Reimagining the future of work: a conversation with JLL

Richard Batten - Global Chief Sustainability Officer


We sat down with Richard Batten, Global Chief Sustainability Officer at JLL, to discuss how digitalization is impacting the way they do business. With special emphasis on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, we explored how technology and sustainability are the two main drivers of business today and the future.

Traditional ways of working - from strategy planning to stakeholder engagement - are falling short or being disrupted. Digital solutions are rising to the fore, and JLL is maximizing value in the both short- and long-term with unique technologies.

Responding to the crisis

The coronavirus crisis and its associated challenges have pushed many companies towards a re-evaluation of the future of work. JLL is no exception, but it does have an advantage in this area - it was already in the middle of a sustained push for digitalization. 

Batten was clear in saying that “the health and safety of our workers is priority #1 at JLL.” As they were already in the middle of reimagining the future of work, the coronavirus crisis has “accelerated everything,” pushed digital initiatives even more to the fore. 

Doing this allows for JLL to be sustainable both in carbon emissions and in long term business success by mitigating the environmental impacts of the workplace and in hardening operations against future disruptions. JLL is committed to building a “new normal” in business and work. So, what will this new normal look like?

JLL and technology

At the end of the day, “two things are going to drive the future of this business: technology and sustainability,” says Batten. Digital solutions, and technology generally, are absolutely critical to meeting sustainability goals - they go hand-in-hand. 

To this end, JLL is making key investments into technological solutions - from using Datamaran to inform strategy planning to equipping their buildings with smart energy tech.

“Corporations need to take the lead by investing time, resources, and capital into smarter ways of working, both individually and collectively.” Batten puts it succinctly, saying that “JLL is a technology company that specializes in real estate - not the other way around.”

The future of sustainability

This then transitioned into an honest look at how corporate sustainability strategies will be impacted by COVID-19. Batten was both realistic and optimistic about how executives will respond, saying: 

“There are essentially two options. Option 1, sustainability gets put on the back burner, like it largely was in 2008 and 2009. But I’m of the opinion that we’ll see option 2, where sustainability awareness is so heightened that this will actually be a positive in terms of the environmental benefits of working from home, etc.” 

In fact, the path of integrating sustainability into core corporate strategy and practices is proving to be the correct choice, even from a purely financial standpoint. ESG funds are outperforming non-ESG funds - and investors are taking note. Corporate executives are being asked tougher questions about how they’re managing the external risks presented by COVID-19, climate change, and beyond.

If anything, he continued, “this crisis places emphasis on the importance of science-based targets.” JLL has its own sustainability-driven science-based targets, which are equal parts ambitious and achievable. They are aiming to cut emissions by 70% before 2034 - and the company is trying to match this goal all along its value chain, as well. JLL estimates that this entire process can be self-funded, and it will produce a double digit return on investment.

A hopeful future

There is good reason to be hopeful. The increased focus on sustainability will lead to more resilience. “More people are prepared to react and respond to challenges in the future - including climate change.” 

Asked for a final analysis for the state of our world and our future, Batten remained upbeat. “The worst thing we can do is try to recreate what once was just a few weeks ago. We have an opportunity to reimagine what this world should be - let’s shape a better world.” At Datamaran, we couldn’t agree more.

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