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Funders report stronger relationships with HAs due to social housing ESG standard

The majority of funders using the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing (SRS) have said it has improved their relationship with housing associations, as the number of ESG reports in the sector rises by a third.

An exclusive poll of adopters of the SRS found that 63% of funders using the framework believe it has strengthened their relationship with HAs, leading to more in-depth discussions on specific environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures and targets.

Most respondents also said the Standard has facilitated better ESG performance management, albeit some of the ‘E’ themes  – including ecology, climate change and resource management – remain the most challenging to report against.

The data was collected as part of Sustainability for Housing’s (SfH) second annual review report, which assesses the progress of the SRS and the work done by SfH to steward and promote the Standard.

The findings demonstrate the strong progress of the SRS, which was introduced in 2020 to help HAs use their ESG credentials to continue to access finance while telling their story to a wider range of stakeholders in a consistent, comparable and transparent way.

The number of HAs that produced ESG reports during last year increased by 30% from 49 to 64. There are now 94 housing provider adopters, accounting for 2.2 million homes across the UK, equivalent to 45% of England’s housing stock. Funder adopters also provide around £130bn of private finance to the sector.

The polling, based on feedback from 84 organisations, also found:

  • Two-thirds of funders said the SRS helped them support housing providers achieving favourable financing terms
  • All funders believe the SRS has potential to encourage more finance into the sector
  • 59% of housing providers said they were not asked for additional information from lenders beyond their SRS data
  • Almost a third of HAs said they believe the SRS helped them obtain ESG-linked finance
  • 84% of housing providers reporting against the SRS found it easier this year than last time
  • The SRS accelerated the implementation of planned ESG actions for 57% of respondents

Digging further into the details of the report, some key sector trends include:

  • Rents were set at an average of 54% of the private rented sector, or 65% of Local Housing Allowance
  • 99% of newly built homes achieved EPC ‘C’ or higher, with 96.1% achieving EPC ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades
  • The average gender pay gap ratio is 8.3%, down from 10.9% in 2021

The SRS adopter community has almost doubled in the last three years; growing from 77 early adopters in 2020, to 98 adopters in 2021, to 120 by the end of 2022. As of June 2023, there were 130 HA and funder adopters of the SRS.

SfH is committed to ensuring the SRS evolves with market trends while remaining consistent. It is currently consulting on a proposed SRS Version 2.0 to be used in 2024, using 2023 financial year-end data.

Brenda Sarsfield, Chair of SfH, said: “Our annual review of the SRS demonstrates the huge leaps the sector has made on ESG.

“We set out with a mission to enhance the social housing sector’s ESG reporting abilities using a common framework and the feedback from our survey show that we are achieving this goal.

“The ultimate goal is to help housing associations deliver more affordable housing. And with financial uncertainty driven by things such as inflation, rising interest rates and the 7% rent cap, we are pleased that the SRS has help HAs access the debt capital markets.

“We are also delighted to hear that HAs in their second cycle of reporting are finding it easier to do. We hope this will encourage others to take the first step and begin ESG reporting this year.”

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