SGCH publishes first impact report

SGCH, NSW's largest community housing provider, has published its first impact report for investors and other stakeholders and prioritised three Sustainable Development Goals that align to its work.

SGCH is a not-for-profit community housing provider that develops and manages sustainable, safe and affordable homes and connecting people to opportunity. It houses around 11,500 people in over 7,000 homes across the Sydney Metropolitan Region and delivers Australia's largest non-government development pipeline of social and affordable housing, with almost 1000 dwellings delivered since 2015, the provider said.

The impact report links SGCH's strategy and the long-term impact and value that this emerging investment class is creating in the social and affordable housing area.

"It's quite important for us to start presenting the work we do in a way that investors can related to and understand the broad scope of impacts of what we do, and how we integrate those factors into our strategy," said SGCH CEO Scott Langford. "Increasingly, we're looking at how we address some of the issues such as the environment and minimising our negative impact there, and the work we do with appropriate areas of governance across the value chain."

SGCH mapped its activities and linked themes from its strategic plan against the UK Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing. SGCH has also aligned its approach to the SDG Impact Standards for Enterprises and prioritised three SDGs; 1 No Poverty, 10 Reduced Inequalities and 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

SGCH selected the UK Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing because as a "reasonable comparison tool," but is also working to find adaptations specific to the Australian market, explained SGCH head of corporate affairs, impact and communication Michelle Moore-Fonseca.

"Some of the differences came around energy and efficiency and comfort of home," Moore-Fonseca said. "If you look at the UK standard, double glazing and central heating are standard, but not here. In the UK context, there's nothing about First Nations peoples, so there's no link there about where people have a Reconciliation Action Plan and commitments there. That's important in an Australian context.

"But there are other metrics that are quite similar and aligned. It does come down to the scale and context that they're applied in the local market here."

The impact report provides stakeholders with disclosure on SGCH's approach and baseline performance. SGCH will use the report to identify gaps and set targets for improving the business as well as refining its strategy.

Langford identified upgrading older, existing housing stock to increase energy efficiency and other sustainability metrics as one area for further work.

"We have properties that are 30 to 40 years in age and their environmental performance we believe is sub-standard but we don't have a baseline for that," Langford said. "We have committed to measuring environmental performance because one of the principles we set early in the report is we're going to try to call ourselves out on things we don't know."

The report noted that in 2016, SGCH participated in a retrofit program called the Home Energy Action Program with partner financier the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. The program had a $4.8 million cofounding agreement which retrofitted existing housing with energy efficient measures. SGCH is exploring further partnerships to invest in improving efficiency and comfort.

The report also allowed the provider to think about the impact of housing as a means to supporting people's lives, Langford said.

"We think of housing as a means rather than an end and when we start to think about the impact that is happening beyond the door of the property, we need to think about understanding the impact on educational attainment, health, wellbeing, safety and security," Langford said. "For example, we house a large cohort of single older people who might be in their 60s and 70s. They are aging in place, and we need to think about how safe they feel in their home, and how safe they feel stepping outside their door, because that's correlated with social interaction and health and wellbeing."

Read more: SGCHUK Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social HousingScott LangfordMichelle Moore-FonsecaNSW Office of Environment and HeritageClean Energy Finance CorporationSDGs