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The Better Finance Podcast

Oct 9, 2021

In this episode of the Better Finance podcast, Myles Corson discusses the growing importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues in the real estate investment trusts (REITs) sector. He 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. Listen as they delve into the role of REITs as ESG change agents and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ESG ecosystem. Get insights into the latest ESG initiatives in the real estate sector.

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

For real estate companies, the pandemic led to changes in how they operate including updates to cleaning protocols in anticipation of reopening workspaces. Additionally, property owners and landlords invested in the latest technologies for indoor air quality, studied energy consumption versus occupancy and witnessed an increase in health and wellness rating applications. This shift indicates the growing importance of ESG initiatives and compliance in the industry.

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 on the business continuity plan. With a growing focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices and meeting stakeholder expectations, it is crucial for CFOs to lead the way in defining the company's and industry's ESG strategy. Being proactive and instrumental in shaping the company's ESG approach helps it stay ahead of evolving ESG regulations.

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

Stakeholder engagement is a critical part of the CFO’s role around ESG. CFO leadership today is more proactive and instrumental in helping the C-Suite define what ESG means for the organization.

Good sustainability leadership is not tied to a title or a person. The key is to have passion, the ability to endure change and implement strategies, and strong communication and collaboration skills.

There’s an incredible amount of entrepreneurship and interest around ESG topics. CFO’s should empower their people to embrace new ideas, because it’s an opportunity for everybody to make a long-lasting, meaningful impact.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not reflect the official policy or position of EY or any other organization.

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