05/31/2012 | by
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Macerich Building Transparency in Sustainability Programs

Macerich's (NYSE: MAC) sustainability program was born out of the company's initial focus on energy management, according to Jeff Bedell, vice president sustainability for the retail REIT. However, since then, the program has grown into a full-blown corporate plan for sustainability.

Bedell spoke with REIT.com during the 2012 NAREIT Leader in the Light Working Forum in Dallas about the company's sustainability transformation and transparency.

Bedell's role with the company began with an emphasis on energy issues. However, he noticed that as the concepts grew, more people were tossing around words like "green and sustainability," he said.

"It caused us to start having discussions with our executive teams and department teams about whether or not we are being sustainable, or do we just have really good energy practices," Bedell said. "It kind of just grew from there, and it's become a cultural thing for Macerich. It's become a broad part of what we do on a day-to-day basis, so it's become bigger and better. Sustainability has become a big growth area for us."

In some areas, Macerich was already involved in sustainability, according to Bedell, but the company wasn't necessarily tracking and monitoring. 
Macerich began publishing a sustainability report and features a sustainability section on the company's website. Bedell said he thinks that more companies are moving in the direction of becoming transparent with their sustainability initiatives.

"We started out being kind of quiet and wanting to do all the right things, but not wanting to publish it," said Bedell, adding that it got to the point where investor pressure and various stakeholders, including Macerich's board of directors and tenants, began to ask questions about what the company was doing.

"I think investors are starting to ask more and more about sustainability, and they're not just asking the big guys," he said.

While the environmental and social aspect of being green is important, Bedell said the company takes on various initiatives that also benefit the bottom line. He said most of the initiatives have about a four-year payback.