Working Forum Shines Light on Sustainability

NAREIT's first-ever Leader in the Light Working Forum was hosted at the Dallas offices of RealFoundations, a management consulting firm, March 7-8, 2011. The event was a collaborative working session to discuss the key drivers of sustainability in real estate, share participant's leading sustainability practices and identify future events, initiatives and milestones in sustainability.

Sheldon Groner, NAREIT's executive vice president of finance and operations, helped organize the event and participated in the forum. He said the forum is an extension of NAREIT's successful Leader in the Light Award program, which was started in 2005 as a way to recognize NAREIT members that have demonstrated excellence in energy efficiency.

While the awards have gained in popularity and notoriety each year, the amount of questions from companies looking for additional information related to the program and sustainability has increased even more, Groner said. NAREIT recognizes the importance of addressing the challenges and opportunities of sustainability; and it believes that member companies have demonstrated great progress in this area over the past several years. But of course more work lies ahead; and this forum helped participants better understand sustainability issues.

"We felt we could put together a forum for companies to work in a very collegial and collaborative way to share information and learn what their peers are doing," Groner said. "This forum is all about the sharing of ideas among individuals who primarily are dedicated to this effort. But it is also for individuals who want to get involved in this important issue."

Groner said this first working forum exceeded his expectations and the feedback from the 18 participants was very positive. He credited RealFoundations for their creativity and knowledge in putting together an engaging and informative program.

"This forum gave NAREIT corporate members a chance to advance the sustainability conversation, to better understand leading sustainability practices among their peers, to more effectively compete in the Leader in the Light award program, and ultimately to realize tangible economic returns on their sustainability programs," Groner said.

The submission period for the 2011 Leader in the Light Awards will begin in July and more details can be found on closer to that date. Groner said plans are in the works for next year's working forum, which he anticipates to be held in February 2012.