Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives consider a company’s environmental sustainability measures, as well as the ethics of their business practices and policies. In the world of investing, it is an increasingly important yardstick with which investors select businesses to put their money in. The importance of ESG in the senior living industry also continues to grow in response to other compelling reasons including consumer expectations and fiscal responsibility.

Giving the people what they want

It’s rather amazing to consider that more than 10,000 Americans are reaching retirement age each day. These Baby Boomer retirees are necessitating a shift in the way the senior living industry markets itself to the next generation of residents.

As a group, Baby Boomers are more environmentally and socially conscious than previous generations. They are bringing their life-long concern with protecting Mother Earth and making socially responsible choices with them into their retirement years.

Additionally, many real estate investment trusts (REITs) and private investor groups are taking ESG initiatives into account when making investment decisions. In response to this new, more conscientious consumer and investor persona, a growing number of senior living communities are instituting ESG policies in their building practices, design features, staffing decisions, and more.

>> Related: The Environmentally Sustainable CCRC of the Future

Real-world ESG in senior living

What does ESG within the senior living industry look like in practice? One excellent example of an organization that is focused on implementation of a robust ESG policy is Brookdale Senior Living, the nation’s largest operator of senior living communities. Among their initiatives, according to their year-end 2021 ESG report

Inclusive hiring and meritocracy

Brookdale has approximately 33,000 employees, 80 percent of whom are women. Women also comprise over 70 percent of the leadership roles within the organization’s senior living communities and corporate offices. Additionally, 55 percent of their staff are people of color with 15 percent of leadership roles being held by people of color.

Retaining top talent

The organization continues to attract and retain top talent with their focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as a competitive compensation and benefits package, recruiting bonuses, tuition reimbursement, leadership development programs, and other perks. They even instituted a new certified nursing assistant (CNA) apprenticeship program to help people pursue a secure, healthcare-related career path.

And to ensure they are living up to the standards they have set as an organization, Brookdale has even implemented an “Integrity Line.” Employees can contact the Integrity Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week to report any concerns or suspected violations of corporate policies or their code of business conduct and ethics.

Supporting the broader community

Brookdale residents and employees participate in many community events, fundraisers, and volunteer efforts. For instance, in 2021 alone, they raised $1.3 million for Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Corporate governance and voice of the resident

Not only does Brookdale make conscious decisions about including women, minorities, and veterans on their leadership team and board, they also include the voice of the resident when making important decisions.

The National Resident Advisory Council was instituted in 2019 as a source of input and feedback for the corporate leadership team. Additionally, many Brookdale communities have a resident council or other types of resident advisory committees that meet regularly with the leadership of their specific community.

Environmental considerations

Reducing their impact on the environment is a cornerstone of Brookdale’s ESG efforts. They have invested in mechanical and infrastructure upgrades, building renovations, energy efficient improvements, and more to enhance their communities while reducing their carbon footprint. Of their nearly 700 communities, 523 were Energy Star-compliant as of the end of 2021. They also completed LED-lighting upgrades in 81 communities, which saved 9,583,000 kilowatt-hours of energy.

Brookdale is working on upgrading HVAC systems across their portfolio of communities as well, replacing older units with more energy-efficient equipment. This conversion resulted in a 14 percent decrease in their energy usage between 2020 and 2021. They also are reducing water usage by installing low-flow water fixtures and toilets with a projected water savings of over 30 percent.

>> Related: “Green” Senior Living Communities: Good for the Environment and Residents

ESG is a win-win for seniors and senior living communities

Brookdale is but one example of a senior living organization that has recognized the value of ESG, both for attracting new residents and, in many cases, for bottom-line cost-savings.

Today’s senior living prospects are looking for communities that are safer and healthier — for residents, for staff, and for the environment. They expect cleaner indoor air, energy-efficient fixtures, more green space, and safer, low-toxin building materials. They expect staff to be treated equally regardless of gender or race and for employees’ work environment to be safe and healthy. They also are looking for a community that is considerate of their neighbors in the broader community — contributing to worthwhile causes through gifts of time, talent, and treasure.

When a senior living prospect finds a community with ESG initiatives that align with the senior’s own social and environmental philosophies, it can be an ideal match, making the sales cycle that much shorter and simpler.

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