REIT Investors Benefit from Sustainability Reporting Convergence, Forest City Executive Says

Jill Ziegler, director of sustainability and corporate responsibility with Forest City Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: FCE.A), joined REIT.com for a video interview at NAREIT’s 2015 Leader in the Light Working Forum in Reston, Va.

Ziegler said Forest City learned “a lot” in putting out its first sustainability report to the public a year ago.

“We’ve received a really good response from all of our stakeholders, including our internal associates as well as external stakeholders like investors,” she said.

Ziegler cited two important developments following the report’s release. First, Forest City received a significant upgrade to its rating from a corporate social responsibility ratings firm. Additionally, upon the release of its second report in 2014, Corporate Responsibility magazine named Forest City as the second-most improved corporate citizen in its index.

“We felt really great about receiving those external recognitions,” Ziegler said.

Ziegler also discussed the convergence of sustainability reporting standards. The biggest drawback to convergence is the lack of a standard that fits all companies, according to Ziegler. On the other hand, investors benefit from greater uniformity, she said.

“If investors are using these reports to make financial decisions about our companies, I think it is helpful to have a standard or two so that they can compare apples to apples,” she commented.

Ziegler highlighted Forest City’s sustainability work in its seven core markets around the country. The company is focusing on its large mixed-use communities that she said have benefits for neighborhoods and cities as a whole.

Looking ahead, Ziegler predicted that performance reporting will continue to be a dominant trend in real estate sustainability.

“As we see more and more standards and ratings and rankings pop up…it’s really difficult,” she said. “But I think we all see the value in that. Over the next few years, we might see a lot more noise before a few leaders bubble to the top. I’m just hoping that those ratings organizations keep the lines of communication open so that everybody can be happy in the end."