A pan-European Label to certify sustainability of housing companies

Affordable housing has many social and environmental aspects. The Certified Sustainable Housing label is the first tool to measure the positive impact of affordable housing companies. It makes the whole sector visible to the capital market and the “low risk asset class” affordable housing accessible to a broad range of investors.

As first mover in sustainable housing, we have developed the Certified Sustainable Housing label, an ESG accreditation that supports housing providers by:

Showing and enhancing their corporate sustainability performance
Expanding and diversifying their lender base
Developing and improving ESG reporting to their stakeholders
Communicating the ESG performance of your organisation

Certification Process

The certification process consists of different distinguished steps that require both the housing provider and RITTERWALD to work together. Our experience teaches us that the overall process takes an estimated 8 to 10 weeks after data provision by the housing provider. Furthermore, an external verifier reviews the evaluation undergone by RITTERWALD to ensure an objective and transparent process.

Data Gathering

The Certified Sustainable Housing Label is developed to attract ESG investors in the debt capital markets. RITTERWALD evaluates a housing provider against a comprehensive catalogue of more than 40 individual core and enhanced environmental, social and governance criteria. An external verifier then reviews our findings. If successful in achieving the threshold, the housing provider may then use the Label to present itself as a certified sustainable organisation. An annual review is undertaken to ensure the housing provider has complied with the implementation and fulfilment of the goals set out at the time the Label was awarded.

E
Environmental
  • Decarbonisation
  • Renewables and Monitoring
  • Energy-efficient Housing Delivery
  • Tenant Engagement
G
Governance
  • Sustainability Leadership
  • Compliance
  • Non-Discriminatory Working Conditions
  • Tenant Information & Representation
Certified Sustainable Housing
Example criteria
Environmental

Cluster: Decarbonisation 

Criteria: Improvement in energy efficiency of identical housing stock of previous year

Measurement Unit: KWh/m2 or t CO2 per home 

The individual criterion shown from the environmental dimension (E) highlights the efforts undergone by a housing provider regarding energy efficiency. For this purpose, the average energy efficiency of the housing stock is compared to the previous year. Best case scenario, the value decreases. 

Social

Cluster: Affordability & Accessibility 

Criteria: Existing Housing Stock: average rent per sqm or per apartment (depending on national standard) compared to local rent index

Measurement Unit: Average rent per sqm compared to local rent index

This criterion examines whether the housing company provides affordable housing to broad sections of the population and thus contributes to the social cohesion of society. For this purpose, the housing company must prove that the average rent in existing housing stock (excluding new construction) is below local market rents

Example criteria
Governance

Cluster: Compliance 

Criteria: Does the company offer a regular compliance training for managers and employees in areas / departments where high compliance risks exist?

Measurement Unit: Yes/No Question (proof of the relevant training units and staff groups addressed)

The criterion checks whether the company is aware of its compliance risks and actively supports their reduction. Special attention is paid to ensuring that areas / departments with a high compliance risk (e. g. purchasing) receive regular mandatory training.  

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Data Evaluation

To meet the threshold, a housing provider must exceed 50% of the aggregate score and 35% of the individual scores in all three Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) dimensions.  The housing provider is then ranked in each ESG dimension from ‘Frontrunner’, the highest Label recognition, to ‘Ambassador’, and finally ‘Advocate’.

External Verifier

As part of the labelling process, we examine housing providers seeking ESG accreditation against a comprehensive ESG criteria catalogue including relevant environmental, social, and governance performance indicators. To ensure strict objectivity and transparency, an External Verifier then reviews our findings. 

For the external review of its ESG criteria catalogue, RITTERWALD works with:

Results

Should the housing provider pass the evaluation from both RITTERWALD and the External Verifier, the organisation will receive:

Review Opinion

Review Opinion from RITTERWALD, stating that the housing provider met the threshold to pass the evaluation and is awarded a ‘Frontrunner’, ‘Ambassador’, or ‘Advocate’ status depending on the scoring result

Review Opinion

from the External Verifier, stating that the RITTERWALD evaluation is thorough and objective

Certificate

representing the housing provider's successful evaluation 

References

To this day, RITTERWALD registers the following Label holders:

2019
“This label will provide our lenders with more comfort and aligns very well with our corporate sustainability report.” 

Markus Terboven, Chief Executive Officer, Gewobag

“The sustainable housing label is an important support in demonstrating our sustainability credentials, which helps us to access sustainability focused pools of capital.” 

Gary Leadbeater, Director of Treasury and Corporate Finance, Clarion

“We use the label in attracting long term financing for our housing schemes.” 

Stéphane Ganeman-Valot, Financial Strategy Director, Vilogia

2020
“We very quickly realised that the work we were doing wasn’t creating a sustainability strategy but instead it was developing the foundation for our entire business strategy going forward – the two are no longer separate, they are exactly the same thing.” 

Jon Turner, Chief Executive Officer, Link Group

“We are fundamentally ESG by our very nature, and the opportunity to codify, measure, articulate and then communicate that, in a language familiar not just to this country but internationally, made the case for its adoption really compelling.” 

Ian McDermott, Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst

2021
“Metropolitan Thames Valley are delighted to be awarded the Certified Sustainable Housing Label as a sign of our commitment to a sustainable future. Affordable housing has many social and environmental aspects and we at MTV are committed to supporting the decarbonisation of social housing in the UK.” 

Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Thames Valley

Second Party Opinion

Upon request, RITTERWALD also provides a standardised Finance Framework template to be individualised by the housing provider. The template enables the housing provider to access debt capital markets. The decision on the Second Party Opinion (SPO) of the Finance Framework lies in the hands of the housing provider.

RITTERWALD will work with multiple SPOs such as:

Case Study

Clarion Housing Group

Clarion was awarded the Label in October 2019. Since then, Clarion effectively raised approximately £1bn: £650m through two Sustainable bonds in 2020 at record breaking low effective rates at time of issuance and £300m through three Sustainability Linked Loans in 2020 and 2021.

“It is absolutely helpful for us every time that we are out selling debt that we have a corporate label that recognises our efforts on sustainability because it clearly opens up further pools of capital.”

Gareth Francis, Former Director of Treasury and Corporate Finance, Clarion Housing Group (London)

blue 1st Bond Issuance – 15-year bond (issued in January 2020) – 1.88% effective yield (a record for UK housing companies in primary bond issues at the time of issue, over 100 orders including significant demand from European investors.
blue 2nd Bond Issuance – 12-year bond (issued in Nov 2020) – 1.25% effective yield (current record for UK housing companies in primary bond issues), over 60 orders including a significant demand from ESG investors.
blue January 2020
blue January 2020
blue April 2021