In November, I will conclude my year as Nareit’s 2021 Chair. This past year has been a demanding one for the REIT industry. The COVID-19 pandemic created health and economic challenges for REITs, our employees, tenants, and communities. REITs responded with measures to safeguard the health and welfare of those who depend upon us and to help our tenants preserve their businesses.
The year also challenged us to look more closely at how our society treats members of minority groups, how it administers justice, and how fair it is in its distribution of economic opportunities and benefits.
As one of the feature stories in this issue of REIT magazine, “Prioritizing People,” makes clear, REITs have responded to the social challenges that have been spotlighted by the events of the past year. REITs have doubled down on programs to attract, develop, and support the most important kind of capital any organization can have—human capital. Their efforts, importantly, have included programs to ensure they provide diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces.
Nareit has worked to provide leadership and support for the REIT and publicly traded real estate industry’s efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. In the past year, Nareit formed its Dividends for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DDEI) CEO Council. The council’s mission is to provide Nareit’s executive board with C-suite level leadership for actionable initiatives to help our industry recruit, develop and support the advancement of Black professionals, other people of color, ethnically diverse people, and members of other under-represented groups.
Also in the last year, Nareit created its Social Responsibility Council, a cross disciplinary group representing members of REIT executive management teams. Their task is to identify and advise Nareit on social responsibility issues the industry should address, ranging from DEI, to compensation-related issues, to vaccinations.
The thought leadership of Nareit’s industry committees has led to the creation of programs that can begin to “move the needle” in responding to some of our industry’s key needs. One example is the Foundations: REIT and Commercial Real Estate internship program, which Nareit is piloting in partnership with Fannie Mae’s Future Housing Leaders program and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
Foundations is designed to increase the REIT industry’s appeal to diverse talent and provide students with skills and experience that will make them attractive to real estate industry employers. The first class of Foundations interns will be matched with participating REITs this fall, and they will begin their training this winter.
REITs have responded to the challenges of the past year with innovation and energy, developing and implementing programs that have provided critical services to our stakeholders, as well as programs that will make our companies and our society better over the long term. I have been privileged to be part of these efforts as Nareit’s Chair, and I am looking forward to passing this honor on to our 2022 Chair at REITworld in November.
James F. Risoleo
2021 Nareit Chair
President, CEO & Director,
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