REITs and Social Justice

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This summer, many of our nation’s cities have been full of citizens in protest over the indefensible misuse of authority, law, power, and practice against African Americans that has gone on for far too long. As REITs respond, Nareit will track racial and social justice efforts across the commercial real estate industry. Learn about Nareit’s Dividends Through Diversity & Inclusion Initiative for more information on how your company can get involved in the effort to enhance social justice.

 

Ferguson Partners Releases 2020 REIT Diversity Across Boards and Executives Report: Ferguson Partners’ third annual report on diversity across public REITs has been significantly expanded and contains a first-ever look into Black representation across executives and directors.

Equity Residential Joins CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion: The REIT has been conducting listening sessions to provide an opportunity for employees of color to share their stories and experiences regarding the racial injustices and societal inequities in the U.S.

2020: The Year of Tough Questions: Just assuming lessons are being learned is not enough, and the introspection and the hard questions triggered by the murder of George Floyd are just a small part of curing the systemic racial injustice in this country.

REEC Chair Shares Five Strategies to Help Improve Ethnic Diversity in Commercial Real Estate: Tammy Jones is hopeful the commercial real estate industry can leverage its partnership skills to improve ethnic diversity.

Nareit Cosigns Letter Supporting the Improving Corporate Governance through Diversity Act: Nareit, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other leading groups have sent a letter to the Senate Banking Committee Heads in support of H.R. 5084, legislation that would establish a model to boost diversity on boards through disclosure.

Raising Awareness of Commercial Real Estate Industry Among Minorities Seen as Vital Step: Roosevelt University’s Collete English Dixon says social justice conversations can lead to real change.

CEO of The Robin Hood Foundation Confirmed as Keynote at Nareit’s REITworks: An acclaimed speaker and best-selling author, Wes Moore will speak about the value of diversity and corporate responsibility, overcoming adversity, and more.

Commercial Real Estate’s Partnership Skills Seen as Key to Increasing Racial Diversity: REEC chair Tammy Jones also calls for increased transparency of minorities on corporate boards.

Overcoming Decades of Exclusion in Real Estate: John Jones, Nareit vice president of government relations, participated in a webinar hosted by Scout with a panel made up of real estate executives, media personalities, and academics discussing the history of segregation and inequality in the real estate industry.

 

REIT Leaders Respond to Racial Injustice

Leaders from the REIT industry responded to the June 2020 murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests against the unequal justice faced by African Americans. Here is a sample of some of their remarks:

“For nearly two weeks, the streets in hundreds of our nation’s cities and towns and across the world have been full of citizens in protest over the indefensible misuse of authority, law, power, and practice against African Americans—which has been both too often and too long ignored; and which needs to be addressed along with real solutions now and into the future. We need to keep in mind George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and their families, together with all others who have suffered so deeply from ongoing discrimination in our society. At the same time, we need to consider how fortunate most of us have been and continue to be in the midst of the pain of so many others—and what we can do together to make things better.”
- Nareit President and CEO Steve Wechsler

“Racism and discrimination have no place in our society. This is a profoundly human issue, and as a society, we need to do all that we can to help bring people together. We recognize the pain and anxiety many within our communities are facing. With this as our reality, we understand that there is a role for real estate and the industry’s leaders to play in helping to improve the communities we serve and rely upon today and into the future.”
- Nareit Chair and CEO of Digital Realty Bill Stein

“I have been trying to process the tragic events that have occurred in our country recently and have had emotions running from anger to grief to confusion. The senseless death of George Floyd has left us wondering how this can continue to happen in our country. We need to foster a dialogue to finally rid us of a hatred that is far too common. We need to have useful, constructive and honest conversations as to how and why we still live in this type of world. As a start, and to help support the dialogue that is needed, the American Tower Foundation is making a sizeable donation to the NAACP, an organization that is at the forefront of economic, educational and social equality for all. The Foundation is also matching 2:1 employees’ donations to our Campaign for Racial Justice. There is more that we can do, and we will. More than ever, we need to reinforce our commitment to diversity and inclusion everywhere. We must condemn the racial prejudice and profound injustice leading to this incredible loss of life. So many people in our communities, particularly people of color, live with institutional discrimination, ignorance, hatred and violence. American Tower will always be an inclusive community that accepts and celebrates the wonderfully diverse backgrounds of our people. We will always respect, support and treat each other as equals. Racism will never be tolerated at our company, period.”
- American Tower President and CEO Tom Bartlett

“In the last few weeks since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, I have experienced a range of emotions -- sadness, anger, fear among them. Combined with the impact of the pandemic and ensuing economic downturn, I have found many of my basic assumptions about health, economic security and justice called into question. It has often left me confused and struggling with how best to respond, as an individual -- a father, a son, a husband, a friend -- and as a leader, too. Like many of you, I’ve needed some time and space to reflect on these events, both in terms of their meaning, and their effect. ... We are all being called to do our part, and to do more! Each of us individually, and, all of us together, as an organization. Whatever success that we may have achieved individually or as a company, it has only happened with the help and love of others. And the meaning of that success is diminished unless we share it and use it to help others. I believe that we have a moral obligation to reach out and offer our hand to those that have fallen behind, particularly those that have been victims of racial and social injustice. As a company focused on housing, we have an opportunity to make a meaningful impact within the walls of AvalonBay, and within our communities as well. And we can do it in a way that is true to our common purpose, values and culture as a company. Through our Spirit of Caring we can help to Create a Better Way to Live." 
AvalonBay Communities, Inc. President, CEO and Chair Timothy Naughton

