The Essential Impact of Stewardship in CRE

Over several decades, OZ has provided Habitat for Humanity of Denver with design assistance and sponsored volunteer service build days, benefiting the community while fostering teamwork and leadership development.

By Chris Vandall, associate principal – AIA, LEED AP BD+C, OZ Architecture

How important are core values or a set of common guiding beliefs to a company’s longevity and impact? Can we constantly evolve our approach to better align with our community’s wants and needs?

OZ Architecture has operated here in Colorado for nearly 60 years. We’ve weathered multiple real estate cycles and meaningfully contributed to hundreds, if not thousands, of projects. While the answers to the questions above are not always the same, the truth that we always come back to is that our shared sense of stewardship has played and must always play a critical role in guiding how we do business. This shared goal of doing good for our clients and our communities has contributed across multiple measures to our success. And we are not alone.

A study by Harvard Business School found that companies with high CSR ratings outperformed the market by an average of 5% over the long term. A Business Roundtable study further found that companies with strong CSR programs are more likely to weather economic downturns. We know that it matters to our bottom line and our ability to attract and retain talent. This was further reinforced by a 2023 survey by Deloitte which found that 70% of Millennial and Gen Z workers noted a company’s CSR as an important factor in their decision to accept a job offer.

How values manifest will look different for every company – and it should. Values should reflect what uniquely unites you as a team. For OZ, the idea of stewardship permeates our organizational ethos at every level. We reinforce this commitment through innovative design work, client partnerships, and robust engagement in corporate philanthropy and community collaborations.

As OZ’s chair of social responsibility, one dedicated staff committee that I oversee administers our OZ Gives initiative. Working closely across the OZ organization, this committee has identified three pivotal types of causes that resonate deeply with our organization and profoundly impact the communities where we operate and reside. These causes encompass the cultivation of diverse emerging creative talents, the advancement of more livable urban environments, and the restoration of our natural

Once those causes were identified, we set to work on an approach that transcends financial contributions or event sponsorships. With OZ Gives, we aim to forge meaningful connections with partner organizations by contributing our expertise, mentorship, and time. This active participation enriches the causes we champion, creates mutual benefits by fostering team cohesion, enhances employee engagement and retention, and opens business development opportunities. So, whether it’s having robust environmental, social, and governance policies or something as simple as a gathering of teammates who want to get together to volunteer in their community, a company’s values should be lived out every day – even, and perhaps especially, in the most challenging of economic environments.

Through OZ Gives, we support the following:

Cultivation of emerging creative talents

  • Denver Architecture Foundation’s CAL Program: Since 2016, OZ has partnered with elementary schools to educate students about architecture and interior design, aiming to diversify the talent pipeline for future designers.
  • Denver Public Schools, University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning: OZ actively engages with educational institutions, offering studio tours, job shadows, classroom presentations, and mentorship programs to nurture the next generation of design professionals.
  • Platte Forum: Since 2016, OZ has proudly sponsored the Resident Artist Program, supporting artists working with high school ArtLab interns. This initiative empowers young artists to explore social issues through art and offers valuable guidance and opportunities.

Advancement of more livable urban environments

  • Habitat for Humanity of Denver: Over several decades, OZ has provided design assistance and sponsored volunteer service build days, benefiting the community while fostering teamwork and leadership development.
  • The Park People: OZ sponsors Denver Digs Trees, an initiative focused on planting trees in historically marginalized communities to combat climate change.

Restoration of our natural ecosystems

  • Denver Urban Gardens: OZ supports the Horse Barn Demonstration project, promoting food equity and eliminating food deserts through community gardening.
  • Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado: OZ collaborates with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, combining outdoor service with ecosystem restoration, aligning with the team’s shared passion for outdoor pursuits.

We take our commitment to community stewardship to heart, and our actions speak louder than words. We believe in rolling up our sleeves, offering our talents, and investing our time to make a lasting impact on the causes that resonate with us and the communities we call home. Whether nurturing young creative minds, inspiring future designers through educational programs, or contributing to a more sustainable environment, our partnerships reflect our dedication to driving positive change. These collaborations enrich the lives of those we serve, strengthen our team’s bonds, enhance employee engagement, and foster our growth as a responsible corporate citizen.

As we look back on our journey of giving, we find immense pride in the many organizations we’ve joined hands with, knowing that we are shaping a brighter, more vibrant future for all. We remain committed to our core values and continue to seek out opportunities where our passion, dedication and expertise will continue to make a difference in the world around us.

Chris has been with OZ since 2006. His project background includes resort master planning, hospitality developments, core and shell spaces, office space, retail and multifamily residential. He serves on the OZ Sustainable Design Committee, is a leader in the Resort/Hospitality/Mixed-Use Practice Area, and manages the OZ Gives Initiative. His passion for design, adaptive reuse and sustainability are a great asset to each of his clients.

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