09/24/2020 | by

Nareit's inaugural REITworks Conference was held on Sept. 21-22. More than 500 REIT industry professionals gathered virtually to learn about the latest developments in environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and good governance impacting the real estate sector. Registrants can access on-demand content from the conference here through Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. Read on for highlights from the conference: 

Unity on Social Justice Matters Crucial to Making Progress: Wes Moore
In a keynote address to Nareit’s inaugural REITworks: 2020 Virtual Conference, Wes Moore, CEO of The Robin Hood Foundation, addressed some of the complex and long-standing issues surrounding race and inequality that the United States is now addressing, and discussed reasons why he remains “incredibly optimistic.”

REITworks Panel Highlights Growing Appeal of Green Bonds
Chrissa Pagitsas, head of enterprise environmental, social, and governance for Fannie Mae, moderated the panel, which included Marilyn Ceci, managing director, global head of ESG debt capital markets at JP Morgan, and Sara Neff, SVP, sustainability at Kilroy Realty Corp. REITs account for 7% of the entire green bond market globally, Ceci said. “REITs are in a very good position. Investors are keen to buy the bonds, so it really is a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

REITworks Panel Looks at Evolution of ESG Post-Pandemic
Reena Agarwal, a co-founder and COO of the Center for Active Design, Inc., moderated the panel, which also included: Chris Ashworth, national service line manager & sales executive, energy & sustainability at UL; Ben Myers, VP of sustainability at Boston Properties, Inc.; and, Kim Pexton, VP of sustainability at JBG SMITH. “COVID-19 has altered the ESG conversation,” Agarwal said at the start of the discussion. Ashworth noted that the crisis has brought environmental and social issues closer together.

REITworks Panelists Stress Importance of Trust When Integrating HR, D&I, and Sustainability
Will Teichman, VP, business operations at Kimco Realty Corp., moderated the panel, which also included: Samantha Benvenuto, VP-HR, at Vornado Realty Trust; Kelly Meissner, director of sustainability at Ventas, Inc.; and, Natalie Teear, VP-sustainability and social impact, at Hudson Pacific Properties, Inc.. “So much of the ESG role is about tying the work that others are doing into one story and telling that externally in a really smart way. That isn’t successful if the ESG team doesn’t have the full story,” Teear stressed.

REITworks Panel Focuses on Voluntary Disclosure Programs
Carol Samaan, VP, corporate counsel and ESG at Healthpeak Properties, Inc., moderated the panel, which also included: Michael Chang, director of energy & sustainability at Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc.; Emily Paciolla, sustainability manager at Federal Realty Investment Trust; and, Matt Praske, director of energy & sustainability at WashREIT. Chang noted that with increased investor interest and more consolidation within ESG reporting frameworks, there should be an “acceleration toward that single disclosure framework—the single source of truth—for ESG.”

REITworks Panel Reviews Board Best Practices for Navigating the Current Market
Keith Townsend, partner at King & Spalding, moderated the panel, which included: Cedrik Lachance, EVP and director of global REIT research at Green Street; Walter Rakowich, former CEO of Prologis, Inc. and a REIT board member; and Constance Moore, former CEO of BRE Properties and also a REIT board member. The panel looked at ways in which boards should be helping management teams cope with the changed business environment.

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