“Cousins is proud to join leading companies in urging the Georgia General Assembly to pass a comprehensive, specific and clear bill against hate crimes. We stand strong and united against targeted violence and bigotry.”
- Cousins Properties

“As Americans, we can no longer ignore the racial inequality and social injustice that exist in our country. We must join together and take proactive steps to stop discrimination and recognize that every person regardless of race, color, religion, political beliefs, or cultural background is entitled to humane treatment, justice, and equality. We need to ask ourselves “what are we going to do to stop it from ever happening again?” We must all work to create change. Change that is not only long overdue, but what is truly right and just.”
- Duke Realty Corp. Chairman and CEO James Connor

“We believe in the movement across the country to treat everyone equally with dignity, humanity and respect. Equal access to a quality higher education is critical to supporting a more just society and creating opportunity. I’m committed personally, and as Crown Castle’s leader, to invest in the future leaders of our country, as one step toward a better path forward.”
- Crown Castle International Corp. CEO Jay Brown

“As a Company, we stand in support of anyone who has experienced hatred or violence based solely on who they are. Extra Space is here for all of our employees. But today, particularly we are here for our Black and other employees of color. For our team members especially hurting right now, please know you are not alone—I am with you in standing for justice and absolute intolerance for racism in our country. We acknowledge our responsibility to be part of the solution. We are committed to doing our part."
- Extra Space Storage, Inc. CEO Joe Margolis

“The recent deaths of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, among others, have brought to the forefront the racial and social injustices that continue to be embedded in American society. We are saddened by these horrific and inexcusable events that represent instances of hatred, violence, and racism, which cannot be tolerated if we are to have a free and equitable society for all Americans.”
- Healthpeak Properties

“As Americans, we must unite, speak up and take action to encourage and promote diversity, equality and inclusion. These foundational principals are essential to making our society, communities and businesses thrive and in providing an environment where everyone can achieve the safety, security and opportunity they deserve. We believe we need to double down in our efforts to turn this inflection point into a positive turning point in our history. Now is the time for us to make our actions speak louder than our words. With this in mind, I am proud to share that I have recently joined the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion initiative and to personally pledge to continue to advance diversity and inclusion within our workplace. We remain committed to fostering a space where we listen, learn and act; treat each other as equals; show support and respect to each other and our partners; and encourage freedom of expression and understanding of differences. Diversity and inclusion will remain at the forefront of our priorities and integral to our corporate values.”
Host Hotels & Resorts President and CEO Jim Risoleo

"Housing Partnership Equity Trust is in the business of building community. Today our community is hurting as we grieve the repeated loss of life, the loss of dignity, and the loss of our people’s potential, as the result of racial inequality, hatred, and division. As we go forward, we can and we must turn our rightful grief and our rage into winning, once and for all, the fight for racial equality. As Americans, one of the most powerful weapons we have to use in this fight is our right, recognized in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to peaceably assemble and to petition our government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment acknowledges our power as citizens and helps define who we are as a people. We honor and support those who are engaging in peaceful protest and call on our government leaders to protect those exercising this Constitutional right.”
- Housing Partnership Equity Trust President & CEO Anne Segrest McCulloch

“I’m struggling to make sense of all that is going on. I’m angry and frustrated. And I’m sad. One of the beautiful things about our country should be how diverse it truly is. We are a nation built by immigrants with different backgrounds, beliefs and values. Those historical differences have shaped who we are as individuals and as a country. Our unique experiences and perspectives make this great country a blessing in our lives and they should be viewed as a strength. At Invitation Homes, our view is simple—we will value all perspectives and celebrate cultural differences. We should embrace the attributes and experiences that make our colleagues and our residents unique. It is these differences that make us stronger together. To be clear, we will not tolerate violence or discrimination of any sort against any person because of their ethnicity, gender, color, religion, or any other perceived difference.”
- Invitation Homes President & CEO Dallas Tanner

“As a leader, it's been a challenging few weeks for our residents, team, and Minneapolis-centric company. My senior team and I have been working to take action without striking the wrong note, to join the discussion in a way that is additive. I imagine some will find that line of thinking cowardly, but in any case, we have been humbled. At IRET we believe in doing the right thing, and prior to all of the recent events I was feeling something close to satisfied with where we were and how we were moving forward. But whether it's watching the appalling murder of George Floyd on our Minneapolis streets, or the inability for Christian Cooper to just be a bird nerd in Central Park without someone calling the police, or the countless other injustices that happen everyday, what's clear is we need to do more to build a world where equality and justice are real. There's no grand gesture, or quick fix. But there is a huge opportunity. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison, who wrote ‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.’ We are committed at IRET to not missing the opportunity and to doing the work. We need to raise our game and reset expectations and for us, this is the starting line.”
- IRET President, CEO & Trustee Mark Decker

