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LTC Properties is taking its environmental, social and governance, or ESG, initiative to the next level by encouraging the operators in its portfolios to do some introspection and possibly make some changes.

“We are working with our operators to help them understand how they can achieve successes by addressing ESG issues in their operations,” Chairman and CEO Wendy Simpson said Friday during the Westlake Village, CA-based real estate investment trust’s first-quarter 2022 earnings call. “We are establishing a voluntary program aimed at helping our operating partners become good corporate stewards by adopting socially responsible and sustainable practices.”

The move comes after LTC’s board established an ESG Committee to oversee the REIT’s practices and performance last year. The REIT also has created and published an environmental sustainability commitment as well as human capital management and labor rights guidelines, now highlights LTC’s ESG initiatives in its proxy, and is working to align with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board reporting framework and adopting select United Nations Sustainability Development Goals to provide shareholders with more information about the company’s environmental impact.

The new program with the operators in its portfolio, Simpson said, “begins with a free consultation with an expert third-party to help our operators better understand their options with respect to these initiatives.”

The program, she added, “will focus not only on remediation efforts, but also on encouraging new methods for ensuring best practices.” The REIT will provide “attractive” financing to facilitate changes, Simpson added.

“An added benefit is that, oftentimes, these initiatives help reduce costs in the long-term, something in which I know all of our operators are interested,” she said.

Depending on how many operators participate, the program ultimately could extend to the approximately 30 states represented by the 124 assisted living and 73 skilled nursing facilities in LTC’s portfolio. Among the operators with the largest presence in the portfolio are Brookdale Senior Living, ALG Senior Living, Anthem Memory Care, Juniper Communities, Randall Residence and Fields Senior Living.

LTC’s announcement comes during what a Thursday Wall Street Journal article called “what appears likely to be one of the most significant years ever for ESG shareholder proposals.”

Whether it’s how companies spend their money, the benefits they bestow on employees, or the positions they take on issues of the day, shareholders and others increasingly are scrutinizing the actions of the corporations in which they invest or otherwise support.

Recent shareholder requests of various companies, according to the WSJ, include extending sick leave to part-time employees, hiring an outside firm to examine pay equity and leadership diversity, and a look at employment contract clauses that affect the reporting and oversight of harassment and discrimination allegations.

The number of shareholder initiatives is increasing, and the number of resolutions being filed addressing new topics has more than doubled, the WSJ reported. The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, for instance, reported that its members had filed almost twice as many shareholder resolutions by early March as they had during the entire 2021 proxy season, according to the media outlet.

“The new push … means that companies have a greater stake in successfully negotiating with shareholder groups to reach compromises and avoid proxy fights,” the WSJ said.

It’s not just an issue for public companies, however. Any company viewed to be irresponsible regarding a social or environmental issue could endure severe damage to its reputation and its ability to be successful in business. So it’s a good idea for firms to examine their policies and positions, and make changes where needed, proactively.

Indeed, ESG, corporate social responsibility, and corporate sustainability initiatives have taken on more prominence in the senior living arena over the past several years. Welltower (initially as Health Care REIT) has been issuing reports at least since 2012, and fellow early adopter Ventas has been honored for its sustainability efforts. The RMR Group, with client companies including Diversified Healthcare Trust and AlerisLife (formerly Five Star Senior Living), published its first report in 2020, and CareTrust REIT and Sabra Health Care REIT published their inaugural reports in 2021. Other senior housing-related REITs publishing reports include The Ensign Group, Healthpeak Properties, National Health Investors and Omega Healthcare Investors. Brookdale is among operators issuing ESG reports.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here.

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