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 2020, Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NASDAQ: HST) introduced a refreshed corporate responsibility strategy centered around the concept of responsible investment—an overarching strategy that guides the company’s focus and actions across its three main themes of Environmental Stewardship, Social Responsibility, and Governance—and spans the organization's stakeholders, including its people, hotels, communities, and investors.
When the pandemic swiftly and drastically impacted the hospitality industry, Host initiated an asset preservation strategy, working closely with brands and asset managers in the development of no/low occupancy best practices and guidelines to protect physical assets and critical building systems. Components of this strategy included:
- Ensuring maintenance contracts were up-to-date and maintained in order to withstand periods of suspended operations and reduced staffing.
- Establishing low-occupancy checklists and surveys to ensure building maintenance despite low occupancy—consisting of monitoring hotel rooms, mitigating mold or moisture events and preventing critical equipment breakdowns from lack of use.
- Increasing engagement between hotel managers and Host's asset management and engineering teams to help with adapting these building management practices in light of changes in occupancy and health and safety measures—encouraging widespread adoption of new standard operating procedures, testing of cleaning chemicals and the execution of more frequent asset reviews.
- Leveraging technology across the Host portfolio to centralize cost savings and energy efficiency actions, and optimize the guest experience (such as in-room energy management systems, mobile key and contactless check-in). Host is currently piloting a building analytics platform integrated with building management systems and guest rooms to further expand its capabilities to monitor all critical systems within its properties and drive more efficiencies.
Beyond Host's focus on asset protection, the company ensured that employees were safe, supported, and connected during and after the transition to remote working. Host offered increased flexibility and expanded benefits to support its employees throughout the pandemic, as well as educational sessions, information, and resources focused on mental, financial, and physical well-being.
"Our commitment to sustainability has remained constant despite the pandemic—and in fact, it's come further into the forefront of our business strategy to ensure long-term resilience and asset protection across our portfolio. We have increased our collaboration and engagement with investors through these operationally challenging times due to our proactive strategies to leverage ESG as a catalyst for the future."
Michael Chang, Vice President of Energy and Sustainability
Host has also remained steadfast in its commitment to supporting its local communities, including the communities in which its hotels are located. In support of the COVID-19 relief efforts, Host partnered with Feeding America, Direct Relief, World Central Kitchen, Food Banks Canada, and Gerando Falcoes in Brazil to provide critical financial support to affected communities in all of the company's key markets—with a focus on hunger relief, medical supplies for front-line workers, and industry recovery efforts, including support of hotel employees and supply chain.
Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. is an S&P 500 company and is the largest lodging real estate investment trust and one of the largest owners of luxury and upper-upscale hotels.