The New Normal, Imagining Better v So What Sustainability!

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The Design Specifi talk ‘Imagine Better’ from Martin Brown at Bristol once again reiterated the need for rapid progress in sustainability, that we no longer have time, or a luxury to be only less bad, and that we need now to focus on doing more good, focus in on positives and make a real contribution to climate change solutions.

That, in 2018, we are still discussing how to reduce our impacts is not a good sign of progress. Since 1987, the Brundtland sustainable development definition has defined our understanding and approach to sustainability for the last thirty years, and yet we still continue to compromise future generations, our environment and the communities affected by built environment ‘progress’.

Martin’s presentation focused on the business case for being sustainable, but in particular the significant change in investor perspectives and requirements of the businesses they support.  We are seeing many organisations disinvesting from fossil fuels for a whole raft of climate change related issues, looking to invest in other sectors. And property is an obvious choice. But investments within property will bring a set of new, tougher sustainability and CSR demands.

The recent comments from Blackrock (the world’s largest asset manager) has indeed woken up business globally, with the CEO Larry Fink stating that business they invest in must “not only deliver financial performance, but also show how you make a positive contribution to society, to all of your stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, communities and environment in which you operate.”

Pressure for the built environment to become part of the climate change solution is also arising from young people looking for rewarding careers. The recent Cone Survey (2018) noted:

  • 60%- young people would not take a job at a organisation with poor CSR practice
  • 75% – would take a pay cut to work for a responsible organisation
  • 83% – would be more loyal to an organisation where they can contribute to social and environmental issues

To guide us within our sector there are some excellent, recent publications on the business case for sustainability which should be essential reading for all:

And perhaps, if sustainability is a point of equilibrium where we are either un-sustainable or sustainable, once we have crossed that threshold we can start to make real contributions to solutions.

We have the tools in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, within new standards such as the Living Building Challenge.

We now have many buildings and projects across the UK that are demonstrating regenerative, positive sustainability is not impossible, providing the evidence that we can achieve ambitious goals as in the World GBC publication “From Thousands to Billions”  (World GBC: Thousands to Billions target for all new buildings to be net zero carbon from 2030 and all buildings to be net zero carbon by 2050)

Join us, through Specifi as we continue to explore the New Normal, providing the examples, tools and organisations that are doing more good, not just less bad.