REITworks Panel Focuses on Voluntary Disclosure Programs

A panel discussion during Nareit’s REITworks: 2020 Virtual Conference Sept. 21-22 looked at voluntary disclosure programs within the REIT industry.

Carol Samaan, VP, corporate counsel and ESG at Healthpeak Properties, Inc. (NYSE: PEAK), moderated the panel, which also included: Michael Chang, director of energy & sustainability at Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: HST); Emily Paciolla, sustainability manager at Federal Realty Investment Trust (NYSE: FRT); and, Matt Praske, director of energy & sustainability at WashREIT (NYSE: WRE).

Samaan asked panelists to comment on the disclosure programs their stakeholders are asking them to participate in.

Paciolla noted that historically, voluntary disclosure surveys such as GRESB are the primary avenue for REITs to disclose on ESG matters, “but I think the industry is moving to become a little bit more consolidated in the requests for information, and the different types of information that investors are looking for. I think the ESG disclosure landscape is getting more mature and a little bit more narrowly focused.”

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.”

Praske added that over time, ESG reporting has started to include areas such as health and wellness, climate risk, and diversity and inclusion (D&I). The increasing call for this to be investment grade data means that it has to be standardized, he noted. “While the trend toward standardization and streamlining is good, for the time being it definitely feels like we have to be aware of all those sources that might be used to score us,” he said.

The panel also looked at how companies got started on their ESG reporting journey.

Praske noted that the shift from property-level sustainability efforts to external disclosure and investor engagement began about six years with reporting to GRESB. Chang, meanwhile, said Host started ESG reporting about a decade ago due to pressure from institutional investors.

Paciolla said Federal Realty started reporting in 2015, also due to an investor request. “We want to make sure that we are consistent in providing hard facts for investors to be able to compare us to other companies, while also providing enough context to really tell our story,” she said.

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