Over the past several years, Kimco has invested considerable time and resources in building a leading corporate responsibility program. When I joined the company in 2011 we prioritized two primary activities that were necessary for a successful launch of this new program.

REPORTING RESULTS: Kimco’s Westlake Shopping Center is one of the leading properties in the company’s energy reduction initiative

First, we needed a concrete foundation of initiatives that would improve the company’s sustainability performance and allow for comprehensive results measurement. We’ve highlighted some of the initiatives in this vein – like utility management and the Gateway Building Controls Program – in previous blog posts. These activities form the core of our program, because tangible action is a prerequisite for credibility in the increasingly crowded world of corporate social responsibility programs.

Second, we determined that authentic two-way communication is necessary to ensure that our actions remain aligned with the expectations of key stakeholders, like our investors and tenants. To that end, we started ongoing conversations with several of these groups that we continue to this day. After speaking to investors and financial partners, it became clear early on that these groups have a growing appetite for information on the environmental, social, and governance performance of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). It was also clear that, given the large number of companies and diversity of activity in our industry, investors desire standardization and regularity of reporting on individual company progress.

In 2011, Kimco made the decision to begin participating in two investor-backed disclosure programsCDP and the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB). Both of these organizations have built a broad following of investors, companies, and other thought leaders. In the process, their survey questionnaires have also become de facto standards for the reporting of corporate responsibility program information.

In addition to acting as a forum that shares performance results, CDP and GRESB also score and rank responding companies relative to each other in its reports, and each year, issue individual company scores. Although some dislike the subjectivity of having their performance judged by outsiders, Kimco has come to appreciate the role that these annual scores can play in providing an external measuring stick for our performance. As we’ve written about on other fronts, performance improvement is made easier when one can benchmark performance against others.

Today, we issued a press release announcing Kimco’s scores during the most recent CDP and GRESB reporting cycles. We are proud to report that after several years of gradual improvement, for the first time we are among the top tier of respondents to both organizations. Our CDP score rose 18 percent relative to 2013, earning the company a place on the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index that is reserved for only the top 10 percent of responding companies. Our GRESB score rose 67 percent relative to 2013, earning the “Green Star” designation that is awarded to companies scoring in the top quartile.

Our 2014 performance represents a major milestone for our company – and the many individuals who have played a part in our program. While we celebrate this year’s accomplishments, the progression of our scores over the past four years is more gratifying to me. A program that began in 2011, with low scores that reflected our early stage of maturity, has steadily climbed to reach this current milestone on our path to the summit.

We intend to continue pushing forward with new efforts to transform and improve our portfolio of best-in-class retail properties, and look forward to what’s ahead. To that end, stay tuned for a forthcoming announcement about one of Kimco’s largest property improvement initiatives to date.