06/25/2021 | by
A person posing in front of a mural
Photo courtesy of Equity Residential.

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.

Equity Residential is dedicated to being at the forefront of diversity and inclusion in the REIT industry, having transformed its workforce composition from 46% to 60% people of color in under a decade. Equity Residential is dedicated to being at the forefront of diversity and inclusion in the REIT industry, having transformed its workforce composition from 46% to 60% people of color in under a decade. During this time, Equity Residential has redefined its approach to diversity by expanding its strategy and focus to encompass inclusion. As Equity Residential continues to align its diversity and inclusion efforts with its purpose—creating communities where people thrive—it is cultivating a workplace of belonging that provides a continuous safe space for its employees to more easily share their stories, voices, and ideas.

Across 2020, Equity Residential launched a strategic campaign designed to provide safe spaces for its employees to have authentic conversations with executive and senior leadership. The carefully structured dialogues yielded tangible inclusion-focused actions and outcomes for the organization.

This initiative included the following key activities:

  • Conducting 14 company-wide listening sessions led by Equity Residential’s Executive Leadership Team to provide a safe space and forum for colleagues to share their experiences and elevate their voices to help the organization better appreciate the impact social unrest is having on the professional and personal lives of its employees.
  • Creating a Task Force composed of five Sub-Teams and Advisory Groups totaling more than 80 employees to continue the dialogue and identify strategic opportunities—around areas of Aligning Behaviors with Company Values, Cultural Awareness Training and Development, Promotions, Community Engagement, and Employee Engagement.
  • Researching priority topics to understand current needs on the 14 strategic recommendations identified by the Task Force Sub-Teams to cultivate inclusion and a consistent approach to inclusive change management at Equity Residential.
  • Funneling leadership-approved recommendations to department leaders to operationalize, while re-branding the Task Force to become its Diversity & Inclusion Committee charged with monitoring the progress of all Task Force recommendations, helping to advance diversity and inclusion practices and serving as a top-level advisor to the CEO on all matters relating to diversity and inclusion.
  • Updating lease agreements for residents to include language that specifically calls out intolerance of racist conduct toward their employees, fellow residents, and guests within Equity Residential's communities. Going forward, lease violations can be issued for the prohibited behavior.
  • Launching an online DEI microlearning resource for people managers to help them develop cultural awareness and inclusive leadership skills.

"We have been deeply moved by the stories shared by employees of Equity Residential and by what has recently transpired in our country. These experiences have helped us develop a greater appreciation for our responsibilities as leaders and citizens to continuously advance inclusion through action to live out our purpose, creating communities where all people can thrive."
Mark J. Parrell, President & CEO, Equity Residential

Equity Residential quickly saw the benefit of this widespread staff engagement. Employees have expressed gratitude to the organization for creating spaces to come together and have difficult, uncomfortable conversations around race, which led to identifying strategic opportunities to elevate as they continue their DEI journey.

Equity Residential is committed to creating communities where people thrive. The company, a member of the S&P 500, is focused on the acquisition, development, and management of residential properties located in and around dynamic cities that attract high-quality long-term renters.

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