Veris Residential Inc. has environmental concerns baked into its operations, rebranding as the socially conscious and environmentally focused multifamily REIT in December from the former Mack-Cali Realty Corp.
As part of the company’s move in that direction, Veris released its 2021 ESG Report on May 31, detailing its progress toward becoming a more responsible, sustainable and inclusive owner, operator and developer. Along with the report, the Jersey City-based firm also announced the appointment of Karen Cusmano as senior vice president and head of sustainability and ESG.
In the role — which is new to the company — Cusmano will oversee a dedicated ESG team with a focus on expanding Embrace by Veris Residential. According to the company, the program establishes its approach to Environmental, Social and Governance initiatives in an effort to advance its ESG actions and reporting. That will hold Veris accountable and guide the company as it works to executive goals to reduce its carbon footprint, increase employee diversity and inclusion, and support the well-being of residents.
Cusmano has been with the company for 21 years, previously holding leadership roles in asset management, operations and accounting. According to LinkedIn, she most recently served as senior vice president of asset management.
“Our 2021 ESG report reflects the work our team has undertaken to advance our mission to become a purpose-driven business to the benefit of all of our stakeholders, while protecting and improving our value creation,” Cusamano said in a prepared statement. “We remain unwavering in our commitment to build upon our ESG accomplishments to date.”
The 89-page report highlights some of those accomplishments, along with laying out a framework for ESG governance at the company. In it, Veris calls attention to achievements and issues across three main subsets:
How Veris approaches sustainable residential living through its assessment of climate-related risks and opportunities.
In 2021, Veris said its energy consumption was down 18% from 2019 levels. Additionally, 100% of the wholly owned residential portfolio electricity under its control comes from renewable sources. Greenhouse gas emissions were down by 34.29%.
Electric vehicle charging stations and Wi-Fi-operated energy management systems were installed at properties across the company’s portfolio, and according to the report, all of its new developments will come with EV charging station and parking spaces for bicycles.
The section also includes a commitment to refrain from developing in “protected areas of high diversity” and to utilize brownfields or infills when possible. In 2021, 54% of Veris’ developments — it completed or commenced on more than 1,600 units — were considered brownfield developments while 46% were infill.
Long-term risks identified by the company include extreme weather events and rising temperatures and sea levels.
People, Culture & Community
How the company is advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts; attracting, retaining and engaging employees; prioritizing resident health, safety and wellness; and integrating itself in the communities it operates in through philanthropic partnerships.
According to the report, all of Veris’ wholly owned multifamily properties received WELL Health and Safety certifications from the International Well Building Institute.
Looking within, Veris said at the end of last year 40% of its workforce was comprised of women and 50% was diverse. (And in case you’re keeping track, 87% of that workforce is based in the Garden State). Meanwhile, DEI training was implemented at the employee and board level.
Ethics, Compliance & Governance
Exploring Veris’ commitment to engaging with all its stakeholders, upholding its Ethics & Compliance program, ensuring a responsible supply chain, and protecting again cyber threats.
In the report, Veris identifies its main stakeholder groups — stockholders, employees, tenants and residents, suppliers, industry associations, communities, NGOs, advocacy and activist groups, governmental organizations and regulatory bodies, media and competitors — along with engagement methods, topics and frequency.
The company highlighted joining the National Minority Supplier Development Council to support businesses that are at least 51% minority owned and called attention to its Supplier Code of Conduct, published in 2020 and incorporated directly into all of Veris’ major contracts since then.
“We have worked hard over the past 18 months to redefine our properties to prioritize residents’ sustainability values, foster an even more equitable and diverse workplace, and mitigate our carbon footprint,” Veris Residential CEO Mahbod Nia said in a statement. “As a result of these efforts and others, we received Logical Buildings’ 2021 Climate Community Leadership Award—a significant recognition from the sustainability and smart building technology space leader.”
Continuing, Nia turned to the future and Cusmano’s new role, “We look forward to building on these achievements under Karen’s leadership and challenging ourselves to reach new heights as we seek to maximize our overall impact, while creating value for our shareholders.”