Jill Ziegler, sustainability manager at Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE:FCE.A), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2014 Leader in the Light Working Forum in San Francisco.
Forest City manages commercial and residential real estate across the country. In 2013 the company released its first Corporate Social Responsibility Report, which was prepared in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines.
Ziegler was asked about the rationale for releasing a report at this time. She explained that sustainability has been a core value at Forest City since2003 and the timing seemed right.
“We’ve always had in the back of our mind that we wanted to report externally on all of our efforts, but we really wanted to have a handle on what we were doing and have some great programs in place and have something good to tell the public, Ziegler said. “So I think we just felt it was time.” Forest City chose to use GRI guidelines because the company wanted an accepted framework that could be easily compared against others, according to Ziegler.
“We did a lot of due diligence in terms of different types of frameworks that we could use and we felt GRI was the most comprehensive, but also flexible enough to allow us to do what we wanted to do,” she added.
The response from shareholders has been positive, Ziegler noted: “All of the audiences that we target, internal and external stakeholders, really thought it was an amazing report.”
External rating agencies have also paid attention, Ziegler said. “We’ve seen some positive impact from that,” she noted.
Ziegler was also asked what advice she would give to companies that are new to sustainability reporting. She responded that reporting to the GRI standard involves looking at many different facets of the company, including social and corporate governance issues, in addition to underlying sustainability data.
“You need the key people who are going to make it easy to gather that information and tell your story, so having all those folks on board with you up front is probably my biggest piece of advice,” Ziegler said.