As customers return to their favorite shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, Macerich (NYSE: MAC) believes many of the practices adopted across its portfolio during the pandemic will remain in place on a longer-term basis.
“We know that shopper trends have changed forever,” says Olivia Leigh, executive vice president of portfolio operations and people at Macerich.
“Retailers had to adjust to being able to provide consumers with what they needed in new ways. Continuing to provide the space for these special services—curbside and buy online, pick-up in store, especially—will continue,” she says.
Despite the economic impacts of closures during the pandemic, Macerich invested in its assets, including installing hospital-grade air filtration, implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, as well as adopting new ways of shopping to minimize physical contact. As a result, all major Macerich retail properties have achieved the Bureau Veritas SafeGuard™ Hygiene Excellence and Safety Certification.
“As we welcome back shoppers, we’re confident that we are providing places that emphasize health, well-being, and the importance of gathering together,” Leigh says.
ESSENTIAL COMMUNITY ROLE
Macerich believes the role the company’s properties play within each community will be even more important and valued as society emerges from the current crisis and people once again gather together for connection and commerce.
Throughout 2020, Macerich made their real estate available for, and hosted, many essential functions such as drive-through COVID-19 testing and vaccination facilities, food drives and first responder parking, drive-through graduation ceremonies and church services, in-person voting, first responder parking, drive-through farmers’ markets, socially-distanced movie nights and concerts, and open-air yoga, barre and cycling studios.
As each Macerich property is the town center of their community, food and essential supply drives were conducted to support first responders and hospitals, including the donation of unused iPads to hospitals in New York for patients that needed connection to family and distributing 500 laptops to schools in New York, California, and Arizona to support online learning for local students.
ADVANCING ON DEI
Macerich has made advances in other areas of its ESG agenda during the past year, including diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) matters. In 2021 and beyond, the REIT has turned its focus to broader stakeholder groups while continuing to reinforce internal initiatives.
Those external efforts include: connecting with tenants on DEI initiatives, particularly centered on creating marketing partnerships to achieve shared goals; integrating messaging about Macerich’s DEI priorities in consumer-facing communications; and relaying DEI work and achievements to investors and business partners.
Macerich’s commitment to DEI is also being reinforced by the actions of an employee-driven steering committee, executing the company’s DREAM—Diversity, Recognition, Enrichment, and Awareness at Macerich—roadmap. The committee’s focus is to lead corporate DEI programming, guide the selection of training content and property initiatives, and support and amplify existing employee engagement resources.
OUT FRONT ON SUSTAINABILITY
Meanwhile, Macerich has been continuing to lead the retail real estate industry in sustainable practices. After having met its original sustainability goals several years early, in 2017 the REIT set new, more aggressive goals, including a strategic target to achieve zero waste and carbon neutrality by 2030 – two decades before the Paris climate agreement.
Macerich has invested $100 million in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects since 2008, achieved a 51% waste diversion rate in 2020, and 47, 439 MWH of clean energy is produced on-site annually through solar and fuel cell generation.
Looking ahead on sustainability matters, Macerich is exploring off-site investment for renewable power opportunities, reducing embodied carbon in development projects, and developing carbon accounting practices and pricing to appropriately include carbon cost in development cost assessment.
In addition, the company is looking to set appropriate embodied carbon reduction goals for new development and redevelopment, and to find and specify new low-embodied carbon materials and processes.
More information on Macerich's ESG accomplishments in 2020 can be found in its Corporate Responsibility Report.