Speaking the language of business

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Posted by:
Lauralee Martin
Chief Financial Officer

Energy and carbon reduction in buildings is a goal to be pursued by business leaders in every sector, although the focus is on property-sector firms to take the initiative.

Business thrives on metrics that management use to drive profits and compete for investment capital. Metrics such as EPS (earnings per share), ROE/ROI (return on equity or investment), and profit growth are part of a common language that business leaders and investors understand. Carbon measurement, however, is not part of that language. As a result, it is hard for business leaders to engage in the pursuit of carbon reduction versus their other business priorities.
As a public company CFO, I know that business success requires management and employee engagement. Engagement requires understanding of business goals and objectives. So how do we translate carbon goals to the language of business metrics? The answer: articulate the value creation potential of carbon reduction actions.

In our 2010 corporate social responsibility report, Jones Lang LaSalle announced that, through our management efforts, we reduced the carbon output at our client sites by 563,000 tons. Did we get meaningful client engagement around that metric? Frankly, no. But we went on to say the energy reduction resulted in savings of $128 million, which translated to over $2 billion in value created at client properties. Did we get client engagement with those metrics? We certainly did!

Operational cost savings may be the most commonly used phrase in our carbon-to-business metrics dictionary, but the conversation needn’t end there. Companies may benefit from new products and services that increase revenues and profits from better energy and resource management. For companies seeking to brand themselves as green, a strong sustainability business focus is much more effective than a marketing-driven campaign with no underlying vision. Workplace designs that reduce carbon emissions also enable better employee well-being and productivity in many cases.

These drivers of business value are the Rosetta Stone for discussing carbon measurement and reduction with business leaders. If we want better engagement, it is time to speak the language of business.

This blog post originally appeared on the Sustainable Business blog of The Guardian.

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