Annual Report 2020

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Environmental Issues

Within the context of the statutory requirements in the Non-financial Declaration, environmental issues include the following material topics for Vonovia: “Reducing CO2 in the real estate portfolio/energy-efficient modernization,” “Renewable energies and energy mix,” “Sustainable new construction and refurbishment” (see materiality matrix).

We believe that achieving the goals set out in the Paris agreement is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Vonovia is living up to its responsibility in this area and supports both the global objective, and the German government’s long-term objective, of achieving a virtually climate-neutral housing stock by 2050.

Vonovia contributes to greenhouse gas emissions via the construction and operation of residential buildings. The overwhelming proportion of what are known as Scope 1 & 2 emissions are attributable to existing buildings, most of which are located in Germany. As the housing industry market leader in Germany, we aim to be a central driving force behind climate protection. With a portfolio of around 400,000 apartments in total, we have the potential to achieve a great deal in terms of protecting our climate. We are aiming to achieve a climate-neutral housing stock by 2050, allowing us to meet the Paris climate protection goals. In order to achieve this objective, Vonovia has developed a climate path as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between various functional areas and with the support of the scientific community (Fraunhofer ISE). The fact is that the measures pursued to date – energy-efficient building upgrades and moves to replace inefficient heating systems – will not be sufficient in themselves to allow us to achieve this ambitious target. The required reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can only be achieved through a combination of greater energy efficiency, a significant increase in the use of renewable energies and other innovative technologies for decentralized energy generation and storage within neighborhoods.

Vonovia unveiled how it can achieve the objective of a climate-neutral housing stock at the “Outlook for Climate-Neutral Living” conference, an event that involved discussions with representatives from the world of politics, academia and civil society. In particular, the right subsidy instruments and the removal of legal hurdles are seen as crucial in fostering effective climate protection in the housing sector. Vonovia plans to step up its engagement in this area even further and to actively raise awareness of the energy revolution and how the necessary underlying conditions can be put in place. After all, we believe that for climate-neutral housing to be a success and also remain affordable, there is a need not only for commitments and investments but also for ambitious and long-term partnerships and, in particular, changes in the overall political conditions.

The development of our climate path is part of our systematic response to the impact of climate change on our business development.

Modeling of Vonovia’s climate paths 2020–2050

Modeling of Vonovia’s climate paths 2020–2050 (Line chart)

The following three material topics contribute to Vonovia’s overarching climate strategy:

Reducing CO2 in the Real Estate Portfolio/Energy-efficient Modernization

As a major housing industry player, Vonovia aims to be a central driving force behind climate protection. Energy-efficiency refurbishments remain a key element of our climate strategy. As a result, Vonovia is aiming to maintain a high rate of refurbishment in its portfolio. The energy-efficient modernization measures focus on heat insulation for facades, basement ceilings and attics, the replacement of windows and the installation of new heating boilers. We pursue a needs-based approach to these measures and take care to choose the optimal degree of modernization for each building in the neighborhood. Looking at things from the perspective of the neighborhood also allows Vonovia to develop integrated solutions with regard to energy supply and CO2 optimization for entire groups of buildings.

In addition to waning acceptance of energy-efficient modernization among the population and the rent freeze, we are confronted with the conflict between energy-efficient solutions and rising costs; something we are doing our best to navigate through. Vonovia is committed to using numerous (academically supported) cooperation projects and integrated approaches to find cost-efficient and innovative, effective solutions for energy efficiency and a climate-neutral housing stock.

One example of this sort of approach is the Energiesprong initiative, a novel serial refurbishment concept that represents a high level of living comfort, minimal refurbishment times and an innovative financing model. The aim is to conduct refurbishments to bring buildings to net zero, meaning that they generate as much energy in a year as they consume. Vonovia is also taking part in projects to optimize the operational management of heating systems and the interaction between, for example, system technology, user behavior and structural measures, so as to deliver further ideas for measures that can be implemented at a reasonable cost.

The Portfolio Management department, which reports to the Chief Rental Officer (CRO), is responsible for coordinating the energy-efficiency modernization activities. The properties/neighborhoods to be modernized are selected in a targeted manner in cooperation with the regions, and the optimal degree of modernization for each building is defined. The investments for the modernization programs are approved by the Management Board as a whole. Public-sector subsidy programs are being used for many of the modernization measures. This allowed a refurbishment rate of 2.9% to be achieved in the reporting year. The year-on-year drop (2019: 3.7%) is also attributable to the introduction of the rent freeze in Berlin. The refurbishment rate will be slightly lower next year due to the changeover to new subsidy conditions.

Material Performance Indicator





Projection for 2021






Refurbishment rate (in Germany)










Going forward, we will manage our energy-efficiency modernization activities taking even greater account of the impact on a building’s CO2 intensity. This means that, as well as optimizing the building shell, we will also be focusing increasingly on switching to lower-CO2 energy sources. As part of our quest to achieve a climate-neutral housing stock in 2050, Vonovia is aiming to have reduced the CO2 intensity of its housing stock in Germany to between 30 and 35 kg CO2e/m2 by 2030. The CO2 intensity came to 43.9 kg CO2e/m2 in the reporting year, just below our target thanks not only to energy-efficiency modernization activities but also, and among other things, to the purchase of green electricity for general electricity and improved CO2 intensity in district heating.

Material Performance Indicator





Target for 2021






Carbon intensity of the existing portfolio (in Germany)*

kg CO2e/m2 living area



Reduction of min. approx. 2%

* Total stock, based on final energy demand from energy performance certificates and related to rental space, partly incl. specific CO2 factors of district heating suppliers.

