01/07/2021 | by Sarah Borchersen-Keto

Nareit’s 2020 Leader in the Light Awards highlighted a strong field of companies that have worked hard during the pandemic to put their tenants’ needs first, while also reducing their energy, water, and waste output, according to Cliff Majersik, senior advisor for policy and programs at the Institute for Market Transformation.

Majersik served as a judge for the 2020 Leader in the Light Awards. He noted that REITs have put a premium on making their buildings comfortable, productive, desirable, and above all—safe for their tenants.

Two REITs that caught Majersik’s attention during the judging process were Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (NYSE: ARE) and Kilroy Realty Corp. (NYSE: KRC). Kilroy was a winner in the office property sector, and also won the Most Innovative award. Kilroy’s Sara Neff, SVP, sustainability, was presented with the Leadership Personified award.

Majersik noted that Alexandria and Kilroy did a “particularly good job of reassuring their tenants by relying on best practices and (the) science of protecting occupant health.” Both companies did so while also reducing energy, carbon, and water use, and waste. This is “particularly impressive,” Majersik said, because many of the traditional ways of improving building health, like increasing outdoor air, can come with an energy penalty.

Meanwhile, Majersik also pointed out the growing importance of green leases, and pointed to REITs, including Boston Properties, Inc. (NYSE: BXP), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), Prologis, Inc. (NYSE: PLD), Kimco Realty Corp. (NYSE: KIM), and JBG SMITH (NYSE: JBGS), where they have been implemented.

Kimco also stood out in the area of helping its tenants move toward economic recovery, Majersik said. He noted that more than two thirds of Kimco’s tenants in April were either shut down or had moved to remote pickup. Kimco provided resources to help tenants access financial relief and get permits for outdoor dining, he said.

“We’ve really been impressed by the way that REITs have stepped up, given the unprecedented challenge of the pandemic, to give back to their communities, to give back socially and achieve a higher purpose. There’s a lot to be proud of,” Majersik said.

Looking ahead, Majersik noted that REITs and other companies are already beginning to plan for the next pandemic. “It’s going to be really incumbent to be forward looking and to think about not bouncing back to normal but bouncing forward to a new normal, a new, more resilient normal,” he said.