Commercial services firm JLL is part of a larger trend underway
in corporate America: a push to have a more diverse board of
directors. This trend is a variation of the Rooney Rule, which
refers to a National Football League policy requiring league
teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for coaching and
senior football operation jobs, and we’ve seen it at play recently at
Amazon, Starbucks and Macy’s.
And JLL, which has been recognized as being one of the
World’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute for
the tenth consecutive year as well as one of the 50 Best
Companies for Diversity by Black
Enterprise and the Executive
Leadership Council. JLL has men of
color on its
and it continues to be a market leader in advisory
services and investment management.
There have been several studies
quantifying the benefits of having an
ethnic and gender diverse board for
companies, all of which basically come down to this: A mixture of
perspectives, backgrounds, and areas of expertise make the business more profitable, innovative, and attuned to their customers.
But don’t take my word for it. Three of the world’s top brands
worked to ensure that their boards are diverse. Here’s why:
Amazon: Earlier this spring Amazon adopted a new policy to
promote board diversity. Amazon acted in response to a share-
holder proposal, which said that “shareholders have long believed
that embracing diversity will benefit companies by providing
greater access to talent, harnessing existing talent more effec-
tively, and improving decision making by reducing groupthink
and similar psychological biases.” As a customer-centric company,
Amazon’s more diverse board will more accurately reflect the
racial composition of its 300 million active user base.
Starbucks: The global coffee giant has assembled one of
America’s most diverse corporate boards: it’s 29% female and
36% ethnic minority, and includes a range of ages from millennials to baby boomers. Starbucks recently closed all 8,000 company-owned stores in the US to racial bias training. The decision came
about in response to an incident in which a Starbucks manager
accused two black customers of trespassing at one of the company’s stores in Philadelphia.
Macy’s: The legacy retailer has one of the most diverse boards
in the industry. CEO and chairman Terry Lundgren seeks board
members who have diverse perspectives and “reflect his customer
base so he can stay attuned to trends in how different people
shop,” Board member Craig Weatherup says that companies without digitally savvy and ethnic board members “are really going to
fall behind. It’s a key part of staying relevant in today’s market.”
Perhaps correlated with having a diverse, marketplace-attuned
board is the fact that last week, Macy’s posted double digit sales
growth and has boosted its outlook for the year.
The views expressed here are the author’s own and not those of the ALM
Real Estate Media Group. Lyneir Richardson is the executive director of
the Rutgers University Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and
Economic Development in Newark, NJ. He also serves as the CEO of
Chicago Trend, a social enterprise that catalyzes retail development in
an effort to strengthen urban neighborhoods. He may be contacted at
What CRE Boards Can Learn from Amazon, Starbucks and Macy’s
By Lyneir Richardson
things, such as affordable housing and new parks, that city
residents say they need the most.
CommercialCafé used data from Yardi Matrix and
PropertyShark, along with online government records, to inventory all vacant parcels of more than 0.5 acres located in 25 central
business districts, along with in-depth research on construction
activity and a survey of residents that gauges what developments
local urban populations find most desirable.
“The country’s most active commercial markets, New York City
and Chicago, are neck-and-neck in the middle of the list, each
home to roughly 17 acres of downtown vacant lots,”
In the past five years, developers built nearly 30 million square
feet of property in New York City, far more than in in any other
US CBD. That’s three and a half times more than in Dallas.
Chicago lands third on the list of cities with the most CBD development in the last five years—builders there finished nearly seven
million square feet of property, with an almost 50-50 split between
housing and office space.
“One may reasonably expect the largest, busiest cities to have
maxed out their infill potential,” CommercialCafé adds. But even
though Los Angeles and Washington DC do fit the bill, having
just 12. 61 acres and 8.87 acres of undeveloped urban land,
The cities with the highest infill potential tend to be the sprawl-
ing metros of the South, West and Southwest. The CBDs of Dallas,
Austin, San Antonio and Houston, for example, have a combined
208 acres of vacant lots, CommercialCafé says. Dallas tops the
25-city list with 86 acres. Las Vegas comes in second with 75 acres,
and Austin, at 71, rounds out the top three.
It might not be surprising that these metros, each surrounded
by wide expanses of empty land, would prefer to spread out
rather than build up. But CommercialCafé points out that
ignoring opportunities for infill development could impact a
city’s livability and the desire of many to live there. In its survey
of 1,549 people living in these metros, housing, especially
affordable housing, was by far considered the most pressing
need. And walkability was considered the most beneficial transportation improvement.
Overall, the 25 CBDs studied have a total of 584 vacant
acres, enough to fill roughly 442 NFL-standard-size football
fields. CommercialCafé says “it invites the obvious question:
why sprawl, if there is still plenty of potential to reinvest in the
city core?”—Brian Rogal ◆