Examples of ESG certification include BREEAM, Fitwel and SKA. Having ESG certification in place gives businesses the opportunity to demonstrate that they care about the impact of sustainability and are willing to prioritise wellness within the design, development, and operations of buildings, whether it is to benefit the environment or enhance the health and wellbeing of occupants.
Achieving an ESG certification is not straightforward however, and requires a lot of collaboration to pull together a wide range of evidence and data. Often certifications incorporate elements that you would not initially associate with ESG, and hence it is important to understand the certification fully before embarking on it. Recently, MAPP worked on the Fitwel certification with Frasers Property UK at several of their business parks and with several of our Science Park clients, which requires integrating the best strategies that wellbeing science has to offer to optimise health within a building or community. This included unexpected aspects such as pest control, way-finding signage and temporary placemaking by using underutilised or vacant space. This certification was thorough and left no stone unturned. This, in combination with the multifaceted nature of business and science parks, meant consulting the right people from departments across the sites from the start of the project was essential to gather the relevant information and would not have been possible without solid teamwork.
‘Teamwork makes the dream work’, this saying runs very true when completing ESG certification projects. Gathering information to submit for an ESG certification is key to achieving maximum points. For example, the Fitwel scorecard lists a number of different categories that you get awarded points for. These range from technical requirements like stormwater infrastructure to healthy food menus and wellbeing events. To gather details about these varied topics you need to know which departments and people to approach across the site and tap into their specialisms around technical, front of house events, compliance and HR knowledge for example. Some of this information is easily missed as it is not commonly known or communicated across sites. Therefore, liaisons need to be established from the very start of a project to ensure the process runs efficiently, which would not be possible without teamwork.
Within the project team, allocating tasks across several people, spreading the workload and strong communication makes the overall project run smoother. Success depends on each team member honouring their commitments, and if you don’t communicate difficulties to your team or if one person fails to gather the evidence they have agreed, you might end up submitting limited evidence to avoid missing the deadline and as a result receive a lower score than you could have. If one person drops the ball, the entire project can fail. It is essential that throughout the project you own your responsibilities, stay accountable and complete the tasks you have been assigned.
Once committing to an ESG certification, not only is it important to keep track of your team’s progress with their assigned tasks but also to keep up to date with the certifying bodies to ensure you are aware of any news and changes regarding the certification, and to make sure you are adhering to the most up to date requirements. We’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Our certification team was unable to attend a working group on Fitwel, and in that particular webinar they announced changes in some of the strategy requirements. The team only realised these had changed after submission, when they received the initial feedback from Fitwel. This resulted in a delay in receiving the certification as they had to request an extension from Fitwell to give them the time to address the altered requirements, get the information from the teams involved and gain the extra points. This could all have been prevented.
Case study: Fitwel process
MAPP was involved in Fitwel certification projects across several Frasers Property UK business parks including: Farnborough Business Park, Chineham Park, Winnersh Triangle. Having successfully received Fitwel status for these properties, the certification body confirmed the distinction of Frasers Property having the largest certified Fitwel area globally to date.
Throughout the various phases, our team have encountered the same learning: a key element to successfully implementing an ESG initiative is to engage all site teams early in the process. The following steps helped our collaborative team successfully become certified.
- Firstly, assess the site thoroughly to see which Fitwel scorecard is applicable.
- Complete a gap analysis with the site teams to identify areas where you are likely to gain points and focus on those areas.
- Advise the site teams of timescales early on, so they are aware that once you’ve submitted your initial response, the deadlines are tight.
- Assign an evidence submission deadline to the teams involved with the first phase of submitted initial evidence.
- Establish a plan of action and assign different strategies to different team members.
- Start gathering information and arrange a site visit to take pictures and review the evidence.
- Book regular meetings with all teams involved to keep track of progress.
- Don’t forget to stay in the loop. Attend the monthly Fitwel webinars and regularly check in with a Fitwel representative to keep track of changes, check the website for updates and make sure you adapt in time.
- Maintain a good relationship with your Fitwel assessor and keep them up to date with progress. If you notify your consultant of a delay, they will inform the assessor to give an extension.
Businesses across real estate and other sectors are recognising their need to improve and are striving for better. With sustainability having crept to the top of the agenda in recent years, social value and wellbeing have also come to the forefront. Certifications are no longer used just as a box-ticking exercise to satisfy potential and existing occupants. Businesses are recognising that ESG certification, analysis and reporting can provide valuable insights, build business resilience, better inform investment decisions and generate long term value. Hence, companies are increasingly using ESG certification as a benchmark to assess what stage of their sustainability journey they are at and to carry out gap analysis to identify where they can do better. ESG is bound to keep increasing in importance as businesses strive to become net-zero carbon to keep ahead of tightening legislation and public awareness. The integrity of high-grade ESG certifications will play an important role in reaching these targets, and teamwork and consistent communication are the core building blocks to achieving them.
Picture examples of evidence required for a few of the strategy requirements within the Fitwel ‘Commercial site Built scorecard’ certification process;