GLOBAL – The number of property companies around the world acting to manage their sustainability risks has soared in the last year, according to the latest report from the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB).

In its 2013 report, GRESB revealed that all 543 property companies it surveyed now performed sustainability risk assessments, both for their existing investments as well as new acquisitions.

This contrasted sharply with results from last year's survey, it said, when only 60% of participants were carrying out such exercises.

Presenting the report in Paris at the annual conference of the European Public Real Estate Association (EPRA), Patrick Kanters, managing director of real estate and infrastructure at APG Asset Management in the Netherlands, said: "The relevance of the GRESB has increased in line with previous years."

Kanters is a member of the GRESB supervisory board.

He noted the increase in the number of respondents in the survey, which has risen 23% in 2013 from the 443 participants last year.

GRESB said much of the increase in the number of companies and funds giving information on sustainability performance was due to Asia and the US.

This year, more than 80% of those participating in the survey had involved senior management in reviewing and monitoring their sustainability processes, GRESB said.

The report showed that, overall, the global property sector was reducing its impact on the environment, cutting its energy consumption by 4.8% over the 2011-12 period.

Greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2.5% in the period, and water consumption fell by 1.2%, according to the data.

Kanters noted that listed companies were still slightly ahead of non-listed real estate companies in terms of sustainability performance.

The differences between regions were marked, GRESB said.

Even though EU regulators are still focusing on the property industry, Europe lags behind other regions in the pace of environmental improvement, the survey showed.

Energy consumption for European property sector respondents only declined by 0.7% in the period, compared with 6.6% in North America.

According to the GRESB Report's system of awarding 'green star status' to companies and funds it judges to have outstanding management and implementation of top sustainability issues, Australia remained the highest performer among regions.

Performance differences between Asia, Europe and North America, however, are now getting smaller, it said.