Renewable Energies and Energy Mix

Another major lever that can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the use and expansion of renewable sources of energy. Vonovia is aiming to continuously increase the use and share of renewable energies, for example by expanding the use of hybrid heating systems and integrated neighborhood systems. We are also piloting innovative approaches such as the use of hydrogen technology in combination with electricity from renewable sources.

In 2019, Vonovia launched the “1,000 roofs” program, which we intend to use to equip at least 1,000 roofs with photovoltaic facilities over the next few years. The overall potential offered by suitable roofs is actually much higher still, meaning that we have the opportunity to expand this activity further in the future. This is also the objective for 2021, when we intend to continue with the scaling of this business area. Looking ahead, the plan is to use the energy generated directly as landlord-to-tenant electricity in the individual neighborhoods as soon as the overall legal conditions make this commercially feasible. The “1,000 roofs” program and other innovative approaches aimed at the CO2 optimization of the real estate portfolio as part of the neighborhood concept are developed and managed by the Innovation & Business Building department.

Vonovia is offering its customers the opportunity to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources via its own energy distribution company (VESG). By supplying certified green electricity, Vonovia is helping its customers to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. In the mid to long term, Vonovia is seeking to decentralize the energy supply to its own neighborhoods using self-sufficiency concepts. Our objective is to maximize the share of energy we produce ourselves for the benefit of our customers and the environment, and also to use it for our housing-related services, e.g., e-mobility. The purchase of certified green electricity to supply communal areas makes a further contribution to our climate strategy.

All activities relating to renewable energies and energy distribution are organized in the Value-add business area and are managed by a chief representative who reports directly to the CEO of Vonovia SE.

Material Performance Indicator









Number of photovoltaic plants*




* Photovoltaic systems owned by Vonovia as of the reporting date Dec. 31.

Sustainable New Construction and Refurbishment

Vonovia’s new construction activities are helping to create urgently needed new and affordable homes, especially in metropolitan areas. New living area is created by various areas and Group companies within Vonovia. In Germany, Vonovia’s technical service (VTS) is responsible for new construction, focusing in particular on densification and the addition of extra stories to buildings. The development business operating under the BUWOG brand focuses on the development of high-quality residential neighborhoods for the company’s own portfolio (to hold) and for direct sale (to sell) in Germany and Austria. This arm was strengthened further by the acquisition of the project developer Bien-Ries. The activities of the BUWOG development business in Germany and Austria are the responsibility of the CDO (Chief Development Officer), and the individual development projects are approved by the Management Board. VTS’s new construction business is assigned to the Value-add Business and is the responsibility of the CEO.

BUWOG has been a partner of the “klimaaktiv pakt” climate protection initiative launched by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology since 2011. Specific goals were also developed for the new construction activities and the success of the measures was reviewed as part of a regular monitoring process. The klimaaktiv pakt 2020 initiative was completed successfully and there are plans to continue the activities as part of the “klimaaktiv pakt 2030.”

BUWOG has had a certified energy management system that is consistent with ISO 50001 standards in place in Austria since 2013/14 and in Germany since 2018. The system is a tool used voluntarily to systematically manage energy performance and improve it continuously. The corresponding establishment of processes that reflect this policy in the company and clear objectives serve to increase energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption and cut energy costs. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions and allows the company to have a positive environmental impact.

In its new construction and refurbishment projects, Vonovia takes care to ensure optimized energy design, the use of renewable energies and environmentally-aware construction methods that conserve resources.

Low-emission construction and energy-efficient operation are also already taken into account during the planning and realization phases in the form of life cycle assessments. Designing the residential environment and preserving biodiversity are top priorities for us. Numerous buildings feature green spaces that serve as natural habitats for flora and fauna at ground level, on roofs or on facades. In addition to the optical effects, these green spaces also offer a practical added value, for example, by slowing the flow of rainwater into the partially overburdened municipal sewage system and by making a considerable contribution to the microclimate, especially by preventing urban heat islands in built-up areas. Attention is also paid to conserving resources and protecting the environment during the construction phase, too.

The Group-wide strategy for sustainable new construction and refurbishment is being enhanced further as part of Vonovia’s sustainability roadmap. As with the existing portfolio, particular attention is being paid to energy efficiency, low greenhouse gas emissions and building sustainability certificates such as those awarded by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB) or the Austrian Sustainable Building Council (ÖGNB) and the klimaaktiv climate protection initiative. All decisions made by the Management Board regarding new construction projects are always to be made transparent with regard to the target of efficiency class A/high KfW standards and reviewed to ensure they are consistent with Vonovia’s climate and energy efficiency targets. The average primary energy requirements of newly constructed living area make up the most important key performance indicator. Our aim is to reduce this in the medium term. 2021 is initially assumed to bring a marked increase, also due to projects that were already planned and approved based on different overall conditions before we set ourselves this target.

Material Performance Indicator









Average primary energy requirement – new construction*

kWh/m2 p.a.




Based on energy certificates, excluding purely commercial spaces and extensions.


Newly introduced in 2020.

Modernization Measures
Modernization measures are long-term and sustainable value-enhancing investments in housing and building stocks. Energy-efficient refurbishments generally involve improvements to the building shell and communal areas as well as the heat and electricity supply systems. Typical examples are the installation of heating systems, the renovation of balconies and the retrofitting of prefabricated balconies as well as the implementation of energy-saving projects, such as the installation of double-glazed windows and heat insulation, e. g., facade insulation, insulation of the top story ceilings and basement ceilings. In addition to modernization of the apartment electrics, the refurbishment work upgrades the apartments, typically through the installation of modern and/or accessible bathrooms, the installation of new doors and the laying of high-quality and non-slip flooring. Where required, the floor plans are altered to meet changed housing needs.