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.
Community is a core pillar of Brandywine Realty Trust's (Brandywine) sustainability approach that is reinforced across the company, from its over $16.4 million Neighborhood Engagement Initiative in Philadelphia, to a persistent organizational culture that emphasizes service and advocacy.
This emphasis on community, Ronald J. Becker, Senior Vice President of Operations and Sustainability explained, seems to "start from the top," stemming from the visionary leadership of President and CEO, Gerard H. Sweeney.
For example, Sweeney established weekly employee town halls at the onset of the pandemic focused on "Family, Faith, Focus, and Forward." The "Forward" element proved particularly important to employees, as frequent conversations emerged regarding "what we can do to support our community, and how."
"We believe in investing in our communities to maximize our impact and collective well-being. The events of 2020 brought this need for community even further to the forefront, and we are proud to say our employees found new and creative ways to come together to support the people we serve."
Ronald J. Becker, Senior Vice President of Operations and Sustainability
Fueled by corporate responsibility and inspired by this ongoing, transparent pandemic support dialogue, Brandywine's leaders got to work to keep the doors open and lights on at every property, and to allocate resources to the most at-risk members of the community.
Following the example of their senior leaders, Brandywine employees also banded together over the course of the pandemic to:
- Print and distribute 3-D face masks to community members.
- Contribute to an employee fund to work with its retail tenants to help provide meals to local Philadelphians.
- Establish the #BDNSTRONG initiative, marked by the launch of a GoFundMe account intended to support third-party vendors within the Brandywine family
Brandywine not only matched funds raised through the employees' GoFundMe initiative (over $100,000), but also augmented the existing Grow Philadelphia fund with an additional $350,000 to the Grow Philadelphia Small Business COVID-19 Resilience Fund in partnership with the Enterprise Center, a local nonprofit lender. Additionally, Brandywine partnered with the African American Chamber of Commerce in Philadelphia to provide $200,000 in low interest loans to chamber members impacted by the pandemic and continued social unrest. The Brandywine Meals program continued from May through the end of the year, ultimately providing over 36,000 meals to local Philadelphians in need.
As recovery efforts persist well into 2021, Becker reiterated Brandywine's continued prioritization of community service and engagement as central to its business strategy, to ensure "its tenants, employees, and community are healthy and thriving."
Brandywine Realty Trust is one of the largest, publicly traded, full-service, integrated real estate companies in the United States, with a core focus in the Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas markets.