A Better World? by Cynthia Curtiss-JLL

A Better World?

By Cynthia Curtis, JLL

Cynthia Curtis-JLL-GreenMoney Striving for something better is a very human thing. Whether it be a better house, better clothes, a better job, it’s our nature to seek a future, which is an improvement upon the current state. The definition of better, of course, can be as unique as the individual. But when you widen the aperture and pose the question, ‘what does a better world look like?’, it forces consideration of the collective.

JLL’s purpose is to shape the future of real estate for a better world. This isn’t a new purpose for JLL, for over 250 years we’ve been at the heart of real estate bringing diverse thinking and perspectives to investors and businesses worldwide. But over the last 18 months we’ve delved deeper into the various dimensions of that statement. The pandemic, for example, resulted in a top-to-bottom evaluation of our role, as a leading real estate and investment management services firm, in contributing to the future of health. But with the built environment accounting for approximately 38% of global energy consumption and 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions, we knew addressing climate change was fundamental to our purpose. For us – and the title of our new Global Sustainability Report 2020 – a better world is a net zero world.

Hence, in May 2021, we took the bold step of committing to net zero carbon by 2040 across all areas of our operations, as well as all the sites we manage for our clients and our extensive global corporate supply chain. Further, we’ll deliver against that goal with no more than 5% offsets, fully abating 95% of our 2018 baseline GHG emissions.

With over 95% of JLL’s emissions coming from our client portfolios, key to our net zero trajectory is helping all our clients with their decarbonization journey. Importantly, many if not most of our clients have their own reduction targets. And, as JLL’s new research, Responsible Real Estate – Decarbonizing the Built Environment shows, the real estate industry has accelerated its focus on responsibility and social purpose, with occupiers and investors making strong commitments to decarbonize and build back better for the future. Coupled with the anticipated growth in carbon regulation, an increasing number of solutions include renewable energy.

In 2020 alone, JLL provided advice on renewable energy projects (either installed or received planning consent) estimated to have averted more than 20,627 metric tons of CO2e. Furthermore, if advised renewable energy projects in the planning and feasibility stages achieve planning consent or successful development, there is the potential to avoid more than 287,919 additional metric tons of CO2e.

Washington Metro Area Transit Authority-JLL-GreenMoney

One project example is the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro). Serving the Washington, D.C. region, Metro is the second-largest transit system in the United States. In support of the Clean Energy DC plan to reduce emissions by 56% in 2032 over a baseline year of 2005, Wash. D.C has incentive programs for solar energy projects. Metro saw an opportunity to create a new revenue stream while increasing its impact on regional carbon emissions reductions. They enlisted JLL to help.

The project’s financial viability depended on choosing locations covered by the D.C. solar incentives and where interconnection was feasible. The result was an innovative solution to install 17 acres of solar panels on garage rooftops and parking lot canopies. Upon completion, it will be the largest solar project in the region, generating 12.8 MWh of power that will provide clean energy to approximately 1,500 single-family area homes. At no cost to Metro, the project will provide $50 million in revenue over a 25-year solar power agreement.

Washington Metro Area Transit Authority parking lot solar canopy-JLL-GreenMoney

This win-win-win project, brought to life in this short film, provides a blueprint for further options to help the Washington region achieve its sustainability goals.

Creative solutions like Metro weren’t possible all that long ago, however. Solar and wind farms are a fairly common sight today. That wasn’t the case a decade ago when the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Program Office (LPO) financed the nation’s first five utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) solar power projects. These landmark projects proved the feasibility of the concept and sparked the development of the commercial market for utility-scale PV solar power. But the story is little known.

LPO had to overcome many challenges to establish the financial, technical, legal, and environmental experience to fulfill its mission. Through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the LPO gained $16 billion in capital to lend – within a two-year window. LPO needed to scale its operations to rapidly deploy its available capital in the tight timeline.

They tapped JLL to help develop every aspect of its lending programs, from financial analyses and management, loan structures, and credit policies to risk rating tools, origination practices, and more. The team also helped LPO establish an enterprise risk management framework. With its portfolio rapidly expanding, we supported LPO’s portfolio management operations by implementing a digital management system to streamline workflows.

Since 2010, LPO-financed projects have helped the U.S. avoid more than 60 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. In addition, its auto manufacturing loans have supported production of more than 20 million EVs, and its energy projects have generated 73,473-gigawatt-hours of electricity.

These are just two examples of the dramatic impact creative collaborations can have. Together with our clients we’re committed to drive disruptive, meaningful change at scale. We will continue invest in sustainability services and capabilities across our entire enterprise, building on the strength of our global platform to create a net zero – and indeed better – world.


Article by Cynthia Curtis, Senior VP of sustainability stakeholder engagement for JLL, responsible for elevating JLL’s sustainability program, Building a Better Tomorrow, embedding it broadly throughout the business and driving meaningful impact with and through JLL’s clients. Included in her scope is delivering against JLL’s science-based target of reducing scope 3 emissions from the properties that it manages on behalf of clients. She serves as the company’s representative on the World Green Building Council’s Corporate Advisory Board. Cynthia also collaborates with the Investor Relations team to ensure its investors have a more complete understanding of JLL’s competencies, goals and impacts.

Cynthia serves on the Board of Directors for Greenback Renewable Energy Company, LLC, which is dedicated to investing in projects and managing capital for its public shareholders as well as institutional investors in the sustainable infrastructure sector. Previously, Curtis has worked in the public, private and non-profit sectors, including Ceres and CA Technologies, where she served as vice president and chief sustainability officer. She lives in the Boston area, is a member of the New England Women in Energy and the Environment, chairs the Wellesley Village Church Energy Committee, and built one of the region’s first gold LEED-certified residences.

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