On Aug. 27, nearly 200 analysts, investors, and REIT professionals attended the second webinar in Nareit’s ESG Exchange series, a multimedia program bringing together ESG-focused investors and leaders from the REIT industry for discussions on industry wide environmental stewardship, social responsibility and good governance topics impacting real estate. The latest webinar, REITs and Key Social Initiatives: Disclosure and Impact on Investment, focused on the "S" in ESG and how 2020 has seen the rapid development of social programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and social justice movements.
A panel, moderated by Nareit SVP of ESG Issues Fulya Kocak, discussed how their companies define social impact and how they have implemented and reported on social programs. Panelists included:
- Mark Delisi, AvalonBay Communities, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Energy Management
- Kelly Meissner, Ventas, Director of Sustainability
- Sam Adams, Vert Asset Management, Chief Executive Officer
When asked about how the “S” has evolved over the years, panelists talked about how there is more demand from investors to report on these topics than ever before.
The panelists all agreed that transparency regarding diversity is the most critical part of implementing any social program today.
“There wasn’t as much focus and pressure to report and disclose on it,” Meissner said. “But it has become something that the investment world is waking up to that these [metrics] are really critical to our operations and they need to know, and we all need to know, and share with each other what we are doing on these fronts.”
“We used to look at diversity and inclusion as an important issue, but it would fall down in material metrics, not because it’s not material, but because there just wasn’t a lot of data out there,” Adams said. He says as a result of this recent acceleration in social programs, they are now including metrics on diversity and inclusion and their disclosure as a key factor in deciding if companies are included in their portfolio.
Delisi said companies should not be wary of publicly setting goals and then not meeting them. “Don’t be afraid of setting goals. Don’t be afraid of being more transparent and putting something out there…Be very afraid if you’re not doing any of that. You are going to be left behind,” Delisi said. “It is time, we have reached the point in ESG that if you don’t have any social programs and you’re not transparently reporting on it it’s worse.”
In addition to the webinar series, Nareit continues to host educational events about ESG issues in commercial real estate and provide ESG resources:
- REITworks: 2020 Virtual Conference. Nareit's new ESG-focused conference will be held virtually on Sept. 21-22. Attendees will learn about the latest ESG issues impacting real estate, connect virtually with peers and industry experts, and have the opportunity to earn continuing education credits. REITworks is open to all interested professionals, and the topics of focus at REITworks affect many different roles within the real estate industry. Attendees’ job functions will include human resources, accounting, c-suite, finance, sustainability, investor relations, legal, operations, asset management, and more. Register by Aug. 29 to receive an early bird discount.
- REIT Industry ESG Report. Nareit's second REIT Industry ESG Report showcases the substantial efforts made by the industry in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic, to build off the baselines established in the inaugural REIT Industry ESG Report. It highlights the REIT industry’s many initiatives tied to environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and good governance. Download the PDF.
- Nareit’s Guide to ESG Reporting Frameworks. In 2019, Nareit released a guide to provide ESG professionals with information on how to navigate through the various ESG reporting frameworks used by investors. Since its publication, more than 750 REIT professionals have downloaded the guide.