Real assets sustainability benchmark GRESB has been sold by its US parent, Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI), as leading institutional investors move to make it more independent.

GRESB, which was founded by a number of European pension funds about 10 years ago, will establish an independent, non-profit foundation overseen by its investor members, including APG, PGGM and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

In 2014, GBCI, the global certification body for ‘green building’ rating system LEED, acquired GRESB, which measures the sustainability performance of institutional real estate and infrastructure portfolios, funds and companies.

The new GRESB Foundation will own and govern the GRESB Standards, which form the basis of GRESB Assessments.

Its board will include Patrick Kanters, managing director of global real assets at APG Asset Management, Mathieu Elshout, senior director of private real estate at PGGM Investments, and Deborah Ng, head of responsible investing and director of total fund management at Ontario Teachers’.

“We welcome the establishment of a truly independent GRESB Foundation to govern the GRESB Standards and continue their development as investor needs evolve,” said Kanters.

“This is an important evolution to reinforce that GRESB is a by-industry, for-industry, mission-driven and investor-led organisation.”

GRESB said its advisory boards and benchmark committees would be renamed standards boards and standards committees, respectively, and would continue to oversee the development and maintenance of the standards.

GRESB BV, incorporated in the Netherlands, will become a benefit corporation and seek formal B-Corp certification.

The management buyout of GRESB was funded in conjunction with Summit Partners. The capital commitment from Summit is also to be used to expand GRESB in emerging markets and add more capacity to support participants’ reporting efforts, and to invest further in data science and technology.

GRESB said it “would like to thank GBCI for the support it has provided over the last six years to advance sustainable real assets and for allowing us to take this next step in our journey”.

Sander Paul van Tongeren, co-founder and managing director at GRESB, and a former ESG specialist at APG, said: “We’re looking ahead to a new era for GRESB with deeper industry involvement in our governance and greater capacity to deliver the ESG data and insights needed to navigate the transition to sustainable real assets at the speed and the scale that is now required.”