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ESG Center

How Kimco Realty Crafted an ESG Structure That Gives Every Employee a Voice

February 1, 2023

Listening to All Voices 

Building a successful environmental, social and governance program starts with strategically crafting your ESG governance structure. “For an ESG program to truly be successful, it takes buy-in, ownership and participation from every department and every level of the organization,” said Kimco Realty vice president of ESG Tamara Chernomordik, whose company won Nareit’s 2022 Leader in the Light Award for the retail REIT sector. 

For Kimco, it was important that ESG efforts not be siloed to just one person or one department. Consulting with investors, landlords, tenants, employees, vendors, government entities, nonprofits and other stakeholders was essential to creating a robust program, Chernomordik said. “When building out your own ESG governance structure, my advice is to start with your stakeholders,” she said. “Identify what is important to them and how ESG plays a role in achieving each of their unique goals. It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all structure, and there are no rules. Allow yourself the freedom to craft a structure that works for your organization, based on what matters to your stakeholders.” 

Kimco’s ESG governance structure is comprised of the board of directors, the ESG department, the ESG Steering Committee and employee-focused KIMunity Councils. 

The board oversees everything related to ESG, and the ESG department engages with the board quarterly. The department oversees the ESG program, which includes understanding market expectations, where ESG is going and how Kimco is going to get there. 

Kimco’s ESG steering committee is comprised of leaders from multiple departments. “ESG means different things to different people, and Kimco’s ESG Steering Committee helps us plan from every angle,” Chernomordik said. “For example, an associate in property management might think of ESG in terms of the energy efficiency of an asset, while an associate in HR might think of ESG in terms of inclusion and recruitment and an associate in finance might be focused on green bonds."

Part of the ESG department’s role is to liaise among stakeholders like investors, tenants and the Steering Committee. The department engages with the ESG Steering Committee to determine the best pathway to achieve stakeholder goals. “When you bring all these perspectives and expertise to the table, you get the best ideas and strategies. ESG is very much a team sport at Kimco, and investor interest in these topics [is] at an all-time high,” Chernomordik said. 

The final component of Kimco’s ESG governance structure is its employee-focused KIMunity Councils: diversity, equity and inclusion; giving; wellness; sustainability; and tenant engagement. Associates from every department and level make up these councils, which provide information and support to the department. “When you give people an opportunity to have their voice heard and take ownership of meaningful initiatives, remarkable things happen,” Chernomordik said. “As our associates gain a deeper understanding of ESG, it allows for creative input towards achieving our goals.” 

Building a strong ESG governance structure takes time, she said. “It’s something that gets refined, adjusted and enhanced again and again as our industry, ESG and stakeholder needs evolve. Though much progress has been made, the work is far from finished. Not only is ESG broad and far-reaching, but it is evolving in real time. That’s why it takes so many people working together to achieve success in this space.” 

Kimco’s structure might not apply for every organization, Chernomordik said. “Identify the stakeholder groups relevant to your organization. This will give you the foundation you need to drive progress forward and provide checks and balances.” 

About Kimco Realty: Kimco is a real estate investment trust (REIT) headquartered in Jericho, N.Y. that is North America’s largest publicly traded owner and operator of open-air, grocery-anchored shopping centers, including mixed-use assets. The company’s portfolio is primarily concentrated in the first-ring suburbs of the top major metropolitan markets, including those in high-barrier-to-entry coastal markets and rapidly expanding Sun Belt cities, with a tenant mix focused on essential, necessity-based goods and services that drive multiple shopping trips per week. Kimco Realty company owns interests in 526 U.S. shopping centers and mixed-use assets comprising 91 million square feet of gross leasable space. 

Tamara Chernomordik is Vice President of ESG at Kimco. E-mail: TChernomordik@kimcorealty.com