Women in Energy: In conversation with Alida Saleh on transformative change

4 Apr 2024
Women in Energy: In conversation with Alida Saleh on transformative change

In the ever-evolving landscape of sustainability, individuals like Alida Saleh, serving as the Head of Sustainability for JLL in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) regions, stand at the forefront of driving transformative change. With a wealth of experience spanning over two decades, Alida's fervent dedication to sustainability finds expression in her strategic leadership role, where she blends her passion with the vast potential of this dynamic and diverse region.

The MEA region faces many challenges stemming from climate change, including extreme weather events, water scarcity, and rapid urbanization, making it one of the most vulnerable regions globally. Yet, Alida views these challenges as opportunities for innovation and positive transformation. By collaborating closely with stakeholders across sectors, she works to unlock the competitive advantage of sustainability for businesses while navigating the complexities of decarbonization and environmental initiatives. Through her role, Alida not only develops sustainability strategies but also fosters a culture of shared ownership, driving tangible results and inspiring a cultural shift towards a more sustainable future for the MEA region.

Can you provide an overview of your role as Head of Sustainability for the MEA region?

For over 20 years, I have championed the cause of sustainability globally and it’s my passion and driving force. Now, as Head of Sustainability for the Middle East and Africa (MEA) regions at JLL, I combine that passion with the enormous potential of this dynamic and diverse region.

The MEA region faces multiple challenges due to climate change, from extreme weather events to water scarcity to rapid urbanization, making it one of the most vulnerable regions globally. I view these challenges as opportunities for innovation and to bring about positive change.

Sustainability is now becoming a business imperative. I work with clients to help them uncover the competitive advantage that sustainability can bring to their businesses. The business case for sustainability is clear, you can make money and be environmentally responsible simultaneously.  By embracing sustainable practices, businesses can not only mitigate future risks posed by climate change, but also capitalize on new opportunities. I enjoy working with clients through the complexities of decarbonization and environmental initiatives, alongside my talented team, and translate these challenges into actionable solutions that deliver tangible results for their business.

As the Head of Sustainability, I develop sustainability strategies for organizations in the region which includes advisory services on net zero and decarbonization strategies, emissions management, sustainability reporting, climate risk management, and sustainable tourism. I focus on co-creating these solutions through collaboration with stakeholders – from governments and businesses to communities and individuals. By fostering a spirit of shared ownership, I ensure that sustainability efforts are not just imposed, but embraced and driven forward by the businesses that are impacted.

My greatest reward comes from witnessing the results of our actions and seeing the transformation. Seeing communities adopt sustainable practices, businesses embrace circular economies, and individuals become empowered to make conscious choices – that's what fuels my passion and motivates me every day.

In my role, I work hard every day to inspire a cultural shift towards a more sustainable future for the MEA region. It's a journey, not a destination, and I'm honored to be a part of it, working alongside incredible individuals who share this vision.

What are the primary sustainability goals and initiatives you're currently focusing on in the Middle East and Africa?

We work on ensuring that the organizations we engage with are aware of the urgency of climate action, why implementing sustainability considerations is important for lowering operational costs, future-proofing assets and developments, and building resilience against physical and transitional climate risks.

Middle East and Africa are emerging economies and bringing about the awareness of why sustainability is essential to embrace takes time as it’s about changing mindsets. Both regions are rapidly expanding and building, hence it is a huge opportunity to leapfrog the world and take necessary action from the early stages of the project lifecycle.

How does your role contribute to the broader sustainability strategy of your organization?

As JLL, we are committed to net zero by 2040 and net zero in operations by 2030. Our client’s footprint is calculated as part of our scope 3 emissions, hence it is absolutely essential for us to work with them to reduce their footprint. Overall, helping our clients reduce their carbon footprint helps us reduce our scope 3 emissions and influence the entire value chain as our services are across the whole lifecycle. 

What are some of the unique sustainability challenges and opportunities you face in the region?

Given that we live in an emerging market, there are a number of challenges and opportunities that we face. 


