Sustainability in business and how we treat each other are becoming important topics with raising awareness. Christian Ulbrich, Global CEO and President at JLL, is talking about sustainability as an opportunity and a great responsibility for CEOs.
Christian Ulbrich is Chief Executive Officer of JLL. Christian has overall responsibility for guiding JLL’s strategic direction and growth and for chairing the firm’s Global Executive Board, the most senior internal management committee. He became CEO in October 2016 and has been a member of the firm’s Board of Directors since May 2016 when he was elected President of JLL. From January 2009 to May 2016, Christian was the Chief Executive Officer for JLL’s Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. From April 2005 through December 2008, he was the Managing Director of JLL’s German business and member of the EMEA regional board.
How the meaning of Sustainability changed
Not so long ago, sustainability was a footnote in a company’s annual report. Today it is an increasingly critical business issue and a board level priority. When BlackRock’s Larry Fink sent his annual letter to CEOs last month, it spurred a new urgency around the discussion that was underscored at January’s WEF annual meeting.
At Davos, alongside widespread optimism about the healthy growth of the world economy, there was a palpable sense that business leaders need to address the impact their companies have on society. As the leader of a Fortune 500 company, this gives me a feeling of immense privilege but also responsibility.
On the face of it, sustainability should be a no-brainer. What else are we all working towards, if not a more secure future, peace of mind, and a world where the next generations can thrive? But in practical terms, how does this apply to businesses and the people who work in them?
Impact of our interactions
I have written previously about how sustainability is an opportunity rather than a constraint. And that’s true not only when it comes to the environment, but also in the context of social sustainability.
“How we treat each other matters.”
In a hyper-globalised world, our local interactions – be they direct or distant – have a big impact on business outcomes. In this way, sustainability is a far-sighted approach to both a company’s internal culture, and to its contribution to society more widely.
It also means recognising the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate systems, processes and people. And while those connections may seem hard to piece together, technology will increasingly enable businesses to better understand and assess their impact on the world.
Big data, big responsibility
One of the biggest responsibilities that business leaders have is ensuring we harness new technologies for good. In the world of real estate, we collect millions of data points every day that tell us how people use space to live and work, how much a building should cost to buy or rent, how much energy it uses, and much more.
This is immensely powerful information. We can use it to help companies make smart decisions and save money. As an article in the Economist last year put it, data is the new oil. It is a resource that has to be used judiciously and with the long term in mind. As JLL continues to build its technology platform to help our clients navigate this wealth of data, we know that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with innovation.
Thinking long term
For me, this is where conversations about sustainability should start. Today’s business leaders must make corporate social responsibility an intrinsic part of their company culture. From Larry Fink’s letter to the many events and conferences focusing on meaning and purpose, it is clear that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is no longer something to be tacked on to a business.
In JLL’s recent Global Sustainability Report, we outlined our vision for Building a Better Tomorrow through four pillars: Clients, People, Workplaces and Communities. To make sure we live and breathe this strategy, the agenda is integrated into all aspects of the business, from our growth framework to our code of ethics and approach to teamwork.
Corporate culture and sustainability are inextricably linked. That means giving people the right conditions so that they can do their best work – by learning, growing, and fulfilling their full potential. And it means recognising that the actions we take today will have an impact tomorrow.
In these often uncertain times, thinking strategically about the future is a sensible move. But the benefits of a long view can also be reaped right now.
Global Female Leaders 2017: A Thorough Look Back
To sum up this great event in a single blogpost would be nearly impossible. Fortunately, we don’t have to try this, because our dear partner Accenture provided us with an in-depth White Paper, that you can now download on our website!
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