Beyond the Bottom Line: The Case for Community Involvement

Los Angeles-based CIM employee painted murals at NAVA College Preparatory Academy in partnership with City Year Los Angeles.

Community involvement is woven into the very fabric of real estate. After all, the housing, schools and offices that companies plan and develop are done so in service of the people who inhabit and utilize those spaces. They affect the wider community as well.

Beyond the natural connection between real estate and people, a company’s community involvement efforts can produce a variety of benefits for employees, the environment, and the community where the company is engaged. As a company builds its portfolio, relationships with local community members and organizations can become a crucial component of its business strategy.

CIM Group, a community-focused owner, operator, lender and developer of real estate and infrastructure assets headquartered in Los Angeles, launched its formal social responsibility program known as CIMpact in 2019.

Through CIMpact, CIM has since worked with organizations that range from U.S. Green Building Council – Los Angeles (USGBC-LA) to Habitat for Humanity to The Surfrider Foundation and many others. These organizations have a first-hand understanding of community needs and help ensure that local neighborhoods are supported through social services in addition to real estate and infrastructure.

Community involvement through non-profit partnerships can look different based on the goals and needs of the company and the local area. Companies may partner with non-profits to create mentorship programs, contribute manual labor through building homes or planting trees, provide pro-bono services to support those in need, and many other initiatives.

For example, since 2020, CIM has engaged with City Year Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving schools and communities suffering from systemic inequality. CIM and City Year Los Angeles host an annual mentorship program for the AmeriCorps members serving at participating schools. Through the program, CIM employees assist the young professionals with career development, interview preparation, networking, resume building and more.

Additionally, CIM employees have contributed to school beautification projects, business competitions for students, and beach clean-ups to help support local neighborhoods. These relationships have been fruitful in supporting CIM’s holistic business strategy and fostering community alignment.

CIM team members in Chicago packed an incredible 16,000 pounds at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Employees who volunteer feel a sense of purpose, which, according to a report by McKinsey & Company, is a significant factor in whether people choose to remain in their jobs. It also inspires a connection to the company at large, which is important for companies of all kinds.

Formal community involvement through CIMpact provides opportunities for employees to build relationships with area residents through positive, supportive, and truly foundational experiences. For companies like CIM, creating and supporting volunteer opportunities for employees is a terrific way to engage with the community while encouraging employee retention and skill development.

In 2022, CIM employees accumulated nearly 3,000 hours of community service across more than 70 events. CIM has illustrated its commitment to communities and encouraged employees to get involved by offering paid time off to volunteer during the workday as well as a calendar of opportunities to volunteer. These initiatives have engendered a renewed sense of purpose and connection to the work employees do every day, as well as a greater understanding of community needs.

In addition to social programs, sustainability can play an important role in a company’s community engagement strategy. Through implementing sustainable initiatives and spreading the word about opportunities to reduce waste and use resources responsibly, companies can further contribute to communities. An emphasis on sustainability also has the potential to strengthen company culture and enhance brand reputation, among other benefits.

CIM’s relationship with USGBC-LA is one example of putting environmental priorities into practice. CIM connected with USGBC-LA based on a shared goal of improving the sustainability, health, and resilience of the greater Los Angeles region through community investment, education, and workforce development. Through the relationship, USGBC-LA has provided environmental education to CIM employees, while CIM has delivered resources to expand the organization’s outreach and influence in Southern California.

Such relationships are an extension of CIM’s commitment to owning and operating sustainable infrastructure needed to support growing communities with key projects like renewable energy, water storage, and waste-to-value initiatives.

When companies like CIM emphasize community involvement and responsible environmental stewardship, forge relationships with local mission-driven organizations, and lend support through both money and time, the ripple effects can be significant. While those effects may not always clearly tie to the bottom line, the advantages are clear in terms of employee satisfaction, meaningful community relationships and positive impacts on the lives of area residents. The integration of community involvement and environmental stewardship into corporate business strategies can truly be a worthwhile pursuit for all involved.  

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the contributors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. This is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of an offer to buy an interest in any CIM program. CIM is not affiliated with, associated with, or a sponsor of any of the companies mentioned. The names, logos and all related product and service names, design marks and slogans are the trademarks or service marks of their respective companies.  

(posted 8/24/23)

*USGBC-LA Note: Please join USGBC-LA’s Women in Green Breakfast Presents the Inflation Reduction Act on Sept. 7, 2023 at 7:30am.


About the Author

Melissa Gutierrez-Sullivan serves as a Vice President, Head of Environmental, Social, and Governance at CIM Group®. In this position she is responsible for creating and maintaining a comprehensive ESG plan for CIM, setting related goals for the organization and managing ESG reporting and communication.

Prior to joining CIM, Ms. Gutierrez-Sullivan served as a Vice President of Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Occupier Services Sustainability and Wellness Practice, where she led the Southern California region and collaborated on a wide range of sustainability related programs. She also co-founded the Los Angeles-based Women in Green networking group.

Ms. Gutierrez-Sullivan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Culture from University of California, Los Angeles. She is a LEED Accredited Professional, WELL Faculty, WELL Accredited Professional and a Fitwel Ambassador.

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