GRESB first-year participant interview: Alecta Fastigheter AB

Alecta Fastigheter is a Swedish real estate company founded in 2021, with the mission to lift people, cities, and businesses by interacting, learning, and trying its way. In a society that changes rapidly, Alecta Fastigheter believes that we must dare to think new.

Name: Nickie Excellie, Head of Sustainability & Communications
GRESB Assessments or tool: GRESB Real Estate Assessment
AuM: SEK 54 billion (EUR 4.8 billion) in total real estate AuM , SEK 43 billion (EUR 3.8 billion) in direct ownership, and SEK 11 billion (EUR 986 million) in indirect ownership as of  Dec. 31, 2022
Region: Sweden
Entities: Alecta Fastigheter reported as 1 entity in 2022 with 52 of our assets
Years participating in GRESB: 2022
Partner: Help of consultant specialized in GRESB

What motivated you to start participating in the GRESB Assessments and what were you doing for ESG/sustainability prior to joining GRESB?

Alecta Fastigheter started as a real estate company in 2021 when the portfolio of assets owned by Alecta Pension fund was incorporated, creating the subsidiary Alecta Fastigheter (Real Estate) AB.      

Since the beginning, sustainability has been one of our priority issues. During our first year as a company, we focused on policy, stakeholder analysis, benchmark, materiality analysis and strategy to create a solid foundation to build on going forward. By the time we started gathering information for the GRESB Assessments in Spring 2022, we already had our Sustainability Policy & Code of Conduct according to Global Compact in place, as well as our sustainability strategy. We had also already come a long way in the work of certifying our properties.      

Participation in the GRESB assessment was requested by our owner Alecta Pension and our board to receive an objective evaluation of our work within ESG, but also to be able to compare ourselves to other companies within the field. As such, we use GRESB as a tool to assess our performance on our ESG journey since we are still new as a company. GRESB serves as a very helpful extra check for us. 

How long had you considered doing GRESB before you started?

Since the inception of Alecta Fastigheter, we have had directives from our board and owners to participate as a reporting entity in the GRESB Real Estate Assessments.

Has your perspective on ESG reporting and benchmarks changed since starting GRESB? If so, how, and do you see things differently compared to when you started?

GRESB has been helpful for us in understanding how to prioritize activities within the organization and has provided access to a benchmark that allows us to compare ourselves to other companies. Transparency in our reporting is of the utmost importance to us and we feel that GRESB is a helpful      tool in this regard. GRESB has also helped us establish a structure and process regarding ESG and integrate ESG questions across the organization.

What did you find most helpful when preparing and completing your assessment submission? What did you find most challenging? 

Throughout the process, we worked with a consultant who specializes in GRESB. Having this support was very helpful, especially for understanding the GRESB reporting process. Specifically, the consultant helped us understand the scope of the qualitative questions and where the relevant information and data to answer these can be found in our organization, which at times was a bit tricky. 

Did you take advantage of the Grace Period or the Review Period? 

We chose to take advantage of the Grace Period, as we wanted to focus on getting to know GRESB as a reporting tool, find the right answers to the assessment questions, and stabilize the score for us as an entity to have a more reliable basis before publicly comparing ourselves with other companies.  

What did you find most valuable in the resulting GRESB benchmarks and data and how have you been using them?

We have seen GRESB as a helpful tool for us to evaluate our portfolio and get an overview of our current ESG approach, both for our buildings and for us as a company. 

Specifically, we have found the benchmarking distributions and indicator-by-indicator peer comparisons from the Benchmark Report helpful when prioritizing which questions to focus on. 

What sustainability-related changes have you made since starting GRESB and what are the most important insights or learnings you’ve uncovered with GRESB data? Especially in light of your strategy (multi-family)

At Alecta Fastigheter, we are still building up our company with high ambitions in sustainability. Doing this while reporting to GRESB for the first time has given us the opportunity to use GRESB as a helpful tool to incorporate ESG in our daily work. We feel that the process of gathering information from our administration has helped raise the issue of sustainability in more forums overall, which is positive for our general development going forward.

How are you preparing for next year’s Assessments? Please share how you are leveraging your first-year results and learnings to prepare for your second-year submission.

One important thing has been to make the process of gathering information easier for our staff, both for their understanding and time, but also for ensuring that our results more accurately reflect reality. The key was to build knowledge about GRESB within the organization.

The importance of being prepared at an early stage was something we learned in our first year, so we wanted to have a plan and actions ready to get a head start already in the autumn of 2022. When we got the results from our first reporting year, we started to analyze and understand our score and results right away to help us identify improvements for our 2023 submission. We have shared this analysis with our colleagues to keep them updated and make sure that they understand the process before the reporting period starts. 

The main focus has been on the questions where we didn’t submit an answer, and on creating a structure for data gathering for the questions where a lot of people are involved, e.g. information on tenant events and efficiency measures and on how we report energy and water data. We have had a consultant with expertise in GRESB support us in establishing our path forward, which has been very helpful for us.

Now that you have done GRESB, what advice would you have given yourself prior to doing the assessment?

To be aware that aiming to answer all the questions to the best of your ability is very time-consuming. Getting a head start on gathering information and entering answers in the GRESB portal allows you to get a better understanding of the context of the questions and how they are integrated into the organization. While we saw many advantages in aiming high in the first year, we can also say that the process got more intense in the end than we expected, as such early preparations can help lighten the burden.

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