  • Lack of mandatory and stringent regulations and policies: When it comes to green building codes, energy efficiency standards, benchmarking, and reporting. Mandatory legislations are important to accelerate the transition to net zero.
  • Sustainable finance standards: Financiers are finding it challenging to recognize local certifications and the respective green projects/buildings to provide green funding. Banks are only able to recognize global certifications such as LEED, and in the MEA region, there is a variety of local and global certifications in use. Due to a lack of publicly available data, it is difficult for financial institutions to have accurate and comparable data comparing each certification type and level. Having sustainable finance standards is key to unlocking finance and accelerating transition to net zero.
  • Measuring and tracking data is a challenge: We currently do not have a standardized way of collecting, measuring and tracking data, and there is a small number of organizations doing that. This is not an issue that only exists in our region, it exists in many places. However, data availability is key to improving design and operation practices, as well as unlocking green funding.
  • Green skills gap: A challenge in the region. In order to accelerate implementation of sustainability commitment, it’s key to upskill the workforce.



  • Leap-frogging Technologies: The MEA region has the opportunity to leapfrog older technologies and directly adopt cutting-edge solutions in renewable energy, green infrastructure, and resource efficiency. The government in the Middle East region, especially in the UAE and KSA are investing heavily in technology and funding research and innovation. 
  • Circular Economy: Implementing circular economy principles can create new economic opportunities, reduce waste, and conserve resources. This aligns well with the region's need for resource management and economic diversification. The private and public sectors can realize a lot of business opportunities by embracing circular economy principles.
  • Climate-resilient Agriculture: Developing and adopting climate-resilient agricultural practices can ensure food security and livelihoods in the face of changing weather patterns and water scarcity. This was an area of focus during COP28 and I foresee a lot of investment being made in this field.


By tackling the challenges and embracing the opportunities, the MEA region has the potential to become a global leader in sustainable development, fostering economic growth, environmental responsibility, and social well-being for its diverse populations.

How do you collaborate with local governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders to advance sustainability efforts?

Last year, for the first time in the UAE, I worked alongside the UN Climate Champions team and EmiratesGBC to bring together key developers and government representatives together to discuss challenges and opportunities for decarbonizing the built environment sector. This initiative grew into a working group that convened to develop a report outlining key learnings and takeaways of workshops between developers and government representatives. The official report launched on March 5th and it serves as a tool to guide key ministries in the UAE on what key policies developers need in order to achieve their climate action goals. We are already seeing the efforts come to fruition in terms of furthering legislations and we are hoping to advance sustainability in the UAE and across GCC further. 

My goal is to mobilize action in the region and enable the various different stakeholders realize the enormous opportunities that climate change presents, while ensuring future proofing our assets in the process.

How do you approach measuring and tracking the impact of your sustainability initiatives?

JLL takes sustainability seriously and employs a robust framework to measure and track the impact of sustainability initiatives across its operations and the properties it manages. This is done through the following steps:

  1. Sustainability Strategy: JLL begins by integrating sustainability into its overall business strategy. This involves setting clear goals and objectives related to sustainability, such as reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency, or utilizing renewable energy sources.
  2. Sustainability Metrics: JLL identifies (KPIs to track progress against its sustainability goals. These metrics include energy consumption, water usage, waste management, carbon emissions, and the uptake of renewable energy. By setting these benchmarks, JLL can measure the impact of its initiatives over time.
  3. Data Collection and Reporting: JLL collects data to monitor these metrics, using advanced tools and technology. This data is typically gathered from building management systems, utility bills, and other sources. Regular reporting on these metrics is crucial for tracking progress and is often shared with stakeholders to maintain transparency.
  4. Certifications and Standards: JLL pursues various sustainability certifications and standards, such as LEED, BREEAM, or WELL, to benchmark its buildings and ensure compliance with recognized best practices in sustainability.
  5. Sustainability Reports: JLL publishes annual sustainability reports following GRI standards and other frameworks, which provides a detailed account of sustainability efforts and outcomes. This report allows JLL to communicate its achievements and areas for improvement to a broad audience.
  6. Technology and Innovation: JLL leverages technology to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its sustainability initiatives. For instance, JLL use energy management software to optimize building performance and reduce environmental impact.
  7. Stakeholder Engagement: JLL actively engages with various stakeholders, including tenants, investors, and employees, to promote sustainability practices. This engagement includes initiatives like tenant sustainability programs and corporate social responsibility.

Alida Saleh's insightful perspectives and dedicated efforts underscore the pivotal role of sustainability in shaping the future of the Middle East and Africa. Through her leadership at JLL, Alida exemplifies a commitment to driving positive change, harnessing the region's potential to overcome environmental challenges and embrace sustainable practices.


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