Breaking down sustainable silos - a global approach to green certification

Over the last 15 years, green certification schemes, such as NABERS, WELL and Green Building Council’s global network of ratings, have all emerged as recognised standards for sustainable construction and operation of buildings. These schemes help structure beneficial outcomes across the umbrella of ESG, from resource efficiency (energy, water, material, and waste) to the quality of the environment.

However, in recent years, we’ve found a common challenge for global businesses. Namely, that approaches to green certifications tend to be operated in silos, particularly when portfolios are spread across geographies. In APAC alone we see many bodies offering certification tools all highlighting varying degrees of achievement, including:

  • Green Building Index
  • BeamPlus
  • Green Star
  • Casbee
  • Hong Kong Green Building Council

This fragmented approach results in missed opportunities for ESG impact and underutilized benefits across an asset portfolio, from carbon and energy reduction, to cost and time savings. Our APAC Responsible Business Lead, Jessica Lily Travers weighs in on the opportunity for businesses to adopt a global strategy and volume certification model to enable greater alignment and sustainable outcomes.

Falling through the cracks

The lack of a cohesive strategy toward certification has various consequences on the quality of outcomes. Pursuing certification in silos means different standards are applied across the portfolio, making data comparisons more difficult. This is particularly prohibitive to sustainability reporting and evaluating progress and challenges against critical ESG business objectives. 

There is also the risk of duplication of efforts between regions, with multiple teams independently pursuing their local certifications. Not only does this lead to delaying progress through repeated gathering of similar credits and evidence, it also inflates project costs by duplicating certification fees. For example, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification fees vary considerably when adopting a per-building approach, with 20% off the standard cost, compared to a siloed submission.

So, what’s the answer? How can global organisations come together to put this on the right path, achieving the higher ratings, portfolio wide, with minimal effort?

Future proofing your governance

We’ve seen a general lack of awareness of the relationship between green certification and broader ESG corporate targets, despite one supporting the other. This is even more important with the explosion of green finance, evidenced by research from Bloomberg Insights that there is roughly $41 trillion invested in ESG funds, almost double the $22.8 trillion reported in 2016. Further research commissioned by the Green Building Council of Australia found that Green Star certified assets had a 16.4% higher capital value than uncertified buildings.

Clear communication of an organisation's mission and the outcomes associated with green certification schemes will go a long way in reassuring the investor community and other external stakeholders.

By adopting a unified strategy, organisations can coordinate, streamline, and maximise their decarbonisation strategy. The ability to track the performance of their green building initiatives enables data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.

Turn up the volume

‘Volume certification’ is a portfolio-level approach to certification that streamlines the process of formalising your commitment to building carbon and energy performance. In fact, volume-based certifications have been available for years. Providers such as LEED and WELL introduced these approaches to offer the market a framework of pre-approved strategies that can then be applied across a group of projects with major commonalities, to pursue shared credits.

This allows for a more efficient and cost-effective approach to certifying multiple projects under a single certification framework, offering standardised credit templates, and efficient documentation requirements, reducing the administrative burden for certifying individual projects.

These models encourage organisations to pursue certifications across multiple projects, leveraging economies of scale. This unlocks more optimal resourcing, negotiation of favourable terms with consultants, and ultimately greater impact.

Therefore, a vital consideration for decisionmakers selecting their green building certification partner is whether they can scale with their portfolio, transcend geographies and rationalise environmental goal setting.

Embracing a globally standardised approach to green certification schemes will catalyse progress in contributing to a green built environment. By adopting a unified strategy and leveraging volume-based models, businesses can seamlessly align with corporate ESG goals and realise more impactful outcomes at the same time.

It's time to break down the silos and embrace a collective effort towards a greener built environment.