Largest student housing company provides year-in-review of efforts; continues commitment to healthy, sustainable environments conducive to academic achievement
This update comes after the company formalized an internal multi-departmental Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) task force in 2019 to manage and implement structure around the company’s environmental, sustainability and social initiatives.
“ESG is a natural extension of our values and is not only the right thing to do for our society and the planet, but it makes good business sense as well,” said Bill Bayless, chief executive officer of American Campus Communities. “While this update covers our 2019 work, we are publishing it in 2020 – a year that has been quickly and dramatically reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the pandemic ACC transformed its market research and training departments into the COVID-19 critical data group. The group developed a university tracker information tool, which monitors the latest ordinances, public health guidelines and university policies in the 92 markets it serves.
“With our core values as our guide, we responded immediately with a pledge to provide every resident with a home, regardless of their ability to pay rent on time,” Bayless said.
Through the newly established Resident Hardship Program, ACC has provided nearly $20 million in rental relief to residents and has offered thousands of additional deferments of rent payments to residents and parents who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
“While this crisis is unprecedented, our commitment to our ESG principles is unwavering,” Bayless said. “To ensure our company endures and is responsive in any situation, in 2019 we conducted a materiality assessment to identify our most relevant ESG issues and formalized our ESG programs.”
ACC made industry-leading strides with its commitment to ESG, including developments of Plaza Verde at the University of California, Irvine, and LightView at Northeastern University, both targeting Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications. The company has previously completed 37 projects across the country to be LEED, more than any other student housing provider. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. ACC also retrofitted 125 acquired and older communities with sustainability best practices.
Sustainability awards and recognitions earned by ACC include:
- On-campus Best Use of Green/Sustainable Development – David Blackwell Hall, Berkeley, CA
- On-campus Best Use of Green & Sustainable Construction/Development – Tooker House, Tempe, AZ
- Off-campus Best Use of Green & Sustainable Construction or Development – Suites at Third, Champaign, IL
- Named Texan By Nature 20 Honoree – One of 20 companies with Texas operations that have made a demonstrative commitment to conservation
“We are inspired by the passion for sustainability we see on university campuses, and the innovation we see in classrooms and corporations,” Bayless said. “No one entity can change the world alone, but we are determined to do our part to shape a brighter future for our students, employees, communities and the planet we all share.”
ACC not only creates sustainable environments for students to live in, last year, ACC offered 12 percent lower rents than the market average, 61 percent of which are below market median rent levels and 91 percent of which are closer to campus than the market average distance.
“Designing high-quality and affordable communities provides students with the resources to achieve academic and professional success and is imperative to creating communities where students love living,” Bayless said.
On the social front, expanding its partnership with the Hi, How Are You Project, ACC rolled out peer-to-peer trainings to more than 2,500 staff at ACC properties. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health Illnesses, one in five Americans will experience a mental health issue, and 75 percent of these illnesses begin by the age of 24. The training teaches staff members how to recognize the stigma of mental distress in residents and coworkers, how to respond and how to connect people with proper resources. The training is now part of onboarding for all new hires and comes at a time when 80 percent of college students report that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, according to a new study by Active Minds.
The work to empower young people reaches beyond American Campus Communities. Together with the individual efforts of team members and the American Campus Charity Foundation, nearly $6.2 million has been raised to help non-profit organizations make an impact in the company’s hometown of Austin and in other cities in which the company operates. ACC’s designated charities, including the Hi, How Are You Project, are:
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Austin Area
- The Rise School of Austin
- The Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts
- Explore Austin
- Folds of Honor
In 2019, the corporate office in Austin also hosted 26 volunteer and giving events including the Rise School Carnival, Central Texas Food Bank Volunteer Day, ACC Charity Golf Tournament, seasonal highway cleanups, regular host of quarterly blood drives and collections for food, supplies, and toy donations.
“Service is embedded in our culture,” Bayless said. “Our culture is built on shared values, a higher purpose and a team of people who truly love what they do.”
In 2019, ACC provided trainings and one-on-one mentoring to all new general managers, area managers and regional managers as well as hosted annual leasing trainings at 125 properties. The annual leadership conference in Austin included participation from more than 290 operations staff. ACC also enhanced the board’s diversity by increasing its female representation, ensuring diversity is integrated throughout the board nomination process. Employee demographics for 2019 were 51 percent male and 49 percent female.
“Our number-one priority is delivering the best possible experience for students,” Bayless said. “We are proud to share our 2019 progress, as well as our plans for 2020 and our vision moving forward.”
About American Campus Communities
American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of March 31, 2020, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 201 properties with approximately 137,900 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.