ESG Focus Group Feedback
Wednesday 24th of June 2020
On 23rd June, alongside Andy Smith from The Good Economy, we held a members-only session to provide feedback into a draft ESG reporting framework.
This article briefing describes what was discussed during the focus group and offers an opportunity to get involved if you missed the session.
ESG stands for Environmental Social & Governance and is one of the ways that funders of social housing providers assess Landlords suitability for financial support.
Recently a group of Landlords and funders came together to try and create a consistent way of reporting on Housing Associations ESG performance. This ESG reporting framework could then be used throughout the sector. Our members we asked to take part in the consultation which was held online.
We are talking about Banks, Pension Providers, and other long-term Investors with clear social and environmental ethics working within strict financial regulations, not individuals or small groups looking for a quick return on their investment. These are the same lenders that have been providing funds to Housing Associations for years.
The point is that this is not new. It’s a well-trodden path for Housing Associations to access funding to build properties. It is important to make this clear as there could be some confusion that this is some kind of privatisation framework.
What does this mean for tenants and residents?
Well this demonstrates that resident engagement is sat firmly in the eye line of investors. This means that Finance Managers and the Treasury functions of Housing Associations can see how an inclusive and positive culture of resident engagement could have a positive impact on their ability to attract funding. This can be transferred into more opportunities to influence and more chances to show the benefits engagement can bring.
The Key questions
In our session there were several questions posed that The Good Economy wanted participants to expand on. Those questions were:
- How would you identify Housing Associations who really listen to residents? What measures should we use for Resident Voice?
- How would you distinguish the Housing Associations who are more proactive on Building Safety? What measure should we use?
- We currently ask the Housing Associations to provide their own “Resident Satisfaction Indicator” as everywhere does it differently. Does this make sense to you, or is there a more consistent measure we could use?
- What does scrutiny look like in an organisation that listens to its residents?
- What is the best way of measuring Staff Wellbeing? What current measures are used, are these useful or not?
- We currently ask the Housing Associations to provide their own “Complaint Handling Indicator” as everywhere does it differently. Does this make sense to you, or is there a more consistent measure we could use?
Some of the comments focused on the behaviours and culture of an organisation to positively engage residents and have a clear framework for doing that and reporting back.
Comments inevitably fell on the Scrutiny behaviours and the need to have clear unhindered activities that demonstrate their independence. It was also stressed that involvement of residents in procurement was another way of demonstrating a positive culture of engagement.
Diversity and the fair representation of its tenants was mentioned with several comments unclear how this could be met except for demonstrating that there is an attempt to ensure that this happens.
There were several comments on evidencing a clear desire to support staff wellbeing with things such as exercise programmes and counselling with a desire to measure take up across the organisation.
A complaints handling indicator could provide a good idea how responsive an organisation is and how seriously it takes complaints.
Comments were also strong for evidence of continuous attempts to engage with residents at different check points from sign up through to annual surveys.
On Building Safety there was a clear steer to say that Fire Risk Assessments should only be the starting point and more proactive behaviour to engage residents should be devised.
The role of the regulator was also discussed. Andy informed the group that the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) had been consulted as part of this project and that the RSH grading is one of the governance criteria in the framework.
The consultation is still open for people to give their comments. Andy from the Good Economy was keen to stress that anyone wanting to feed into the process can by going to the dedicated web page where the full document can be viewed as well as other information about the process.
At the bottom of the home page there is a feedback from and you are encouraged to post your comments there to the questions in this article.