One year on from the UK housing sector launching its own ESG standard, Luke Cross takes a look at the work that goes into a meaningful report.
It’s been a little over 12 months since the UK’s social housing sector launched its own environmental, social and governance (ESG) standard.
The Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing was a collaborative piece of work between housing providers and investors, underpinned by a comprehensive consultation exercise across the housing sector, facilitated by social impact specialists The Good Economy.
Its maiden year has coincided with the explosion of ESG into the mainstream, with particular focus on net zero commitments that has seen an insatiable appetite among the investor community for ‘green data’ in particular.
It’s also coincided with Social Invest’s first year, during which we’ve been working with housing associations large and small on their ESG approaches and communications – from ESG strategy and planning workshops, through to report creation and production.
I’ll be discussing progress on ESG reporting – and whether the sector is hitting the right note – with senior sector figures next week, at the Homes conference on Tuesday (23rd November) and then the Social Housing Annual Conference on Thursday (25th November).
But in the meantime, here’s the story of a report we worked on with the team at Hyde, one of the largest housing associations in the country.
Hyde is a not-for-profit housing provider with social purpose at its core. It was set up to provide homes for people left behind by the market over 50 years ago, delivering significant levels of social value and impact since then.
Like other associations, Hyde accesses private finance from banks and institutional investors to remain financially robust and deliver on its objectives. The rise of ESG in the financial markets presented an opportunity for Hyde to demonstrate and communicate its impact and core purpose in a more measurable, accountable and transparent way, and through a common language that investors and other key stakeholders can understand.
Underpinned by Hyde’s extensive work on social value, the group embarked on a major project with its partner Sonnet Advisory & Impact CIC to establish an ESG framework. This included internal reviews and collaboration, workshops and workstreams, stakeholder and materiality mapping, and resulted in the creation of an ESG performance dashboard and framework.
The dashboard offers a unique and transparent approach, communicating priority areas for Hyde, demonstrating performance and progress and holding itself to account with a 2030 target.
Social’s role was to take this framework to key audiences, making it meaningful and accessible to stakeholders, from existing and prospective funders to government partners, staff and residents.
Our Social Invest team developed a comprehensive yet punchy and user-friendly ESG report. We offered a distinctive combination of an unrivalled and detailed knowledge of the social housing sector, housing finance and the ESG landscape, alongside an understanding of Hyde’s stakeholders and target audiences. We also ran a focused press campaign to launch the report to relevant target audiences.
Our team worked through detailed and specialist material that Hyde and its partners had gathered on its environmental and social performance and impact, along with its governance processes.
A central feature of the project was demonstrating how ESG intersects with Hyde’s corporate strategy and long-term vision. It was also essential to communicate how the ESG framework and dashboard will influence Hyde’s decision-making, including expectations of its key partners.
We identified the content that was most useful to their stakeholders and helped to present it in a way that is clear to understand and demonstrates Hyde’s commitment to measuring and monitoring its ESG performance.
Along with establishing a core narrative, this involved working with data, specialist terminology and honing a series of case studies and human-interest stories. The case studies helped to bring Hyde’s stories to life and demonstrated real-world impact
We worked in partnership with Hyde’s in-house design team, leading on the planning of the process and providing all content which they designed in line with the organisation’s house style.
We also led the launch of its ESG summary report and comment piece from the chief executive, providing full communications suite including preparing all content, distributing the report, issuing news releases and arranging interviews between key journalists and Hyde’s leadership team.
The launch of the ESG framework generated positive publicity for Hyde Housing, further enhancing its profile as a sector leader in social value and impact reporting. The report is part of a suite of documents, which also includes an impact report for the group’s charitable arm, which Social also helped produce.
The ESG framework and report has also enabled their communications and investor relations teams to have more meaningful conversations with current and prospective partners. It has helped them to demonstrate the tangible impact of their work, giving investors confidence that their investment is making a positive difference, and enabling the housing association to continue its work in building and managing great homes.
Carol Jones, Director, Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs at The Hyde Group, said: “The Social Invest team has helped us to define and communicate our environmental, social and governance messaging.
All images courtesy of Hyde Housing Association Ltd.
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