Society is placing increasing demands on businesses to do more to preserve the planet. Public sentiment concerning biodiversity, the long-term sustainability of our communities and the impact of climate change is at an all-time high. The next generation is showing their passion and commitment to preserving the environment for the future and, if we are to attract the best talent, we need to demonstrate that the built environment profession is embracing sustainability and offering a responsible approach to business.
RICS' Royal Charter requires us to: 'promote the usefulness of the profession for the public advantage in the UK and in any other part of the world'. This is the rationale for RICS to work collaboratively to overcome challenges such as the scarcity of global resources and climate change while maximising the opportunities of urbanisation to help build resilient, successful communities and create better places and spaces for future generations.
In October last year we launched our Value the Planet campaign to promote the preservation of the planet and a more sustainable longer-term approach through the implementation of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These goals aim to address specific sustainability challenges, such as those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation and social justice. The 17 goals are all interconnected and the UK government, along with other governments around the world, is committed to achieving them all by 2030. The UK's target is to reach net zero – that is to cut its net greenhouse gas and carbon emissions to zero – by 2050. Current awareness of the SDGs is low, however, despite the fact that they provide a framework to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
"Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs"
Sustainable development is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It calls for concerted efforts towards building an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for both people and planet. To achieve sustainable development, it is crucial to harmonise three core elements: economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.
The built environment profession has huge potential to make lasting change through this approach and many organisations in our sector are already taking action. RICS has several initiatives to support carbon reduction, including the research paper Changing priorities in investor decision-making: the sustainability agenda which looks into stakeholders' willingness to pay for sustainability and building features that reduce carbon emissions and result in improved climate resilience.
In 2018, RICS and the UN Global Compact published Advancing responsible business in land construction real estate use and investment making the sustainable development goals a reality. This report identifies critical issues facing companies with a stake in land, real estate and construction in relation to the SDGs, and provides a practical roadmap so that surveyors and their clients can make the SDGs a reality.
In November 2017, we issued the Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment guidance note because embodied carbon is responsible for up to 70 per cent of all the sectors carbon emissions. Additionally, in May 2019, the whole-life Building Carbon Database was launched to help users identify where carbon emission reductions can be made throughout a building's life cycle. We will also be influencing the agenda at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the UN's climate change summit taking place in Glasgow in November.
The Value the Planet campaign provides these tools as well as other resources, such as a series of free webinars launching this year, to encourage our profession to implement the SDGs.
A recent YouGov poll commissioned by RICS revealed that 47 per cent of real-estate professionals in the UK said their firm does not have a sustainable business strategy, while 34 per cent feel their employer is not doing enough to reduce its environmental impact.
We believe there's a real opportunity to help businesses develop their strategy in this area, and our Value the Planet campaign aims to equip our profession to act more sustainably. It also offers an opportunity for the profession to demonstrate current examples of best practice in providing solutions to society's most challenging issues – and showing the positive change we can make.
Joanna Lindon is associate campaign director at RICS firstname.lastname@example.org
Related competencies include: Sustainability