in 2019 and beyond?

We expect to see an increase in the number of entities and funds participating in GRESB as institutional investors increasingly use data from GRESB in their decision making. Over the years we have seen the granularity of data included in the scorecards and benchmark reports increase, and we expect to see a similar trend in future, with more focus on asset-level performance.

In terms of general sustainability, we expect there to be several trends for the real estate sector in future that could be used to supplement the 2019 GRESB submission:

  • The road to net-zero carbon
    • At the results event this year, the World Green Building Council’s ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment’ was applauded by GRESB . However GRESB also noted that currently 29% of entities don’t have long-term targets. Therefore we expect for more organisations to be setting targets in order to be in line with the commitment – only 2 out of 903 were net-zero this year. The panel at the event also highlighted that 60% of our building stock in 2050 already exists, therefore retrofitting and continuous building improvements continues to be important in sustainability best practice.
  • Greater focus on UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • The SDGs were highlighted during the 2018 results release and the distance we have to go to achieve them – particularly SDG 7 and 13. We believe this is a space to watch as the real estate sector begins to follow suit of other industries in integrating the goals into their sustainability strategies, and as assessments such as GRESB start to take note of those who do. Look out for our upcoming blog on the topic.
  • Increasing efforts to engage with tenants

It was noted that attaining consumption data continues to be a challenge, especially in the UK. For this reason, we expect efforts to engage tenants to increase, with the objective of obtaining data for areas of the building that aren’t typically simple for landlords to obtain, such as tenanted areas, as well as for sites that are entirely indirectly managed. Carbon Credentials’ data managed services are collaborative programmes which help our clients get more and improved quality data through engaging with managing agents, suppliers, tenants and/or any other relevant stakeholders.

  • Acknowledging health and wellbeing

Here at Carbon Credentials we have been working hard in the Health and Wellbeing space (led by our Director of Innovation, Sam Carson) and we now anticipate this to be firmly placed on the agendas of companies. Health and Wellbeing will become a new compulsory aspect as of 2019 so we envisage more attention being paid to metrics such as employee and tenant wellbeing, internal air quality, surveys and behaviour.

 We are proud to have supported the many prestigious clients in the real estate industry who are paving the way to sustainability leadership. We are finding that benchmarking schemes such as GRESB are an important driver for sustainability best practice and Carbon Credentials support participation in these assessments to facilitate consistent and transparent comparisons of initiatives across the industry and drive improved performance.

 Industry-driven frameworks such as the GRESB benchmark are facilitating our mission and purpose of enabling the transition to a low carbon economy and we are looking forward to seeing how this benchmark develops and what other sectors can learn from its successes and challenges” Paul Lewis CEO Carbon Credentials

We have already begun working with many of our clients to use their results from this year to make sustainability improvements both at entity and fund level. We welcome and value the insight that GRESB brings to companies in order to drive sustainability improvements and a support the transition to a low-carbon economy. If you would like to learn more or speak to a member of our team about how we are best positioned to help you, please get in touch with or myself at

 More on GRESB from our clients:





Carbon Credentials’ Sam Carson joins the GRESB Real Estate Regional Benchmark Committee

I am proud to announce that Carbon Credentials’ Director of Sustainability Innovation, Sam Carson, has joined the GRESB’s Real Estate Regional Benchmark Committee for Europe.

Sam will use his extensive experience and knowledge to provide commercial and technical input into the GRESB Assessments.

New GRESB Committee member Sam Carson

Sam has over 10 years of consultancy experience of ESG within the sector and now focuses on sustainability innovation at Carbon Credentials. Sam is passionate about linking Big Data to company sustainability performance and therefore is ideally placed to provide commercial and technical expertise to the Committee.

In recent years, the GRESB assessment has become the benchmark of choice for appraising property company and funds’ ESG performance, and in 2017, GRESB attracted 850 entities from across the world to respond to the assessment.

“850 property companies and real estate funds completed the GRESB Real Estate Assessment in 2017, representing 77,000 assets and over USD 3.7 trillion in value.”

We will be hosting the Advanced Training in London on the 22nd March 2018 and look forward to helping our clients and any new companies who are looking for support with the assessment in 2018.

We work closely with our clients to deliver market-leading, all-encompassing sustainability programmes, and we have witnessed time and time again, how these clients are tangibly recognised and rewarded for their sustainability efforts resulting from improvements in their GRESB scores.

