This case study was published in the 2022 REIT Industry ESG Report, which details the REIT and publicly traded real estate industry's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance and features 32 case studies showcasing REIT leadership and ESG innovation from a variety of sectors. The report serves as a practical tool for shareholders and stakeholders to assess the scale and impact of the REIT industry's ESG commitments and initiatives. Applicable footnotes and/or citations for this case study are available in the full report.
Fostering a Diverse and Inclusive Future Through Employee Engagement, Community Investment, and Executive Accountability
Social responsibility has been at the core of Piedmont Office Realty Trust’s culture since its inception in 1999. However, over the past several years, as public discussions on racial and gender equality in the U.S. were brought to the forefront, Piedmont elevated its oversight of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to promote positive social change within the company and the communities it serves. Piedmont initiated the following activities to support this vision:
Employee Engagement: To effectively engage employees throughout the past year, Piedmont conducted anonymous employee surveys to collect their perspectives on company DEI initiatives and identify areas of improvement. Additionally, the company held anti-bias trainings for all employees to increase awareness and eliminate bias in hiring, performance evaluation, compensation, and promotional practices.
Community Investment: In addition to participating in various job fairs for minority candidates, Piedmont invests in the education and development of scholars from two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA) and Howard University (Washington, D.C.). In 2020, the company introduced a need-based scholarship program at both schools which allows recipients the opportunity to intern with Piedmont, interact with executive- and board-level mentors, and acquire valuable experience in real estate.
Board- and Executive-Level Accountability: In 2015, Piedmont welcomed Barbara Lang, former president of the Washington, D.C. Chamber of Commerce and DEI champion, to its board of directors. Lang expanded Piedmont’s conversation around social responsibility and challenged the company to multiply its community programs. In 2019, Piedmont appointed Brent Smith as chief executive officer, who also helped prioritize DEI impact by reinforcing the company’s commitment to grow minority representation in the real estate sector. Under his leadership, more than 40% of Piedmont’s employment opportunities have been filled by persons of color.
“Through programs such as Piedmont’s scholarship, I can strive to be the person for others that I wish I had myself.””
-Caleb Davis, Piedmont Scholarship Award Recipient – Howard University
Piedmont is steadfast in its desire to expand in the company’s DEI efforts and cultivate greater diversity in the commercial real estate industry by engaging employees, fostering a diverse and inclusive recruiting pipeline, and ensure board- and executive- level accountability.
Piedmont Office Realty Trust, Inc. is an owner, manager, developer, redeveloper, and operator of high-quality, Class A office properties located primarily in the Sunbelt. Its geographically-diversified, approximately $5 billion portfolio is currently comprised of approximately 17 million square feet. Piedmont is a 2021 Energy Star Partner of the Year.