2021. The year of bold optimism.

February 11, 2021 / by Matt Sal


The year we make better plans. The year we bring everyone along the journey with nobody left behind.

My move to Associate Director of JustOne is inspired by my unwavering belief in putting people at the heart of everything. That the only way we can have the sustainability outcomes we need is to create cultural and behaviour change in our businesses, employees, customers, and wider stakeholder base. Starting with purpose we must use sustainability as a priority to re-build trust, and creating a better world for our organisations to operate in and our people to live in.

When I first joined JLL to lead the Socio-Economic service, it was because I believed that real estate was one of the greatest pinch points of our society (along with my other passion: food sustainability). Even as I move in to my new role at JustOne, I still believe that. However, over recent years we have seen the rise of something far more insidious and detrimental. Something which has kept me up at night and been an increasing focus area for all businesses both directly and indirectly: Trust. More specifically, its evisceration.

“The biggest negative consequence of fake news is not in people believing the lies, rather it is in people not believing the truth.

Fake News (formerly just called ‘lies’ of defined types and causes); its popularisation, and even its productization has resulted in consequences far wider than those immediately evident. For those who have heard me speak on the topic, you will know that I believe the biggest negative consequence of fake news is not in people believing the lies, rather it is in people not believing the truth. And recently we’ve watched this lack of trust cause huge swathes of the population move their beliefs into the open arms of whatever appeals to our thinking the most: beliefs in what our normal human biases and situations lead us towards; whether that’s a growing anti-vax movement of even a politically enabled encouraged armed ‘coup’.

‘Information bankruptcy’ is the term used by the most recent Edelmen Trust Barometer; the epidemic of widespread misinformation by institutions and leaders, with CEO’s rated as just as likely as government leaders as purposefully trying to mislead. This ‘infodemic’ means people do not know where to turn to get reliable information. With business being the most trusted institution (climbing to the relatively heady heights of only 61% trusted) people turn to business with greater expectations when it comes to taking a stand in rebuilding trust, operating responsibly, and acting on social and environmental issues. 86% of respondents to the Barometer expect CEOs to speak out on social issues even as trust in them declines, and 68% believe business should step in to fix government failures regarding social issues.

COVID-19 has compounded concerns and fears regarding job loss, climate change and cyber attacks beyond worries of actually contracting COVID-19, which itself is not far ahead of the number of people scoring highly the worryingly stark statement of ‘losing my freedoms as a citizen’.

Our current systems of business and governance enable risk to be passed downstream and forced on to society who pay the consequences, allowing those systems to remain relatively unscathed by the risks. However this is a downward spiral that will not end well for our organisations. We must all embed the practices and processes which will help us re-build trust. This is something the team at JustOne, and many other businesses, strive towards whether we call it Responsible Business, CSR, Sustainability, or Social Value. We see social issues all around us, yet we rarely formalise our understanding of how they impact our business here and now. Identifying the risks and opportunities social issues present, how we can create strategies to make the most of this operating environment, and even how we can contribute to improving it.

At JustOne, we put people back at the centre of business. We will support you in understanding sustainability and stakeholder needs while being business-focussed on your priorities. Our resulting sustainability strategies will be unique and offer the opportunity for real impactful changes to be made by your business and its stakeholders. Build trust, allow for agility, respond to needs, future-proof.

We need people to believe in us again. We need to regain their trust and rebuild that symbiotic relationship with stakeholders that all businesses strive for. In order to do that, we must show them we are taking action on the things that matter most, and doing so in a way which is meaningful for people and our businesses.

2021 is the year we must all be boldly optimistic and spark positive change.

Matt is Associate Director at JustOne.

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