Sustainability is not a constraint – it is an opportunity

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As a global society, we have been grappling with sustainability for many years. It doesn’t help that the definition of the term is open to interpretation—and constantly changing. As individuals we each have different capacities and responsibilities, and to me, sustainability is about pooling our strengths to make a positive impact on the world we live in.

At JLL, our vision is to create spaces, buildings and cities where everyone can thrive. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), buildings are responsible over 40 percent the world’s energy consumption and one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

It is clear, we have a lot of work to do. But rather than feeling overwhelmed, we can view this as a great opportunity. True, changing habits is not easy—especially at scale—but when you focus on the payoffs, it becomes a no brainer.

As outlined in JLL’s 2016 Global Sustainability Report, our sustainability services generated revenue of $27 million last year. We also helped US clients save an estimated 282 metric tons of CO2e, an equivalent of around $59 million in costs. That’s roughly the same as 29,000 homes’ worth of energy consumption.

Sustainability is not just about the environment. It is about resilient communities, and wellbeing on both the individual and societal level. When you zoom out and look at the big picture, what can at first look like a set of compromises instead turns out to be a win-win. The Ethisphere Institute has shown, for example, that the World’s Most Ethical Companies have outperformed the S&P 500 by 4% yearly, over a decade.

This is all well and good, but how do you implement a whole new way of thinking—and doing—across a global business with thousands of stakeholders, be they employees, investors, suppliers or clients?

Firstly, and most importantly, we lead by example. Today’s global challenges require a bold response. By integrating sustainability and transparency into our supply chain and the advice we give, we use our influence to set standards across the board.

I believe sustainability starts and ends with an empowered and impassioned workforce. And because environmentally sound policies drive workplace wellbeing, you end up with a positive feedback loop. Approaches like hot-desking, remote working and naturally lit, open plan workspaces not only cut costs and energy usage, they also promote a healthy work-life balance, and thus, productivity.

By creating a work culture that values diversity, talent and health, we encourage people to share their ideas and work as a team. Teamwork is at the heart of the sustainability question, because only a collaborative, multi-pronged approach will foster meaningful change.

At JLL, we know we still have a long way to travel on our sustainability journey, but we are committed to achieving our ambitious goals and we are making encouraging progress. And we are all in it together.

About the author:

Christian Ulbrich is Chief Executive Officer of JLL with overall responsibility for guiding JLL’s strategic direction and growth and for chairing the firm’s Global Executive Board.

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