Certified Sustainable Housing Label

Handelsblatt Top Beratung 2023

We have developed a label aimed at helping socially and environmentally responsible real estate companies find investors – thereby opening up a new market for impact investing.

How to get sustainable real estate companies together with investors seeking sustainable investments? That was the question we asked ourselves. The Certified Sustainable Housing label is the solution we found.

The market for sustainable investments has agreed on standardization in recent years. Intended to serve as an indication of sustainable investment opportunities, the resulting standards help investors identify and put their money into reliable green, social or sustainable investments.

The market for Green, Social and Sustainability Bonds has grown strongly in recent years as a result of this standardization, with the majority of issuers coming from Europe. The demand for sustainable investment opportunities is so high that it exceeds the supply of investment opportunities.

The Label

Developed by RITTERWALD: From now on this label serves as a hallmark for certified sustainable investments in the real estate industry.

The label is applicable to housing companies of all sizes and legal forms in many European countries. It has been awarded to companies in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Querying and evaluating more than 30 individual criteria in the categories “Green” and “Social” ensures a thorough assessment of the sustainability profile of the respective housing company.

The label aligns with the market standards, the Green Bond Principles and Social Bond Principles issued by the International Capital Market Association (ICMA).

Enhance market access

Nevertheless, real estate companies, and in particular housing companies, have been largely denied access to the market for sustainable investments to date. Their considerable social influence is hard to measure and their environmental successes are difficult to communicate to those outside the industry. After all, much of the social housing stock is not “best in class” owing to the age of the buildings. As a result, companies with social housing have so far not been able to consider using sustainable financing across their entire portfolio. That option has only been available for selected newbuild portfolios (including complex modernized buildings), those being the only ones able to comply with the high standards of the previous labels and certificates.

Improvement as a sustainability factor

Looking in from the outside, it is easy to overlook the fact that housing companies with old housing stock make a major positive contribution to the pursuit of sustainability. They rent their properties out at below market price in a socially acceptable manner and can achieve significant CO2savings when they renovate and modernize their buildings (e.g. by replacing heating systems, windows or external cladding). Often, however, such improvements can only be realized by raising additional capital.


Clarion Housing Group, the UKs largest Housing Association, and since 2020 holder of the Certified Sustainable Housing Label, successfully issued £1bn of ESG bonds and loans to support their social purpose activities. As well as managing 110,000 social and affordable homes and developing over 2,000 homes a year, Clarion’s social purpose extends to Clarion Futures, a charitable foundation established to support its residents and develop their future.

This video is part of an online video series about forward-thinking social and affordable housing initiatives and is presented by Housing Europe. View more videos here.

This video was produced for us by BBC StoryWorks, the commercial content division of BBC Global News. 

Label for sustainable improvements

Investors and stakeholders need reliable proof of a housing company’s sustainability. Possessing extensive expertise in the housing industry and working with energy management companies in the real estate sector, we are familiar with all of the relevant environmental and social performance indicators. In conjunction with four European housing companies, we have developed evaluation criteria for measuring the green and social impact of housing companies – the basis for the Certified Sustainable Housing label.

Certified Sustainable Housing label

As part of the labeling process, we examine housing companies seeking a sustainability certificate against a comprehensive catalogue of criteria and relevant social, environmental and economic performance indicators. A second independent authority then reviews our findings. If successful in achieving certification, the housing company may then use this label to present itself on the financial market and to the public at large as a Certified Sustainable Housing company.

Annual review

The criteria judged under the label make it possible to measure the sustainability of a housing company. An annual check is carried out of whether the company has complied with the implementation and fulfilment of the goals set out in the labeling process. Each company must transparently document its progress and results, and the label is withdrawn if a company fails to meet its sustainability targets.