Taking Sustainable Development to the Next Level

Companies are poised to break through to the next level of sustainability this year, according to Dan Probst, chairman of Energy and Sustainability Services at the real estate services firm, Jones Lang LaSalle.

In a recent article he identified four sustainability trends to watch that will help make it happen. Those trends include transparency, global consistency, public and private collaboration and a focus on solar energy.

“Sustainable development is entering a new phase,” he says, “characterized by greater alignment within and between the public and private sectors.”

Ah the magic words – alignment and collaboration! Business and outsourcing arrangements—whether they involve sustainable development for buildings or supply chains—need to be aligned and collaborative. If they aren’t, expecting efficiency and sustainability is a major stretch. Identifying, establishing and maintaining proper alignment between the parties is a basic step in the Vested partnership.

Probst says the movement toward sustainability has made significant progress over the past six years “as companies and cities have pursued strategies that balance future and current societal needs.”  However, the path to sustainability “has been plagued with roadblocks, including an unprecedented global financial crisis and attempts by entrenched business and political interests to deny climate science. Perhaps the greatest obstacle has been the lack of consistent and comparable standards for defining and measuring sustainability.”

That’s where transparency and consistency enter the picture, as companies, buildings and cities must increasingly(and accurately) disclose energy use, carbon emissions and other information related to sustainability. It’s also where the need for parties to agree on clearly defined and measurable outcomes (Vested’s Rule 3) within a properly structured and insightful governance framework (Rule 5) will help achieve the necessary transparency and consistency. “Deeper sustainability reporting by cities and multi-national corporations has intensified the need for consistent ways to measure the effectiveness of energy, water and other sustainability strategies on a worldwide basis,” Probst writes.

On collaboration, he says that 2011 “stood out as a year when government and business organizations explored their shared green goals and realized that public-private partnerships and collaborative initiatives are often the best way to overcome obstacles to sustainability.”

It seems so obvious that true collaboration is needed for long-term sustainable development—but it takes actual initiatives and results to move the meter from trend to matter of course. Probst cited a clear example of this with the announcement last December of a $4 billion energy retrofit commitment by the U.S. government and 60 CEOs, mayors, university presidents, and labor leaders. “Called the Better Buildings Challenge, the eight-year initiative includes $2 billion in energy upgrades of federal buildings and another $2 billion of private capital to improve energy by 20 percent in buildings totaling 1.5 billion square feet.

Jones Lang LaSalle joined the Challenge with a commitment to work with owners on improvements at buildings totaling 98 million square feet.

The Better Buildings Challenge is a good illustration of the type of alignment and collaboration that’s needed to make sustainable development more than a trend.

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