Big business needs to “ramp-up” its board-level understanding of built environment issues, such as dealing with problems related to carbon targets, a new report has warned.
The University College London-commissioned report – The Built Environment: Profit Warning – looks at how the world and businesses will need to adapt to an increasing population, which is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, whilst dealing with other challenges, such as climate change, energy security and shifts in demographics.
The report says, “In 2010 the balance between urban and rural dwellers moved decisively in favour of cities for the first time in history. The world’s urban population is projected to reach 6.4 billion by 2050, some 70% of the total.
“All those people will need somewhere to live, somewhere to work, places to buy food, access to transport infrastructure, drainage and air clean enough to breath. The implications for the built environment are staggering.”
It added that it will not be possible to accommodate the predicted growth if we continue to build in the same way we have in the past, because of dwindling resources and climate change pressures.
It states, “The key challenge of our age is how the world can accommodate an additional two billion people by 2050 while at the same time cutting carbon emissions. Quite simply, things have to change. The time for baby steps is over; the real, hard, impactful action needs to start now – and fast.”
Businesses will need play a key role in the adaption process. A cross-sector survey of major firms found that 80% felt large UK companies need to gain a greater understanding of built environment issues and that doing so would improve investment decisions.
Almost all of the respondents recognise the benefits of broadening the knowledge on these challenges, with the majority acknowledging the UK would become less competitive if its fails to boost understanding.
The willingness to improve is demonstrated in the FTSE 100 and 250 companies. Some 71% of these stated that within the last decade the importance of improving knowledge around the built environment had become greater within their organisation; 77% also believe it will become more important in the future.
Despite this, the report found that the built environment remains a secondary issues within many organisations, with very little representation at board level.
Alun Griffiths, group HR director at consultancy Atkins, said, “I think to some degree these subjects are still parked in a box called ‘specialist’ or a box called ‘evangelist’ or ‘forward-thinker’, but someone who’s not quite in the mainstream. In reality they should be.”
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