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The Better Finance Podcast

Oct 9, 2021

Myles Corson is joined by Fulya Kocak, senior vice president of ESG issues for National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (Nareit) and Serena Wolfe, chief financial officer of Annaly Capital Management. Together, they discuss the increasing stakeholder focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues within the real estate investment trusts (REITs) and the broader real estate sector. The conversation starts with a look at how the pandemic has influenced agility within REITs to become ESG change agents for other sectors.

The impact of the global pandemic has pushed businesses to adapt and embrace innovative ideas for decision-making processes along with acting as agents for change. While it proved to be an adaptability test for almost all sectors, it was also an opportunity to identify gaps and issues that could be solved with great solutions.

For real estate companies, the pandemic led to changes in how they operate including updates to cleaning protocols in anticipation of reopening of workspaces. Additionally, property owners and landlords invested in new technologies for indoor air quality, studied energy consumptions versus occupancy and witnessed an increase in health and wellness rating applications.

Annaly Capital Management brought together its infrastructure, IT infrastructure and human capital in ways never considered before, in response to the magnified importance of emergency planning and system resiliency.

Given the challenges faced through the pandemic, investors are not only focused on how businesses are responding to COVID, but also the business continuity plan. This shift in focus was also influenced by the acceleration in momentum to implement improved ESG practices and meet the changing expectations of stakeholders. From a CFO standpoint, it’s about being proactive and instrumental in helping the company and the executive team define what ESG means for the company and industry.

The CFO is now critical in managing change, assessing where their company is today and how to benefit from situations in the future. It’s an opportunity to make a long-lasting, meaningful impact in the face of continued uncertainty and disruption. 

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