“In these tumultuous times, companies and communities must come together in solidarity to heal and drive positive change. As a company born, bred and exclusively operating in the D.C. region, it is our responsibility to align our internal commitment and values to those of our external marketplace, by publicly stating our support for peaceful protests and unity through collaboration, empathy and justice. There are many ways all of us can do our part. One way is to help educate and raise awareness around race relations through available resources, such as the “Talking About Race” web portal found here from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We can also inspire our workforces to be a part of the solution. It is our responsibility as leaders to provide safe spaces for frank conversations around race relations, create inclusive environments that cultivate understanding, and provide employees with the support and resources they need to effectively cope with these challenging issues. It is also imperative that we identify ways to support businesses, particularly small and minority-owned enterprises, that have been severely impacted by multiple crises. The same is true for community organizations fighting for human and civil rights and raising black voices, such as the National Urban League and the NAACP. Whether through donations or volunteer work, we can all find ways to lend a helping hand. As a company with a history of promoting housing equity, we also understand the importance of quality, affordable housing for all. Through our Washington Housing Initiative, we are working to preserve and create affordable homes for essential workers in emerging neighborhoods. Encouraging other businesses to invest in and contribute to these types of initiatives is another important part of moving things forward. Finally, we must be vigilant in recognizing and calling out systemic racism. For example, everyone should familiarize themselves with the Center for Policing Equity, which helps us understand that persistent racial bias in the use of force is not tied to rates of criminal infraction. These are important frames of reference that we all need to know. Because when we know better, we do better.”
- JBG SMITH CEO Matthew Kelly

“Prologis stands in solidarity with the Black community in speaking out and acting against racial injustice, hatred, and violence. We recognize that the fight against injustice and inequality for the Black community is a shared responsibility and that the broader, systemic racism that exists in our country will not go away unless we address it head-on. As part of our commitment, the Prologis Foundation will donate $250,000 to the Equal Justice Initiative to support its work to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable and challenge racial and economic injustice. While we don’t have all the answers, we will continue to seek opportunities to use our collective voice toward helping to build a more equitable, just, and democratic future for all.”
- Prologis

“Realty Income supports racial justice and equality for all. Respect, integrity, humility, diversity and inclusion remain core values to us because how we act is as important as what we accomplish. We want to champion bringing meaningful progress. Uncompromising change must address and eliminate the systemic issues found in our institutions and society. We must challenge our own biases.”
- Realty Income Corp.

“The recent disturbing events resulting in calls for action have made it very clear that we all must address the issues of social injustice and systemic racism. Regency is committed to being part of a necessary change to make our society more just and equal.”
- Regency Centers Corp. President & CEO Lisa Palmer

“While I appreciate the uniqueness of my role, the reality is that there are plenty of people of color and women that have as much skill as I do. It’s important to dispel the concept that the pool for potential executives is limited, because if you believe that, then you allow your organization to accept the lack of diversity. In this industry, in real estate and lodging in particular, there's plenty of opportunity for diversity at all levels of the organization. The most impactful thing to do is to add diversity to the leadership team, because those leaders will be helpful in directly and indirectly driving diversity throughout the organization. While it's important to add diversity at the lower ranks, that won’t necessarily help you drive it through the entire organization.”
- RLJ Lodging Trust CEO Leslie Hale

“Individual liberty and equal justice under the law are important pillars of our society which make America one of the greatest nations on earth. As recent events and the peaceful protests have highlighted, African Americans and other people of color have not had their individual liberties respected and they have not been treated equally under the law. The RMR Group finds this unacceptable and recognizes that we must address this. As an organization, RMR has a long history of focusing on diversity and inclusion. We do not just speak these words; we act upon them. Throughout our organization, from the Boardroom to management to hiring at all levels of the organization, we are committed to racial equality and fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion.”
The RMR Group President and CEO Adam Portnoy

“We are deeply saddened and troubled by the murder of Mr. Floyd and mourn his senseless loss. We stand united for racial equality and pray for the healing of our communities.”
- Simon Property Group

“Over the past 5 years, Taubman has donated more than $1 million to nonprofits and programs that have a direct and positive impact on Black Lives in metro Detroit and communities in which our shopping centers operate. We will continue to listen, learn and act.”
- The Taubman Company

“We CAN stand together as allies, stand against racism when we see it, and take deliberate actions to encourage and promote diversity, equity and inclusion within and beyond our own homes, networks, and communities to ensure that everyone feels like they belong.”
- Ventas Chairman and CEO Debra Cafaro and Senior Investment Officer and Diversity Network Sponsor Tim Sanders

“Our hearts are heavy with the profound suffering being experienced across our country. The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are the latest examples of the gross racial injustice endured by our African American fellow citizens. We must respect the feelings and questions this raises for all, as well as the rights of people to positively and peacefully bring attention to the topics of racism, discrimination, and injustice.”
- Welltower Chairman and CEO Tom DeRosa

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