GRESB creates a clear link between sustainability performance, company and fund prosperity and we very pleased to continue our support of GRESB and its vision of empowering sustainability practices in the real estate sector.

Congratulations Sam!

Find out more about how we can help with your GRESB assessment


GRESB Committe Logo


What is the value of GRESB?

Carbon Credentials has worked with clients to improve their GRESB scores year on year. Here we explain the high-level benefits of GRESB and highlight how investors and asset managers use it.

GRESB scores are viewed by investors as valuable business performance indicators

GRESB data provides insights into how ESG-related risks are managed so that investors can make better-informed decisions.

The demand for transparency on ESG performance will grow as investors look for evidence of sustainability factors as indicators of positive performance. We think of this as moving from values based reporting to value creating reporting.

Businesses who can demonstrate material sustainability factors as fundamental to improved performance are seen as likely to deliver superior investment return. They are judged to be actively managing risk with the likelihood of outperforming competitors who aren’t considering sustainability in their horizon scanning.

Property companies and funds moving beyond compliance

Roxana Isaiu, director, ESG and real estate at GRESB, said:

“In 2017, we observe that many European property companies and funds have moved beyond compliance with investor demands.

“They recognise the impact that can be achieved by a symbiotic approach to internal and external communication, real estate and corporate health and wellbeing, and a good understanding of the opportunities for increased efficiency.

“Even a small percentage reduction in a large portfolio can have a significant impact on the bottom line.”


The overall scores from GRESB’s 2017 public results. Chart from:


Carbon Credentials has supported more companies reporting improved performance

2016 2017 Percentage increase
Submission supported 21 35 66.6%
Add Green Star Awards 16 23 43.8%
Peer Group categories supported 11 11 0.0%
Peer Group Number I ranking 0 2 n/a

Carbon Credentials is an Associated Partner of GRESB.

For more information about how we can help you with GRESB or related services, please contact:

Scarlett Benson, Senior Sustainability Consultant,

Kyna Huysmans, Senior Analyst,


Why do so many strategies for technical energy reduction rely on new buildings?

The GRESB Spring Conference took place last week and the third session was dedicated to technological innovations that can reduce climate risks and make buildings more resilient. It included an interesting panel discussion about where this kind of technology was going. The promise of smarter buildings is inviting.

The big problem is, the case studies that are being referenced are brand new buildings, like The Edge in Amsterdam or The Crystal – the location of the GRESB event. What are we going to do with the thousands of existing stock which is not going to be replaced, and so desperately need these big energy reduction programmes?

Where are we going?

Big data, sensors, and the Internet of Things will play an important role in the resilient portfolios of the future. When these things are discussed, we are still learning how they will be integrated into existing portfolios where it appears solutions for retrofitting technologies are less promising than in prestige new high value offices.

This is important as over 85% of buildings that will exist in 2050 have already been built today. Retrofitting this technology is an important challenge. While the speakers and panel were clearly trying to develop a vision for the future – I see the acid test of applicability on an average sized 80s built building in a mid-tier market, and when we apply some of the solutions being discussed – they suddenly become less exciting. We are going to need to address this vast section of the market, and making them “smart” may not be as easy.

Making existing buildings smarter

That said, clearly technology has come a long way. All the technologies the panelists presented on would have looked like magic five years ago, and as costs come down the opportunities to install smart technologies will increase.

What was exciting was to see how these different data enabled services, and others like Carbon Credentials’ Collaborative Asset Performance Programme (CAPP) service, are progressing analysis and improving how we target energy savings and carbon reduction. We’ve built CAPP so that it can be deployed on most buildings, a quick and easy way of adding new “smarts” to existing assets.

I appreciate the need for technology panels to paint a picture of the future. Having building control apps that help book hot-desks, act as a digital concierge, or manage comfort for increased productivity are clearly very interesting developments in how buildings support occupiers. However, let’s be clear what the big challenge is: how can the long tail of existing assets become the low carbon workplaces of the 21st century?

Here at Carbon Credentials’ we have found that these challenges actually represent hidden opportunities, and that our CAPP can lead to energy savings of 15%, representing significant financial savings such as we provided for Village Hotels like you can read about here. These savings could then go on to pay for the comfort improvements that older buildings might require to match the comfort levels of more modern buildings and the buildings of the future.

Sam Carson

Director of Sustainability Innovation