NAREIT is evaluating a new sustainability ranking platform that would help its members to track their “green” efforts and assist NAREIT in its selection process for its Leader in the Light Awards.

The platform, known as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB), is supported by some of the largest institutional investors on the planet. The science-based benchmark measures the environmental performance of property portfolios.

More than 340 property funds and companies, with real estate assets worth nearly $1 trillion, participated in the benchmark in 2011. However, participation from North American companies is minimal—something both NAREIT and GRESB want to change.

NAREIT and GRESB representatives met in Dallas a few weeks ago to discuss how the collaboration would work. The benefits to each organization are clear, according to Sheldon Groner, NAREIT’s executive vice president of finance & operations and head of the Leader in the Light program. The annual awards program is co-presented by NAREIT and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program.

Groner tells REIT Insider that GRESB’s platform, from data collection to analysis, is more sophisticated than NAREIT’s Leader in the Light Awards, which are chosen by a panel of judges. Collaborating with GRESB would allow NAREIT to use more objective measures to determine award winners.

At the same time, GRESB would be able to increase its participation from North American REITs. Last year, only 15 North American property companies participated in the GRESB survey. In comparison, roughly 25 REITs representing 60 percent of the industry’s market cap participated in NAREIT’s Leader in the Light program.

Groner notes that collaborating with GRESB and using the organization’s platform would also make it easier for NAREIT member companies to participate in both the Leader in the Light program and GRESB’s benchmarking survey. They would only need to complete one survey, thus encouraging greater levels of participation.

Groner notes that participating in GRESB is increasingly important to institutional investors around the globe. “Institutional investors want to see a scorecard of what those companies are doing from a sustainability perspective,” he explains. “It’s important to them, and I think we’ll see more and more companies participating in the GRESB survey because investors require it.”

Read more about REIT sustainability, GREB and socially responsible investing in Registered Rep.’s June issue.