This is a case study that’s a part of the 2021 REIT Industry ESG Report, an annual report detailing the REIT industry’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance details in the publicly traded U.S. REIT industry. Featured case studies showcase REIT leadership and ESG innovation from a variety of sectors and serve as a practical tool for stakeholders to assess the scale and impact of the REIT industry’s ESG commitments and initiatives.
In addition to serving as a cross-functional, organization-wide priority, AvalonBay Communities Inc.’s (AvalonBay) DEI strategy spans four levels—from building DEI awareness for individuals, to creating a welcoming environment and inclusive corporate culture, to ensuring company and leadership accountability, and then, ultimately, contributing to DEI initiatives outside of AvalonBay and in the broader community.
Combined, these efforts intend to help the organization become more inclusive and equitable, achieve gender parity in leadership, and increase minority representation across the business.
“We are focused on empowering our employees to embrace their humanity and bring their full selves to work. Amidst a difficult year, employees needed us to have a voice and support them in ways that we had not in the past—and AvalonBay was determined to rise to that challenge.”- Christine McElhinney, Director—Corporate Responsibility, Inclusion & Diversity
Prior to the summer of 2020, AvalonBay established an Inclusion & Diversity Council, Steering Committee, strategy, and vision. The Black Lives Matter protests prompted additional focus on the organization’s strategy, serving as a catalyst for the launch or expansion of a number of key DEI initiatives, including:
- Expansion and elevation of DEI priorities across the business—formalizing and integrating DEI activities alongside Corporate Responsibility, Strategy, and Human Resources functions, and joining CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion and Nareit’s DDEI CEO Council.
- Launch of Associate Resource Groups such as the Black Associate Coalition, Latinx Employees of AvalonBay for Diversity, Associate Rainbow Coalition, and Parents and Caregivers of AvalonBay—as well as the expansion of the pre-existing Women’s Leadership Network.
- Development of Empower Hours, monthly sharing and listening sessions providing employees a virtual space for dynamic discussion about the changing and challenging world around them.
- Creation of strategic partnerships in the DEI space, including a multi-year national partnership with the National Urban League and alignment with other local philanthropic partners to support racial equity and justice.
These DEI programs and activities, designed to empower employees to bring their “whole self” to work, helped AvalonBay provide ongoing support to its associates, while also informing the goal-setting process for the organization’s 2025 DEI commitments to increase the diversity of its leadership team (defined as officers and director-level associates and above), specifically to:
- Increase the representation of women in leadership from the current level of 35% to a level at parity with the overall presence of women in the relevant workforce (currently 41%) by 2025.
- Increase under-represented minorities in leadership from the current level of 15% to 20% by 2025 and to 25% by 2030.
AvalonBay Communities, Inc. (AvalonBay) is an equity REIT in the business of developing, redeveloping, acquiring, and managing multifamily communities primarily in New England, the New York/New Jersey metro area, the MidAtlantic, the Pacific Northwest, and Northern and Southern California.