When will sustainable business become business as usual?

January 23, 2020

My first two full days have been very rich in dialogue and perspective in the idyllic ski resort of Davos, which transforms itself each year to host a week of governmental, business and academic leaders while also giving space to disrupters like Greta Thunberg and other young "change-makers."

This year, the focus is on such questions as "What is the optimum role for the 21st century corporate?" It is a major topic of discussion for the business community here at Davos, a complex question with no easy answers. It is certainly encouraging that conversations have moved beyond the simple profit dynamic to include a broader purpose and sustainability dimension, coupled with a deeper sense of urgency.

Efficiently focusing corporate resources remains central to the discussion, coupled with an expanded definition of what it means to be successful in the interests of all stakeholders, from shareholders to communities. Around the world, more and more governments and corporates are rightly highlighting their commitments to decarbonizing their own footprints – and publicizing these commitments helps to ensure accountability. But the sentiment here in Davos, as elsewhere, is there is still much to be defined and decided in terms of ESG (environmental, social and governance). For example, Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of BlackRock, in speaking at a breakfast meeting this morning, emphasized that we are "on the edge of a fundamental reshaping of finance."

I was encouraged by conversations I had with two thought leaders on the role of business in sustainability. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, is transitioning to a new role as the UK Prime Minister’s advisor for climate change. In this position, he will focus on defining "climate finance" under the TCFD guidelines (the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures), a task force Michael Bloomberg chairs. Adena Friedman, CEO of Nasdaq, shared her views on the imperative for defining polices, metrics and standards for ESG and the need for transparency in the financial and investment communities to show how sustainability is good for business. In the U.S., for example, with 40% of the workforce holding shares directly or through their pensions or retirement funds, employees will increasingly be in the first position to vote with their wallets to help ensure sustainable business becomes business as usual.

Mark spoke with conviction at the launch event for Bloomberg Green on Tuesday – a breakthrough platform for showcasing sustainability news and best practices. As a founding partner in Bloomberg Green, JLL will play our full part in this initiative, sharing knowledge and ideas from our own sustainability research and our work with our clients around the world.

Stephanie Plaines
Global Chief Financial Officer