Business must ‘ramp-up’ understanding of built environment issues

Businesses need to increase board-level understanding of built environment issues if they are to make smarter investment decisions that deal with issues such as carbon reduction targets, a new report warns.

Results of a cross-sector survey of major FTSE listed companies, including BAE Systems, Marks & Spencer, Rolls Royce and PwC, found that reducing carbon emissions is the main built environment concern major organisations expect to tackle within the next 30 years.

This is followed by transportation pressures, energy shortages, flooding and increases in urban populations.

It also revealed that almost all those surveyed thought the UK would become less competitive on a global scale if it did not improve its understanding of built environment issues.

Commissioned by University College London’s (UCL) faculty of the built environment, The Bartlett, the survey found that more than 80% highlighted the need for greater understanding of built environment issues at board level.

Marks and Spencer head of sustainability Munish Datta said to ensure buy-in from the board businesses need to look at things from a broad business perspective. “A finance director isn’t carbon-driven. All finance directors are finance-driven,” says Datta.

“So if you can speak their language and prove benefit in their language then it means that they’re going to be supportive,” he adds.

The survey forms part of The Bartlett’s ‘Profit Warning’ report, which it says comes at a time when the balance between urban and rural dwellers is moving in favour of cities for the first time in history.

Dean of The Bartlett Alan Penn said: “If the world is going to survive we have to urbanise even more extensively than we have to date. Cities will need to increase in size, and rapid public transport to increase their effective density while reducing energy consumption and pollution.

“Social, economic, technological and political innovation have always been produced through increasing the scale of urban populations, and so this trend is essential if we are to resolve the multiple challenges facing the world today,” he said.

Penn added that companies will need to harness the built environment to create the products and services needed by a sustainable, resilient and secure world.

“In order to do this we will need to educate a new cadre of business leaders, so they are as well versed in the systems that govern the built environment as they are in the administration of business itself,” said Penn.

Leigh Stringer

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