01302024-Sustainability in 2024

Representatives of the Nareit Leader in the Light Award recipients reviewed key stewardship and sustainability topics for the year ahead during a webinar on Jan. 30.

The webinar focused on exploring methods to integrate sustainability initiatives throughout business operations, and how REITs’ sustainability strategies align with company goals and objectives. Other issues included tactics that support carbon footprint reductions and enhance company culture, and how REITs support local communities and their workforces through inclusive growth and giving back.

Nareit Senior Vice President for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Jessica Long introduced the webinar, which was co-moderated by Michael Chang, vice president of energy and sustainability at Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (Nasdaq: HST), and the 2023 Leadership Personified winner, and Carol Samaan, vice president, associate general counsel and corporate secretary at Healthpeak Properties, Inc. (NYSE: PEAK) and 2024 RESC chair.

Webinar participants discussed actions their companies are taking in the areas of transparency, climate action, customers and community, governance and leadership, and stakeholder engagement.

During the webinar:

  • Aaron Binkley, vice president of sustainability at Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), highlighted a “fundamental shift in how the REIT industry and how real estate in general is approaching sustainability reporting.” He said the move is one from a system of voluntary reporting to regulatory obligations.
  • Tamara Chernomordik, vice president of ESG at Kimco Realty Corp. (NYSE: KIM), said Kimco’s governance structure touches every aspect of the organization. She also noted that Kimco’s leadership takes pride in its culture, which has resulted in the creation of employee-focused community councils and employee resource groups.
  • Ethan Gilbert, director of ESG at Prologis, Inc. (NYSE: PLD), touched on the REIT’s customer centricity focus, including the electrification of their industrial tenant’s fleet vehicles. “How can we help to be part of that turnkey solution and solve that pain point of the costs associated with both transportation and labor.” He also discussed the REIT’s Community Workforce Initiative to help source and train employees to join the logistics workforce.
  • Jordan Ivans, director of sustainability at Physicians Realty Trust (NYSE: DOC), talked about the company’s actions in green leasing. Since 2019, over 99% of its new leases and renewals have included broad green lease provisions. This has allowed ESG discussions with tenants even before they move in, he said.
  • Lauren Moss, senior vice president and chief sustainability officer at Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO), shared how the data assurance process “can be an added layer to the work [sustainability teams are] doing, but it also allows us, as the people… working toward those goals, to really ensure we are meeting them.”
  • Kim Pexton, senior vice president, sustainability at JBG SMITH (NYSE: JBGS), commented on the REIT’s housing affordability efforts and its presence in the social investment space. The REIT is part of the Washington Housing Conservancy, a nonprofit that works to preserve workforce housing, which serves individuals who earn too much to qualify for traditional housing assistance but not enough to keep up with rising rents. “They face very stark choices,” she said.
  • Natalie Teear, senior vice president of innovation, sustainability and social impact at Hudson Pacific Properties, Inc. (NYSE: HPP) commented on Scope 3 emissions and embodied carbon, which is “where the vast majority of the carbon impact occurs.” She noted that embodied carbon is “hugely impactful from a lifecycle perspective as developers, and it’s also a really hard area to make progress on.”
  • Kenny Thomas, senior director, engineering, at Park Hotels & Resorts Inc. (NYSE: PK) said early on, as Park was developing its environmental program, the REIT discovered that there wasn’t a single company that could do everything to support its sustainability goals. In response, Park created its own program known as Green Park.
  • Nathaniel Vitan, senior vice president and chief legal officer at Public Storage (NYSE: PSA), discussed the REIT’s onsite renewables program. The company is set to install over 80 megawatts by 2025 and has also launched a community solar program that allows households near its facilities to subscribe to receive discounted clean electricity.